After a very long time I revisited panoramic Oban, Scotland’s well-liked west-coast holiday town. For many years, I postponed a trip to the “little bay”, because unjustifiably, I presumed an unpleasant road journey. My memories from the last time when I travelled from Glasgow to Oban, were of an endless and winding road. This impression was enough to put me off from coming to this beautiful town for many years. However, admittedly now, the routes through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park are enjoyable, short, scenic and comfortable.
Informally, Oban shares a few titles including the unofficial capital of West Highlands, “seafood capital” and as the “gateway to the isles”. Whichever name or title we use to refer to this bustling port, the truth is that the town together with its surrounding region is captivating. What has also intrigued me is the variety of features and activities available to visitors. Historic sites, attractions, wildlife and nature, hillwalking and sea-trips. An endless list of ‘see & do’, to be enjoyed no matter what time of the year or season.
Two main arteries reconnect to form a great circle
Getting by car to Oban from Glasgow is relatively straight forward. On the way there after the Erskine bridge, I joined the A82 which runs parallel to the west shoreline of Loch Lomond. On reaching Tarbert, the route splits to two directions. Continuing on the A82 (to the right) will take you to Oban via Crianlarich and Tyndrum. Veering to the left onto the A83 leads to Oban through Lochgilphead. These two main arteries reconnect forming a large circle that intersects Oban.
So, at Tarbert, I decided to swing onto the left, following the A83. This road passes Inveraray where just before entering the town, I turned North on the A819, heading for the North-East side of Loch Awe. The road joins the A85 between Kilchurn Castle and Dalmally golf club. For the return journey to Glasgow, I followed the alternative route and headed to Inverarnan, the most North pick of Loch Lomond. In any case, both routes offer good road layout, magnificent scenery, nearly similar travel times and a vast choice of ‘pit stops’
A tourist’s favourite place for walking
Oban town itself is easy to walk and get around. A variety of shops, traditional and modern, a lively port setting with a wide choice of eateries and bars. Although the town is rather compact, even so it has a wide network of smaller locations and streets that expand outwards from the centre. Some of the elevated spots surrounding the port provide excellent sights and viewpoints to admire near and far splendours. As the bay forms a horseshoe like shape, it is well protected from the Isle of Kerrera. The tremendous history of the town certainly brings vast numbers of tourists who would like to see its numerous places of interest.
It was still nice to stroll in the afternoon near the port, in spite of the rain and light winds. Popped in the Cuan Mor for lunch. This restaurant and bar, situated conveniently at the North Pier Ferry Terminal, seems to be a popular choice for passers-by, simply because of the location. The atmosphere was acceptable though, not splendid. The food was satisfactory but, lacking great quality while the service varied from good to mediocre.
‘Poppies’ and ‘The Oyster Inn’ worth visiting
Hearing about Poppies from different sources, we visited the spot on two occasions. The firm is identified as garden centre and homeware business and is located just over 3 miles outside Oban on the road to Connel. It is also widely known for its adjacent daytime restaurant and cafeteria. Plenty of parking is available, with lovely views and nice surroundings. Customer service was very decent and the choice of food excessive. Quality of coffee was of good standard, supported by a broad selection of cakes and the presentation of the dishes very fitting. Definitely this is a nice place to stop either for a coffee break or a bite to eat and even if only to look around at the gardening and home décor section.
Our visit to Oban and the surrounding region was enhanced by staying at The Oyster Inn. A fine hotel with a quality restaurant and a bright bar. The staff were extremely welcoming while the facilities were well arranged and properly managed. As an accommodation spot, the hotel offered spacious rooms and adequate amenities. Our stay was simply very enjoyable. Similarly, the breakfast, dinner and drinks at the bar reflected a well-managed establishment that ensures customers would come back.
The natural beauty and attractiveness are enthralling
Exploring Oban itself and the Argyle & Bute district was a continuous pleasure. Driving through the small villages and hamlets was a wonderful experience as the natural beauty and attractiveness are enthralling. Travelling from location to location through a range of autumn colours, bodies of waters, experiencing the various transitions between hills and crofts; submitted me to a degree of tranquillity that one can only find in very few places on earth. Now I realise, that I should have returned to Oban long time ago. My next visit will be a lot sooner. I suspect this place must look more magnificent during the spring when the landscapes will be bursting with new lights, colours and natural life.