Stunning scenery, incredible fresh seafood and ferries waiting to whisk you away to the islands, Oban is a place that once visited is never forgotten.
The beautiful town of Oban is located on Scotland’s west coast, along the scenic West Highland Line . It’s the largest town in Argyll and Bute and known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ and the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland.’ With nicknames like that, you know you’re going to be in for a treat when you visit.
The town is surrounded by miles of dramatic coastline and lush countryside, making it a gorgeous place to visit for the day or, even better, a few days. There’s plenty to keep you busy if you fancy an active break with hiking and cycling routes from the town, or if you’re after something a bit more relaxing, some great scenic spots to sit and enjoy the view.
Getting to Oban by train
The journey to Oban along the scenic West Highland Line is part of the experience. Be sure to remember your camera as you travel through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland. To help you make the most of the journey, we've teamed up with Geotourist to create a free audio tour. Download the Geotourist app or follow this link to start your tour.
- Glasgow to Oban - approx. 3 hours
- Edinburgh to Oban - approx. 4 hours 15 minutes
Things to do in Oban
Oban is compact so it’s really easy and enjoyable to explore on foot once you arrive by train. The train takes you right to the water’s edge, making it a very short walk into the town or a hop onto the ferry to explore the Scottish Islands nearby.
The views over the water are what makes this town so special, with plenty of restaurants and cafes making the most of the great location to invite you to sit down and soak it all in. Of course, it’s not all about the food. There are lovely walks taking you along the coastline and up to viewpoints, and attractions to enjoy too.
For great views over the bay, no visit to Oban is complete without climbing the approximately 220 feet up to McCaig’s Tower. You’ll spot the Roman-style colosseum nestled above the town and it’s worth making the ten-minute journey to the top to enjoy the views. On a sunny day it’s also a brilliant picnic spot.
Eating in Oban
There is a lot of incredible food available in Oban, particularly when it comes to seafood. Not surprising when it’s frequently referred to as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’ and sits right at the water’s edge!
As well as seafood, the town is home to lots of fantastic independent cafés, restaurants, ice cream parlours and even a chocolate shop, with lots of them offering fantastic views over the water.
A few of our favourites are:
- Ee-Usk for fantastic seafood and great views on the North Pier (a 2-minute cycle or 6-minute walk from the station).
- Cuan Mor on George Street (4-minute walk from the station) serves fantastic food and also has its own craft brewery on site. Perfect for revitalising after a walk or cycle.
- The Oban Chocolate Company on Corran Esplanade (around a 2-minute cycle or 7-minute walk from the station) – their hot chocolates and cakes are sublime!
- The Pokey Hat for ice cream (6 minute walk from the station) – when you’re by the water and the sun is shining, great ice cream is a must!
- Bridge Café and Go Bananas soft play (less than a 10-minute walk from the station) - great for families with little ones that need to burn off some energy after a train journey.
Visitor attractions in Oban
Once you arrive in Oban, the VisitScotland iCentre on the North Pier is a great place to start your visit if you’re unsure what you fancy doing with your time in this beautiful waterfront town. Their expert advisors can help you make the most of your time and can help with any bookings too.
At the Oban Distillery discover the history of one of the smallest scotch distilleries in Scotland with a fascinating tour. Learn about how the scotch is made and why the distillery has never tried to expand. You’ll find it nestled at the foot of the steep cliff overlooking the town.
For one of the best views over Oban and its bay, the short walk up to McCaig’s tower is well worth it. You’ll be able to spot the Roman-style colosseum overlooking the town from the moment you step off the train at Oban station. On a sunny day, it’s also a great picnic spot.
Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds
A picturesque 15-minute stroll from Oban brings you to Dunollie Castle to discover the history of the castle and Clan MacDougall. There’s a nice café here too where you can sit outside.
Oban Guided Tours
Between April and October, Oban Walking Tours offer scheduled guided tours taking visitors on a journey through Oban’s history to the present day. Private guided tours are available all year round. They’ve got a system set up to support social distancing to ensure that all visitors can enjoy their tour safely.
Walking in Oban
One of the best things about Oban is that wherever you wander, you're never too far from the water and great views. So if you don't want to, or can't walk too far, you won't miss out on the scenery.
The Oban Explorer
The Oban Explorer is a great circular route around Oban that is suitable for all abilities. The 3.5-mile route takes around two hours to complete and showcases the highlights of this pretty town. Starting in the centre of the town the route takes you along the promenade with its wonderful views and climbs up to two great viewpoints – McCaig’s Tower and Pulpit Hill.
Pulpit Hill and Gallanach
This 4.25-mile route starts in Oban town centre and takes in one of the best places to get a panoramic view over the town and its harbour - Pulpit Hill. The hill is well signposted so you shouldn’t get lost. After enjoying the views from the hill, the walk heads out into the countryside south of the town where you get great views over the Isle of Kerrera and the mountains of Mull on a clear day.
Ganavan Sands and Dunstaffnage Castle
This walk from Ganavan Sants to Dunstaffnage Castle starts a bit out of the town. You can either hop on a bus to Ganavan Sands, or enjoy the 45 minute walk from the town centre to the Sands along the waterfront. From Ganavan Sands you’ll enjoy beautiful views as you wander along the rugged coastal walk to Dunstaffnage Castle. To get back to Oban you can either retrace your steps or follow the cycle path back.
For more walks, collated by locals in Oban, take a look at Short Walks in Oban.
Cycling routes to/ from Oban
Our Highland Explorer carriages operate on some services between Glasgow and Oban making it incredibly easy to take your bike with you. These carriages are a first in the UK, with space for 20 bikes and extra space for luggage.
Oban to Fort William
Whether you fancy starting or ending this cycle route in Oban or Fort William, the train can meet you at both ends. As you would imagine, this 48-mile stretch of National Cycle Network Route 78 showcases some stunning views along the (mostly) flat traffic-free paths and quiet rural roads.
Oban to Dalmally
Part of the longer St Columba’s Way trail
from Iona to St Andrew’s, this 26-mile route takes you along quiet roads from Oban to Taynuilt, then along stunning coastal and mountain landscapes. There’s a train station at Dalmally to travel back to Oban or travel further afield.
Oban to Dunbeg via Ganavan Bay
1-2 hours, 8 miles, a climb of 73m
This is a great route that the whole family could enjoy. This inspiring blog from The Cycling Scot outlines the route from Oban to Ganavan Bay and on to Dunstaffnage Castle. Be sure to pack a picnic because there are some gorgeous stops along the way where you can rest your legs and enjoy the views. Ganavan Bay is known as Oban’s beach and the views from here are gorgeous. The castle is just one mile further on from Dunbeg so easy to add on to your route.
Exploring the islands from Oban
Oban is known as the Gateway to the Isles, and you’ll find the ferry terminal right next to the station. From here you can hop on board a ferry to explore the beautiful islands of Mull, Iona, Staffa and Kerrera. If you want to explore further afield you can also catch a ferry to Colonsay (brilliant for biking around!)
You can find all the ferry information on Calmac’s website here .
Three Isles Excursion
One of the best ways to enjoy three islands in one day is to hop on a Three Isles Excursion with Staffa Tours . From Oban you can enjoy Mull, Staffa and Iona in one day. Be sure to pack your camera because the views are stunning.
A day out on Kerrera
The beautiful island of Kerrera is Oban’s closest neighbour and is a brilliant island for walking or mountain biking. At just 7km long and around 2km wide, it can be enjoyed in one day. There are two circuits to choose from – a 7-mile route taking in Gylen Castle on the south of the island, and a 6-mile circuit around the north of the island. The wonderful thing about walking on Kerrera is that there are only a handful of cars on the whole island so the roads are quiet, making it safe to enjoy a wander, while being mesmerised by the views. The ferry to the island is for foot passengers only and takes just a few minutes.
Staying in Oban
One of the best things about staying overnight in Oban is being able to catch a stunning sunset over the Bay. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, on a clear day watching the sun dip behind Maiden Island in the mouth of Oban Bay is a special moment.
For a place to rest your head, Oban and the surrounding islands have a lot of options to suit all budgets including hostels, bunkhouses, waterfront guesthouses and apartments. Take a look at VisitScotland’s accommodation page for more ideas on where to stay.
Find out more
Ways to save...
- Spirit of Scotland travel pass : 1-2 weeks of train, bus and coach travel covering the whole country
- Highland Rover : explore the North and West Highlands over a week by train, ferry and coach
- Rail & Sail : combine train and ferry travel
- Kids for a Quid: every paying adult can take up to four children aged 5-15 with them for £1 return each
- Railcards : see if you could save with a national or regional Railcard