Visit Oban: The Gateway to the Isles

Known as the Gateway to the Isles, the resort town of Oban, in the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland, huddles around the horseshoe-shaped Oban Bay, with the Isle of Kerrera providing some protection from harsh weather off the Firth of Lorn. While the permanent resident population is a little over eight thousand people, the town is a popular leisure destination that regularly hosts thousands of visitors during tourist season. The town is considered to be the home of the Royal National Mod – a festival of Scottish Gaelic song, culture and arts – as the first event took place in Oban in 1892. Held in October each year, Oban hosted the event in 2003, being the celebration of the 100th Royal National Mod, as well as in 2009, and will be hosting it again in 2015.

In Oban, the War & Peace Museum details the cultural history of the town and its people by means of a series of displays dedicated to the various industries, the war years, and local sports, such as shinty, among others. Visitors can learn about the war years when the town was home to military personnel from Australia, Canada and the United States, while the RAF Flying Boats used Oban Bay as a base of operations.

Visitors can take a ferry from Oban to Mull, Tiree, Coll, Barra, South Uist, Colonsay, Islay or the island of Lismore and visit the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Center which offers fascinating information on the island’s history. Having been occupied since prehistoric times, the island has yielded a wealth of archaeological discoveries which the museum has on display along with photographs, documents and other artifacts, creating an outline of the development of the island over the centuries. Also at the museum, visitors can discover the history of the island’s historic landmarks, including two castles, a cathedral and a superb example of an Iron Age broch – a dry stone building constructed without the use of mortar.

McCraig’s Tower is an interesting landmark on Battery Hill overlooking the town. Built to resemble the Coliseum in Rome, the structure was intended to be a monument to the family of the wealthy banker John Stuart McCraig. Designed by McCraig himself, he planned to include a museum, art gallery and central tower with statues of himself and his family. Featuring two-tiers of lancet arches in a circle with the circumference of around 200 meters, the tower is constructed from granite quarried at Bonawe on Loch Etive. Unfortunately, McCraig died when just the outer walls of McCraig’s Tower had been completed and construction came to a standstill. Nonetheless, the tower is a unique landmark feature offering visitors a spectacular view of Oban Bay and the town of Oban.