A Short Guide to Exploring Oban and Argyll


Oban and Argyll in Scotland is the perfect place for a short break, holiday or a day out exploring. Lying on Scotland’s west coast, this scenic area is only a two hour drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh. From walking and hiking to ambling round historical sites, from a round of golf to loch, river and sea fishing, Oban and Argyll has something for everybody. It’s also the ideal place to sample some traditional highland fayre, such as local venison, fresh seafood, and a wee dram of whisky.

Wildlife

The waters around Oban and Argyll are rich in wildlife. The Firth of Lorn is a Special Area of Conservation because of the wealth and variety of species. Marine mammals such as basking sharks, minke whale, dolphins and porpoise frequent deeper waters which are easily reached by boat. Common seal colonies, sea otters, deer and a huge range of birds including sea and golden eagles, gannets and guillemots are resident sights. As this is an important breeding ground for seabirds, rare birds such as the black-throated diver arrive in season. 24 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises come to the area all through the year, but especially in the summer months. It is one of the richest areas in Britain to see cetaceans and they swim close to boats a short distance from the shore. In some places they can be sighted from the shore too.

The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary lies a few miles to the north of Oban. It is a center for seal rescue where injured, sick and stray seals and pups recover and can be viewed in the SOS seal rescue facility and nursery area. There are daily talks and feeding demonstrations by experts where the center’s resident seals are introduced to visitors. Also on display are otters and a huge variety of fish and marine life from local waters that shoal and swim in a spectacular aquariums.

Historic Sites

Although Argyll has over 350 archaeological sites, the most impressive historic site in the area is without doubt Kilmartin Glen. 150 sites lie near to the village of Kilmartin and date back 5000 years. There are standing stones, carved rocks, burial cairns, ancient grave stones, early Christian crosses, and the Iron Age fort at Dunadd which belonged to the earliest Scottish Kings. Most of these sites lie in fields and moorland, but the Kilmartin House Museum houses many Neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts such as stone tools and arrowheads, an audio-visual display and offers guided walks. The area abounds with spectacular castles, all of which are open to the public. Castles such as Dunstaffnage at Dunbeg, Camasserie near Kilmartin, Dunollie at Oban and Barcaldine at Benderloch are on the mainland and all within easy reach of each other. There are two spectacular castles on the Isle of Mull. Duart castle, home to the Clan Maclean, sits on a spectacular peninsula overlooking the Sound of Mull, Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorne. Famous for its magnificent gardens, Torosay castle lies further up the coast where a narrow gauge railway links the castle with Dunure where the Oban-Mull ferry pulls in.

Local Seafood

The West Coast of Scotland is famous for the exceptional quality of its seafood and is in high demand around the world. The fishing fleet in Oban specializes in catching scallops, langoustines, crab and lobster and land catches every day of the week except Saturdays. They can be seen in action on Oban’s South Pier between 6pm and 9pm Sun to Thurs and to 6pm Fri. Oysters are farmed in the clear waters of local bays, and the area is a favorite spot for scallop diving. Lobster fishing is bountiful (some specimens weigh in at around 3kg!) just off the isle of Luing.

Walking and Hiking

The hills and mountains in the area are renowned for their ruggedness and breathtaking views. Because of their close proximity to the coast, views from the slopes and tops often include panoramic views out to sea lochs, islands and beyond to the Atlantic. The Scottish Rights of Way Society has signposted many routes making navigation easy. Around two dozen Munros (mountains over 3000ft) are accessible within around an hour’s drive from Oban, with Glencoe and the Nevis Range a little further afield. The closest are Ben Cruachan (1126m) at Loch Awe and Ben More (966m) on Mull.

Fishing

Salt and freshwater fishing is exceptional for both seasoned and novice anglers. The nearby lochs and rivers stock trout and salmon, whilst the Sound of Jura and surrounding waters offers everything from mackerel spinning to shark fishing!

The area is noted for large and specimen fish and has yielded many Scottish records. Loch Etive and the waters around Mull have seen record hake, angler fish, streaked gurnard, spurdog, wrasse, and skate. In 1997 a new European record skate was caught in the sound of Mull. Charter boats operate out of Oban and are well-equipped, providing tackle and a wealth of knowledge of local marks. Deep sea wreck and reef fishing almost guarantees good catches of species such as pollack, wrasse, cod, conger eel, dogfish, tope, thornback rays, cod, ling and gurnard.

Oban & Lorn Angling Club’s “Hill Lochs” permit gives anglers the chance to catch wild brown trout in over 20 moorland lochs. Some are off the beaten track, but most are easily accessible. Loch Awe lies a short distance from Oban. It is one of the largest freshwater lochs in Scotland and provides great sport for rainbow and wild brown trout fishermen. The British record wild brown trout has been broken four times at Loch Awe and currently stands at 25lbs. Spinning is permitted for trout and pike. Permits are available from the Loch Awe Improvement Association or from local shops. For rainbow trout there are two fisheries both of which are well stocked and “fly only”. Inverawe has a variety of facilities, including 4 lochs for anglers of different skills.

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