Scotland doesn’t spare any of the dramatics. The country is quite literally making sure that you are either in awe marveling at the landscape, having a panic attack navigating the twisting roads, or picking your jaw up off the ground from the gorgeous scenery. Everything from the highland cattle, to the charming men in kilts entertaining you with their bagpipes. From the whiskey to the hot and flaky fish and chips found around the country. Scotland is one of a kind, and a country that should be on everyone’s bucketlist.
When I left the Lake District and drove north up to Scotland – Oban to be exact – I witnessed first hand what it felt like to “fall in love with a country”. As I crossed the border the bright blue skies and lush green rolling hills welcomes me into their country. The wind whispered, “Welcome to Scotland, we’re glad you’re here”. Sheep dotted the hillside, the sun shown, and I rolled down my windows – in November – to get a smell of the fresh, crisp, Scottish air.
Five hours later, quite a bit of scares from driving a truck through Loch Lomond, and I finally pulled into the seaside town of Oban. The gateway to the Inner Hebrides and the town with the best seafood in the country! (Their words, not mine). Hearing the waves crash, smelling the fresh, salty air, and seeing the glimmer of lights from the main street, this town was full of promise.
If you come to Oban I recommend a stay of 48 hours. One day spent walking the seaside town, one day spent at one of the islands.
Oban is a small town, only 1.6 square miles, and easily walk-able in a short timeframe. Check into your hotel, and mosey your way up and down the street taking it all in. Start by walking north to Dunollie Castle, ruins of a castle that once was. From there walk along the Atlantic back towards Oban. Make your first stop at Oban Distillery, a whiskey distillery established in 1794. This small distillery ships whiskey all over the world. Their main exports go to the UK, USA, and Asia. Go in for a cocktail, a tasting flight, or a tour.
For views over the city make your way up the hill to McCaigs Tower. A short, but steep distance away and you’ll see Oban from atop with sweeping views over the town and ocean. Before ending your day don’t forget to have an authentic fish and chippies experience. There are tons of places around, but I quite enjoyed Norie’s Fish and Chips.
Exploring the Inner Hebrides
The Hebrides are made up of the Inner and Outer island chains. The Inner Hebrides lie southeast of the Outer Hebrides and are made up of 35 inhabited islands and 44 uninhabited islands. Getting to the Inner Hebrides from Oban is a quick and easy day trip. Make sure you figure out plans ahead of time however, the buses and ferry’s seem to line up differently each day of the week.
Isle of Mull – The second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the fourth largest island in Scotland. Mull is only a hour ferry ride away from Oban. There are different things you can do when visiting Mull, but because of the times of buses and ferries you can typically only choose to do one thing per day; unless you’re spending the night or you take your own car. I spent the day exploring Tobermory, the capitol of Mull. Once getting off the ferry, you have to catch the bus – cash only for a ticket – for a hour ride northeast. You will then have the good part of the day to eat and drink your way down the brightly colored street before returning back to the bus.
Isle of Staffa – Staffa is a small, uninhabited island in the Inner Hebrides, lying west of Isle of Mull. You can take the ferry to Isle of Mull or Isle of Iona in order to catch a boat to Staffa. A big draw to this tiny island is going inside Fingal’s Cave, a National Nature Reserve.
Oban was the perfect first stop on my Scottish road trip. It was small and easy to get acclimated to as a solo traveler. Oban is full of friendly locals, the best fish and chips, and lots of whiskey. It’s situated in a place that allows you to easily visit the islands off the west coast. If you find yourself in Scotland with some time to explore, make Oban a priority stop.