A charming slice of coastal nature on Scotland’s west coast, Oban boasts a strong community spirit, great links to the nearby islands and some of the most dramatic and inspiring landscapes the highlands has to offer. Oban is a gorgeous destination for tourists looking to get away from it all, with plenty to see & do along the way.
The town is serviced by the West Highland Line, considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the United Kingdom. If you're looking for an escape packed with exploration and relaxation - we have put together a handy guide for visiting Oban to help inspire you to create your dream getaway.
Considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the West Highland Line takes you from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban in approximately 3 hours 20 minutes. The route takes you across some of the most stunning, rural areas of the Scottish Highlands, meaning that you might want to plan ahead and see a few more places before your arrival in Oban.
Planning Ahead : potential stops along the way
If you really want to make the most of your trip, take a look at the route of the West Highland Line and seek out the different opportunities available to you. Below we have listed some of the most beautiful villages along with places to hike, eat, climb and explore the extensive local history.
Walking distance from train station: Approx 25 minutes to the village
With its enviable location near Loch Long, Arrochar is a great stop if you’re looking for hiking with brilliant landscape views. Only 24 minutes from the train station to the centre of town, experienced walkers can tackle Ben Arthur and Ben Ime, the latter of which is 3,318 feet – the highest mountain in the Arrochar Alps area.
Walking distance from train station: Approx 10 minutes
Tarbet, a little stretch of land between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, is great for cycling and hiking, especially if you want to get up into the mountains. The village is only a ten-minute walk from the station and there are pleasure cruises and boat trips available if you’re looking to get up close and personal with the Lochs.
Walking distance from train station: Approx 3 minutes
Just three minutes from the station is the Ardlui Hotel, a four-star hotel and restaurant sitting on the banks of Loch Lomond. If you’re looking for lunch, an extensive menu is served from 12 noon with everything from fish and chips to homemade pies to their famous macaroni and cheese.
Walking distance from train station:
- Ben Cruachan Inn approx 2 minutes
- St Conan’s Kirk approx 15 minutes
- Kilchurn Castle approx 40 minutes
Another great place to stop off for lunch and just 2 minutes from the station, the Ben Cruachan Inn in Loch Awe is an award-winning restaurant and hotel that offers quintessential Scottish hospitality. Also within walking distance is Ben Cruachan, St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle.
Walking distance from train station: approx 2 minutes
This is a request-only stop during the summer, but the Falls of Cruachan are well worth a visit. Found at the foot of Ben Cruachan, its home to the Cruachan Power Station and Dam. Passengers can disembark here for an organized tour and lecture of the power station.
Walking distance from train station: approx 2 minutes
Found on the shores of Loch Etive, Taynuilt has plenty of restaurants and cafés to stop into on your journey. In the summer, a few minutes’ walk from the station gives you access to a loch cruise, as well as hiking trails up into the mountains around Ben Cruachan. You can also find Admiral Nelson Memorial Stone, a monolith granite standing stone dedicated to the memory of Admiral Nelson, with an inscription on its north side.
See and do in Oban
Once you reach Oban, you’ll be spoiled for choice for things to see and do. There’s something to suit every kind of traveller here.
One of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, the Oban Distillery has been making whisky for over 200 years and is a central hub of the Oban community. Found just under a cliffside, you can tour the distillery and meet the seven people who produce their famous single malt scotch whisky.
Indulge your falconry dreams at this family-run business specialising in engagement and education with the natural birdlife of the Scottish Highlands. A specialist team runs experiences and tours every afternoon, teaching you about the birds, how to handle them and specialist falconry skills.
Run by a team of local volunteers, this museum preserves the history and culture of Oban with archived items and photographs. Awarded an MBE in 2011, the museum also details the strategic role the town played in WWII as a base for aircrew from all over the world.
239 feet above Oban Bay, the walk up Pulpit Hill is worth it for the stunning views at the top. One of the best lookout points in town, you can follow the footpath up the hill to get panoramic views over Oban and other nearby islands.
Found a few miles south of Oban, this church is a monument of national importance and one of Argyll’s most significant historical churches. Welcoming visitors from all over the world, the church has played a huge part in Scottish history – from the Jacobite Uprising to the beginnings of the British Empire.
A little slice of tranquillity, the National Trust of Scotland maintains this beautiful garden. Private and calm, the garden is packed with varieties of flowers and vegetation that aren’t usually grown in Scotland, thanks to the unique climate on which it sits.
Another great lookout point over the bay, McCaig's Tower was completed in 1902 and inspired by the grand colosseums of Italy and Greece. With beautiful views over the entire town, this Grade B listed historical monument is accessible by a 144 step Jacob’s Ladder. Look out for Misha, a friendly cat who wanders around McCaig’s Tower greeting visitors.
On the North Pier, the Modern Croft Shop sells boutique items from all over the UK – with a particular focus on Scotland – as well as parts of Scandinavia. Its unique collection features hand-made products from natural materials, supporting small designers and businesses.
A place of worship since the 1860s, the cathedral was transformed in 1920 and now offers bi-weekly services to visitors and locals. Take a walk around the tranquil interior and view its narthex, dedicated art areas and the 40-foot high reredos behind the altar.
Just north of Oban is Dunollie Castle, a ruined fortress dating back all the way to the Middle Ages. Learn about 8000 years of history, including the story of the Clan MacDougall. There are guided tours, activities for kids, a Faerie Garden to explore and a gorgeous woodland trail surrounding the ruins.
Climb the battlements and explore the curtain wall of this ruined 13th-century castle and chapel. One of Scotland’s oldest stone castles, Dunstaffnage is surrounded by woodland and trees – perfect for getting lost in after a visit to the ruins.
East and drink in Oban
With a coffee shop in Oban’s George Street, Hinba Coffee roasts its own beans, creating artisanal coffee for its customers. Blending together care and protection of the local environment, they aim to bring people together with their coffee, all roasted on the nearby island of Seil.
Bringing together local produce and an award-winning menu and wine list, Etive has been featured in the Michelin Restaurant Guide. Known as one of the best restaurants on Scotland’s west coast, the menus change based on the seasons and the daily catch from local fishermen.
Offering beautiful views over Oban Bay, Cuan Mor delivers home-style cooking with fresh ingredients and generous portions. Making use of the local seafood, Cuan Mor also serves traditional Scottish dishes and pub favourites. Stop in on their well-stocked bar and back bar too.
Stay in Oban
If you want ocean views right outside your bedroom window, Oban has plenty of options to stay in.
A luxury hotel in the heart of Oban, the hotel sits in a building that dates back to 1882. With unique Highland and Victorian touches to the décor, you’ll find fresh sea air sweeping through your window in one of the stylish and comfortable bedrooms.
Type: Bed & Breakfast
This charming guest house offers unique, comfortable rooms with an enviable location on the waterfront. Built into a Victorian house, sixteen bedrooms blend the original historical features with contemporary comforts.
Type: Bed & Breakfast Exclusively for Adults
Gorgeous, panoramic views of Oban Bay are just outside of your window at the adults-only guest house on the seafront. High-end bedrooms offer a space of calm and relaxation and the house is easily located to access the centre of town.
If you have some more time to spend in the Oban area there are some fantastic excursions available to you. See below some ideas for day trips.
4.5 miles southwest of Oban is Gylen Castle, which sits on its own private island. This ruined castle holds a beautiful tower house and was made a scheduled monument in the 1930s. Preserved over the last twenty years, it’s now a great place to visit for the day.
A favourite destination for Queen Victoria and William Wordsworth, the island of Staffa has inspired poets and royalty alike, thanks to its famous hexagonal rock columns. Look out for puffins while picnicking nearby and discover the island that remained unknown before 1772.
Found in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, this narrow strait between Jura and Scarba is only accessible by boat. Strong Atlantic currents and unusual water create whirlpools – and is considered to be one of the most dangerous diving areas in Britain. The whirlpool was also nearly the resting place of writer George Orwell, who nearly drowned in it in 1947.
Take a scenic tour around Loch Etive and the Firth of Lorn by boat, with trips ranging from a few hours to a full day. You can explore one of Scotland’s longest sea lochs, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to see a few dolphins in the waters.
Led by local expert Jack, step aboard a one-hour boat trip from Oban to get to know the local seal population. Learn about the history and local wildlife of the area and make sure to catch a glimpse of the Lismore Lighthouse and the Charlotte’s Bay Fish.
Take a trip around three nearby islands – Mull, Iona and Staffa. Witness gorgeous scenery up close, whales and basking sharks in the nearby waters, and the famous rock formations of Staffa’s cliffside, where you can disembark and walk along the dramatic coastal path.
Perfect for wildlife lovers, this island tour will take you where the action is. Get up close to sharks, eagles and puffins, as well as the local seal colonies. Tobermory is also home to the postcard image harbour that featured in the children’s TV show ‘Balamory’.