Known as the seafood capital of Scotland and a jumping-off point for visiting a number of the country’s Hebridean islands, there are a number of things to do in Oban that make it a great destination in and of itself. Whether you’re based here for a night before heading to the Isle of Mull or are a fan of the single-malt whiskey of the same name, spending a bit of time exploring Oban is never a bad idea.
Though it serves as a great base for exploring the surrounding Argyll & Bute region as a gateway to the isles, Oban itself has a lot to offer visitors and it’s well worth devoting a day (or at least a portion of one) to exploring the town.
From a quaint waterfront, a colosseum-like tower, excellent seafood and a whiskey distillery, there are plenty of things to do in Oban that make it a worthwhile destination for any trip to Scotland.
How Many Days in Oban?
Many potential visitors to this town wonder how many days to spend in Oban in order to do it justice. And really, this all depends on what your plans are. The town of Oban itself is quite small and the majority of the attractions and sites can be seen within the confines of one day – or even a few hours if you’re being speedy.
However, if you’re keen to go on some day trips to nearby islands and spend some time exploring the surrounding region, then it can be worth using Oban as a base for several days. The Oban ferry terminal offers frequent sailings to a number of different islands and it makes the town a great place to base yourself if you’re keen to explore the Inner Hebrides.
In general, plan to spend one day in Oban if you simply want to see the sites in the town and plan to spend 2 days in Oban or more if you’re interested in heading to the Isle of Mull, Iona, Staffa or going out on a wildlife tour.
Getting To & Around Oban
Though quite compact, Oban is a major hub on the west coast of Scotland and it is relatively well-connected depending on how you’d like to reach it.
Those getting around the area via public transit will be happy to know that there is a train station close to the centre of town with connections from all over the country. For instance, you can get a train direct from Glasgow to Oban in about 3 hours. You can view schedules here.
If you’re looking to save a bit of cash, there are also coach connections to Oban from nearby cities available, as well.
In general, it’s easiest to get around this area of Scotland via your own car, especially if you’re keen to travel independently. Oban is easily reached by the main highways and the roads are well-maintained.
However, you don’t generally need a car to explore the town of Oban itself, so it’s best to find street parking, a car park or to find an accommodation option with on-site parking.
Where you may need a car when visiting Oban is if you want to go on a day trip (independently) to some of the islands. Particularly on Mull, it is virtually impossible to get around on your own if you don’t have a car at your disposal.
You may also want a car to reach the ferry to Kerrera or if you’d like to visit some areas near Oban like Dunollie Castle and 1745 House Museum, Dunstaffnage Castle and Castle Stalker. You can browse Rentalcars.com to compare prices for car rental across companies.
In Oban itself, the town is quite compact and very walkable, so it’s best to get around on your own two feet.
If you are visiting the islands, there are countless ferries that are equipped to take cars or just passengers depending on your preferences. If you don’t want to hire a car to visit the islands, then you’re going to need to go on an organised day tour.
9 Best Things To Do in Oban
Without further ado, these are some of the best things to do in Oban. The first six activities on this list are great options if you’re spending a day exploring the town itself. The final activities are better positioned if you are using Oban as a base for some day trips as some of them are full-day activities in themselves.
One of the best places to begin your exploration of Oban is at McCaig’s Tower. Located on a hill overlooking the town and named after John Stuart McCaig, McCaig’s Tower is Scotland’s own colosseum and is a distinctive part of the Oban skyline.
Though it looks like an ancient Roman structure, the tower itself is relatively new – having only opened in the early 20th century. What makes visiting the tower worthwhile are the fantastic views you can get of Oban and the surrounding islands below.
Reaching McCaig’s tower from the town centre is relatively straightforward as it’s well signposted. Note that it’s a bit of a steep climb up, but it’s well-paved and not a direct route so it honestly isn’t too much of a hike.
You can also drive up (there is a car park at the tower) if you want to save your energy for other activities. This is definitely one of the top tourist attractions in town.
The Oban War & Peace Museum
Make your way down the hill (it will only take about 10 minutes) and head to the town centre of Oban. And if you want to get some history while visiting this lovely little town, then consider heading to the Oban War & Peace Museum.
This small museum is free to enter and contains a small number of artefacts inside where you can learn about the history of Oban.
Here you can, for instance, learn a bit more about the history of McCaig’s tower, about the fishing industry out of the town or about its role in housing Australian, Canadian and US aircrew during the Second World War.
The museum is small and doesn’t need a lot of time dedicated to it, however, it’s a great place to get to know Oban on a deeper level.
The Oban Distillery
After taking in the views from McCaig’s Tower and learning about the town at the Oban War & Peace Museum, it’s time to visit one of the town’s top attractions – the Oban Distillery.
This whisky distillery makes a lovely, lightly-peated single malt and they also offer tours and tastings along with having a visitors centre to browse.
Oban prides itself on being one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, with only 2 stills on the premises and all of its bottles coming from one of them. Established in the late 18th Century, there is a lot of history to this distillery, as well.
If you’re interested in how this whiskey is made and are keen for a dedicated tasting, then you can book a tour – there are lots of options to choose from. If not, you can also always simply pop into the visitor’s centre and browse for something to take home.
After working up a bit of a buzz at the distillery, it’s time to walk off that whisky with a lovely stroll along Oban’s harbour.
As has been previously mentioned, Oban is quite a small town and walking along the waterfront is not going to take too long, however, you will get lovely views of the harbour and the nearby islands (such as Kerrera).
Take the time to pop into a few of the shops that line the streets along the harbour — like the Oban Chocolate Company if you have a sweet tooth — or even wander your way north to see the Oban War Memorial, erected to commemorate those who passed in World War I.
You can also see the ferries coming and going and glimpse some sailboats and fishing boats. It’s a busy port and it’s no surprise that it’s considered such a seafood destination when you consider just how much action happens here.
Eat Oban Seafood
Dubbed the seafood capital of Scotland, there is no doubt that one of the absolute best things to do in Oban is to indulge in the incredible local seafood that can be found in the town. If you’ve worked up an appetite after all of your sightseeing, then you’re sure to find that Oban has a lot to offer.
If you’re looking for the freshest seafood plucked straight from the local waters, then make sure to the Oban Seafood Hut – often referred to as the Green Shack. This is located in a green shack right on the harbour and has lots of fresh options.
There are also lots of fish and chips shops throughout the town if you want something a little bit more classic. We highly recommend heading to Oban Fish & Chips for some of the best fish and chips of your life.
See the Isle of Kerrera
After indulging yourself in some of the best of Scotland’s seafood, it’s time to take a quick jaunt over to the lovely Isle of Kerrera. This little island is home to only 45 people and is located very close to the mainland and the town of Oban.
You can catch a ferry to Kerrera from the Gallanach ferry terminal which is only about 2 miles south of the Oban town centre. There is parking at the terminal, but keep in mind that you cannot bring a car onto the ferry as a visitor.
Once on Kerrera, you can get around on foot – there are some lovely walks to enjoy on the island – or you can hire a bicycle if you want to get around a bit quicker. One of the highlights of Karrera is the lovely Gylen Castle, which is worth heading out to.
If you’re looking for somewhere unique to visit within easy reach of Oban, you cannot go wrong with spending a few hours on the Isle of Kerrera.
Visit the Isles of Mull & Iona
If you have more than a day to dedicate to your trip to Oban, you can use the town as a base for some longer day trips. And if you’re looking for the ideal place to visit, then you can’t go wrong with an Isle of Mull day trip.
This Hebridean island is located about an hour’s ferry ride from Oban, making it easy to reach as a day trip. Though there are a lot of great things to do on Mull and you could easily spend a few days there, a day trip is enough to give you a taste of what this island has to offer.
You can drive down the Ross of Mull to Fionnphort before catching the ferry to little Iona – here you can visit the historic Iona Abbey. Like Kerrera, you cannot bring a car to Iona and will need to get around on foot or by bicycle.
Spend the rest of your time enjoying some of the absolutely spectacular coastal scenery you can find on Mull and wandering around the colourful town of Tobermory.
If you want to see some of the local fauna that make their home off the coast of Oban, then consider booking yourself on a wildlife tour. There are a number of tour operators that will take you on a boat trip where you can see seals, otters, whales and – if you’re in the right season – puffins.
A good portion of the wildlife tours from Oban include passage to the Isle of Mull and actually will leave for your boat trip from Tobermory.
If you’re travelling between the months of May to July, then you will also likely have the opportunity to visit the Isle of Lunga in the Treshnish Isles, which is home to a massive puffin colony. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing these cute birds, then going on a tour like this is absolutely worth it.
Fingal’s Cave & the Isle of Staffa
Another great option for a day out from Oban is to visit Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa.
Though this can often be combined with a wildlife tour, you can also find tours that simply include Staffa as a stop. The Isle of Staffa is home to Fingal’s Cave – a fascinating cave made up of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns. It is absolutely fascinating to visit and truly breathtaking.
If you have a bit more time to spend on Staffa, there is also a small puffin colony that occupies the north end of the island during the months of May-July. This is a great way to see some of these playful sea birds if you don’t end up going on a dedicated tour to the Isle of Lunga.
Where to Stay in Oban
Adelphi Villa – Mid-range visitors to Oban will love this cosy guesthouse located on a quiet street in the centre of town. They have a few comfortable rooms to choose from, free parking available and a great location for exploring the area. Click here to check availability
The Manor House Hotel – Luxury visitors to this town on the west coast of Scotland will love this classic manor house in lovely Oban. They have an array of luxe rooms to choose from along with a sophisticated setting and a range of amenities available for guests. Click here to check availability
EDEN Apartment – If you’re looking for a self-catering option while basing yourself in Oban, then this one-bedroom flat is a great choice. It comes fully furnished and equipped with everything you may need and has a great location in the centre of town. Click here to check availability
Oban Backpackers – Budget and solo travellers to Oban will love this highly-rated hostel. They offer both dorm beds and private rooms, have great self-catering facilities and common areas along with a good location for exploring the area. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Oban hotels!
There are so many things to do in Oban that it’s worth taking a day to explore this town in its own right. Whether you’re looking to visit the seafood capital of Scotland or are using the town as a base to explore some islands, visiting Oban is never a bad idea.
Are you planning to visit Oban? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!