Things to eat, see and do in Oban

Sunday 24 February 2019
There's a huge variety of things to do in Oban with attractions and points of interest to suit the whole family. It's a west coast gateway to the islands with ferries from Oban taking you to Kerrera, Lismore, Mull, and onward to Iona and Staffa. Known as the seafood capital of Scotland, Oban restaurants range from Rick Stein recommended fish and chips, a green seafood shack at the harbour and fine dining at Michelin guide mentioned Etive. For whisky lovers an Oban distillery tour is a must as is a visit to Oban Chocolate Company for chocoholics. Oban accommodation options include everything from hotels to hostels and with my recommendations foodies can enjoy a true taste of food from Argyll whether dining out or self catering.

What to do in Oban

February half term saw us heading on a family trip to Oban. This is somewhere that I have fond memories of from an 1983 childhood holiday as an 11 year old staying in a caravan at North Ledaig. We visited Iona on that trip and it must have made an impression as 21 years later I named our daughter Iona. Because of this we visited with her in 2011 and made the pilgrimage to her namesake. Eight years later seemed as good a time as any to return and update the photo album with 'Iona in Iona' photos.

Part of the reason for our trip was some work that I've been doing with Hostelling Scotland to create recipes in their hostel kitchens that showcase local produce. After initially being somewhat sceptical, we are now total converts to hostelling. From a foodie's point of view it really does give you the best of both worlds. The freedom to dine out and sample local restaurants combined with the facilities to cook for yourself in the hostel kitchen with goodies bought from local markets and producers. The joy with doing it in great value accommodation is that you’ve got more cash to splash on food! Keep your eyes peeled for Foodie Quine recipes created in hostel kitchens appearing in the Hostelling Scotland handbook and on their website in the coming months. 

Oban Youth Hostel

Located in an impressive Victorian villa, Oban’s Youth Hostel is fresh, modern and has absolutely stunning views out over the Bay of Oban and the Isle of Kerrera from the public rooms and many of the bedrooms. It’s ideally situated right on the sea front and enabled us to make the most of Scotland’s seafood capital both when dining out and cooking up a storm in the hostel kitchen. Oban is well off for supermarkets with a Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi however to get a real taste of Argyll you’ll want to seek out local produce.

Where to shop?
  • Fish - The Fish Shop (D. Watt & Sons) Officially Oban’s oldest family business you won’t miss its bright yellow exterior and signage on the railway pier. A great selection of fresh fish and shellfish. 
  • Local produce - Food from Argyll at The Pier, Oban Food Hub – a weekly online farmers market, Millstone Wholefoods.
  • Bakery - from Luing Bakery at Millstone Wholefoods, Bossards Patisserie
  • Butchery - Jackson Butchers, I.Wynne & Son
During our stay we purchased prawn tails and smoked haddock from the fish shop, beer and eggs from Food from Argyll, Luig bakery bread from Millstone Wholefoods and square sausage, fruit pudding and black pudding from the butchers.

Places to eat in Oban
  • Eating Out – Coast, Cuan Mor, 
  • Fish & Chips – Norries, Oban Fish & Chip Shop (as recommended by Rick Stein)
  • Fish and Shellfish – Fishouse at the Waterfront, Ee-usk, Oban Seafood Hut – a green shack on the pier with outdoor seating, beware of the seagulls! 
  • Fine Dining - Etive Restaurant with 2 AA Rosettes and a mention in the Michelin guide
  • Cafés – Julie’s Coffee House, Foods From Argyll at the Pier, The Little Potting Shed Café
  • Chocolate - Oban Chocolate Company is a must visit with a great range of waffles, homebakes and all things chocolate. 

During our stay we enjoyed fish and chips at Norries, post parkrun waffles, cake, chocolate and coffee at Oban Chocolate Company, a late lunch at Foods from Argyll and dinner at Cuan Mor.

We would have loved to have dined at Etive but unfortunately the owners were taking a well deserved holiday, likewise Oban Seafood Hut wasn't as yet open for the season. All the more reason to return!

Oban Restaurants

Oban Distillery

Alas our visit to Oban distillery was also curtailed by the time of year as it was in 'silent season'. Whisky production was taking a rest as were distillery tours. We did however participate in a tasting session. In addition to tours, the distillery also has a bar and gift shop where an Oban 14 year old was procured. Slàinte!

Oban Distillery

Oban things to do

  • Ferry to Mull and Iona - Cal Mac Oban Ferry Terminal
  • McCaigs Tower
  • Ganavan Sands parkrun - free weekly 5km timed run, Saturday 9.30am
  • Pulpit Hill Viewpoint
  • Ceilidh Nights at The View
  • Whale and Wildlife Boat Trips 
  • Dunollie Museum & Castle
  • Corran Halls – live entertainment venue

Fancy some more Scottish ferry travel? Read my posts about Orkney and Shetland

Things to do in Oban when it rains!
  • Oban War & Peace Museum
  • Oban Phoenix Cinema
  • Atlantis Community Leisure Centre - Swimming pool, soft play, tennis, squash, play park, climb cube and sports halls.
  • Gift shops - Room 15, Orsay, Modern Croft
  • Galleries
  • Chocolate making at Oban Chocolate Company


Can you see all the different coloured houses sitting by the sea? Whilst we made it to Mull and Tobermory (home of CBeebies Balamory) it was far from plain sailing. Being an east rather than a west-coaster I'm not used to ferry travel. Turns out that the onus is very much on you to check the service status of your intended journey. If we had done this we'd have seen that Oban to Mull had an orange warning and Mull to Iona was cancelled for the whole day. As it was the closest Iona got to Iona was the ferry slipway. Admittedly it was a rather wild and driech day so perhaps it was for the best that we spent most of it in the car. Even in the rain Tobermory was colourful but after the cancellation of a couple of the crossings back to the mainland we very relieved to board the ferry and not to have to spend the night there. Lesson most definitely learned for the future.

McCaigs tower (or McCaigs folly) is probably what I remember most about Oban from my 1983 visit. It's the iconic building of the town and looks spectacular when lit up at night. Built in the late 1800's by local banker John Stuart McCaig, the aim of the tower was to provide work for local stonemasons and a lasting monument to the McCaig family. The elaborate structure was based on the Colosseum in Rome however his death in 1902 brought an end to the construction only the outer walls were completed.The spectacular views are well worth the steep climb - although my teenage daughter couldn't be persuaded!

Ganavan sands is great to visit at any time but especially 9.30am on Saturday mornings for a free, weekly, timed 5k parkrun. The course is a challenging but picturesque one and they aren't joking about the steep gradients. Suffice to say neither myself or foodie loon bagged a PB. 

Things to do in Oban

We were too early in the season for a number of attractions but from Easter onwards both the War & Peace Museum and Dunollie Museum & Castle are open for visitors. Likewise a variety of wildlife boat trips will be operating. I was saddened to find out that Oban Sea Life Centre closed at the end of 2018. Again I remember this vividly from my 1983 visit as do my own kids from their 2011 visit. The teenagers were impressed by the swimming pool at the Atlantis Community Leisure Centre and I loved browsing the varied selection of shops in Oban town centre in particularly cookware shop McDougalls and Modern Croft and Orsay gift shops.

How to get to Oban?

What to do in Oban at night

Disclosure - This is not a paid post.
We stayed with Hosteling Scotland at Oban Youth Hostel as part of an ongoing recipe development and social media partnership.

As always, all views expressed are my own. 
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