Top 5 Things To Do In Oban
Nov 30 2021
Oban Top 5
What can I do during my stay in Oban is one of the questions we are asked the most. We run tours based from Oban, and being the gateway to the Isles, customers joining our Coll-based tours also pass through here. But Oban itself is much more than a passing point, set in the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, with the Hebrides a stone’s throw away, Oban is an adventure playground for never-ending exploration. But, if you are looking for some activities to do in the town itself, here are some of our top things to do in Oban!
Promenade Wildlife Walk to Dunollie
An easy one to start with – start the walk from the north pier passing the Oban bay marina. Oban is a busy harbour so there are always lots of boats to watch going back and forward. Once you’ve reached the roundabout head left along the promenade. It’s a great spot for some marine life where otters, seals, black guillemots, and herons can be spotted. Once you reach the war memorial the path ends so cross the road to take the path past the dog stone. Local legend says that Fingal – of Fingal’s cave, tied up his giant dog here when hunting and that’s why the base of the stone has ground away, as the dog ran around in circles. You could visit Dunollie castle, the Dunollie woods here are a pleasant walk where you can weave your way back to town either via the forest tracks or the path. Keep an eye out as there’s always a chance of spotting a red squirrel!
Click here for a map and description of the walk from Wee Walk Oban – a great resource for exploring the town.
Ganavan Beach Swim
Ganavan sands can be reached by the same road as the promenade passing Dunollie castle, it’s around 4km from the start of the esplanade. It’s a lovely white sand bay and very popular with both locals and visitors alike. It’s shallow with little current so makes a great spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. There’s a fairly large car park but also a bus stop if you haven’t brought a car. (click here for a bus timetable) For those who’ve had enough water during the day, there are a lot of walks in the nearby hills too. Behind the car park, the path turns inland and leads to Dunbeg. If you’re cycling to the marina to meet the boat this is the much quieter route to take than following the main road.
McCaig’s Tower Sunset
It’s a cliche but you can’t beat a west coast sunset – especially one looking out over the Inner Hebrides. Heading up to McCaig’s tower which overlooks Oban bay has one of the best viewpoints in the whole town. It’s a historic monument and the structure was built in the late 1800s. It was unfortunately never finished to the original design, as the architect and funder, John Stuart McCaig died with only the outer walls finished. However, it has some lovely gardens within the walls and provides a great outlook.
A visit here is equally as good during the day with views over to Kerrera, Lismore, Mull & Morvern, and of course Oban town and harbour. The sun sets over the Isle of Mull during summer and the view as the sky turns pink and orange is not to be missed. It’s a steep walk up from town so be prepared for a wee workout!
Falls of Lora
A local natural phenomenon in the village of Connel. It’s not strictly Oban being a few miles out of town but it’s only a short drive, bus ride, or cycle out. The falls are at the mouth of Loch Etive, a large sea loch where the water flow in and out of the loch is restricted by the natural rock formations underwater. Nearly 5000 tonnes of water try to squeeze in and out of the loch at peak flow. With this volume, the physical restriction, and varied rocky topography a torrent of white water and sea waterfall is created. It’s a tumultuous place but a playground for kayakers and divers at varying times. You can also see the fire service training for rapid water rescue in their red inflatables. It’s another great place to watch wildlife with seals and otters spotted regularly, along with several bird species. You will need to research the tides as at slack water it can look very benign and quiet. Pick a time in the middle of the tide (between high and low water) and on a bigger tidal range towards spring tides. We take divers and paddleboarders here at certain times but we wouldn’t recommend hitting the water on your own without appropriate experience and local knowledge.
Kerrera is the closest island you can see from Oban and is just a short hop away. Reaching the Isle of Kerrera is very easy via the Calmac ferry just to the south of Oban. The circular walk around the island is stunning with great views of the coastline and wildlife. A must-do is visiting the Kerrera tea room (check opening times with them) after exploring the clifftop Gylen Castle. The walk to the castle directly is around 4km, and the circular walk (including some rough ground) is around 10km. For those on two wheels, the full route is for experienced mountain bikers but the trip to the castle is smooth enough for beginners. There are a few hills to navigate but the good news is that there are E-Bikes to hire on the island making the journey very easy. The recently constructed road linking the north end to the ferry terminal will make access to the marina and Waypoint bar & grill much easier too. We do tours around the Kerrera coast including snorkelling, wild swimming, paddleboarding, and wildlife watching. Along with private charters where we can land and explore the castle too.
- Here’s a link to the circular walk map on Walk Highlands, and also to the Kerrera Tearoom
If the weather is particularly west coast then there are limited indoor activities compared to bigger cities. A good Scottish saying is that today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky, so a great tip is to go see this in action. The Oban distillery was the first main building here and following construction in 1794, the town sprung up around it. In this part of the world, we build our towns with the distillery in the centre!
They run some great tours where you get to see the process of how the whisky is made in real-time and an opportunity to sample a wee dram too!