Oban and Kerrera

Oban is hailed as Scotland’s Seafood Capital and the Gateway to the Isles, due to the many ferries that leave here for the likes of Lismore, Mull and Tiree.

It translates from Gaelic as little bay, or to give it its full title An t-Oban Latharnach, the little bay of Lorn. A major tourist destination since the railway arrived in the 1880s, today Oban still has a small fishing fleet and Oban Bay sees a lot of traffic, from large ferries and yachts, to fishing trawlers and pleasure craft.

It is an attractive, bustling town to wander around. Sitting high above Oban town centre is the striking coliseum-like structure of McCaig’s Tower, which has, since 1902, provided an exceptional vantage point to view Oban and its coastline. It is a short climb from the harbour to reach McCaig’s Tower where the spectacular view stretches beyond Oban and the islands of Kerrera and Lismore, across the Firth of Lorn to Mull, where its jumble of peaks, including Ben More, form an impressive barrier on the horizon.

McCaig’s Tower was commissioned by, and subsequently named after, Oban banker John Stuart McCaig, partly as a means of employing local stonemasons, who had little work during the winter months, and to house a museum and art gallery. Construction began in 1895 with the intention for it to be an enclosed building. However McCaig’s death in 1902 meant the money for its completion was not available and only the outer walls were built.

Another lovely spot on the outskirts of Oban is Ganavan Bay, a popular spot due to its gorgeous sandy beach. A little further on is Dunstaffnage Castle, which has had a turbulent history since being built by the MacDougall’s around 1220. It was involved in the Wars of Independence (1296-1356) and was attacked by Robert the Bruce in 1308 after his famous victory over the MacDougall’s at the Pass of Brander. It then fell into the hands of Clan Campbell during the 15th century. Adjacent to the castle sit the remains of a charming 13th century chapel, which includes a Campbell burial aisle.

However if you really want to step back in time then the island of Kerrera, which is just a short ferry journey away from Oban, is the place to be. Unless you live on Kerrera no vehicles are allowed and so a peaceful, beautiful visit is guaranteed and a superb 6-mile walk is the best way to explore this magical island.

Historic highlights include Horseshoe Bay where, on the 8th of July 1249, King Alexander II died as he waited to mobilise his army that he hoped would lead to the defeat of King Haakon, and the reclamation of the Western Isles from Norway. The 16th century Gylen Castle is also worth visiting. The castle’s dramatic remains stand on a rocky outcrop and its walls used to hold the Brooch of Lorne, one of the most important items in Scottish history – it is said to have been ripped from the breast of Robert the Bruce during the Battle of Dalrigh in 1306.

Apart from Kerrera’s tearoom the best spot for a break is the undisturbed Barn nam Boc Bay, where you are treated to a superb view of Mull. During the 18th and 19th century drovers landed their cattle here from Mull, Coll and Tiree. At Ardantrive Bay, on the northern tip of Kerrera, the cattle would swim to the mainland – Ardantrive means Point of the Swimming – and onwards to major trysts at Falkirk and Crieff.

Back on the mainland and a meal at any of Oban’s wonderful restaurants or a visit to Oban Distillery is the perfect way to complete a trip to this lively and welcoming town. TC
Published: June 2018