The major ferry port of Oban started life as a fishing village until its importance grew as a farming, ferry and shipbuilding centre. The arrival of steam-ships and the railway in the latter half of the nineteenth century made it a key staging post to islands such as Mull, Colonsay, Coll, Tiree and the Outer Hebrides. It is now, by far, the largest port and gateway on the west coast serving the Hebridean Isles.
The town is a solid, Victorian holiday Mecca with coach-loads of visitors arriving daily to commandeer larger hotels and storm the multitude of gift shops and cafes waiting for them along George Street on the front.
The most imposing structure in the town is the slightly absurd 'Craig's Folly' set directly above the town centre and harbour. Like a miniature Coliseum of Rome, it stands out like a sore thumb amidst more sober Victorian bungalows. Banker, John McCraig, intended to create work for unemployed masons and labourers but local chatter of the time put it down more to a personal memorial to a rather vain man.
Nevertheless, from this prospect, the views over the harbour and the activities of the fishing and ferry boats are excellent. There are good quality fishmongers set up in small huts around the harbour.
If the weather turns foul, and it can quite readily, there is the World in Miniature exhibition on the northern arm of the harbour containing some sixty scaled-down models of sitting rooms and their furniture from around Britain.
By the railway station is the 'Oban Experience Centre', a shopping and gift arcade with Caithness Glassworks being the best place to get warmed up on a cold summer's day whilst watching the molten glass being transformed.
Oban Distillery is just off George Street and conducts tours offering more body-warming activity. If you like getting wet, head for the Atlantis Leisure centre on Dalriach Road just north-east of George Street.
Oban has hotels and B&B's of every size. There are a few good eating places, one of the most popular and economical being the Studio Restaurant on Craigard Road, ideal for the seafood and steak lover. For a more elegant culinary outing go to the Manor House on Gallanch Road heading for the Kerrera ferry.
Just north-west of town on the road to Ganavan is
Dunollie Castle. This tower-house was probably built in the fifteenth century as
a seat of the MacDougalls.
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