A September 2003 trip
to Oban by milliebell
Quote: I based myself in Oban whilst visiting other parts of the highlands and Hebridean Islands.
Public transport is not great, but it is possible to do short overnight and day trips to a variety of places. As there is the ferry terminal, railway station, and bus hub for the area, it makes a good base.
The bay is beautiful and has some stunning scenery. You can walk all around the sea front from the ferry terminal along to Dunollie castle ruins.
The sea is one of the highlights of Oban, and going out on a boat is a must. There are various boat trips, but a cheap option with plenty of nice viewing is to get a return ticket on a cal-mac ferry and just come straight back--they are used to people doing this.
Oban is also good for shopping--try the wonderful kitchen garden for locally produced cheeses, every Italian goodie you could ever want, and also the craft shop on George Street.
The cheapest internet access I found was at the 'Fancy That' gift shop--fast and efficient internet access for £3.75 an hour. However, the tourist info centre internet access works out cheaper for periods of 15 minutes or less.
There are a range of hostels. However, bed and breakfast and guesthouse accommodation is so cheap and plentiful that you can get a private double/twin room for less than the cost of two dorm beds, so hostels in Oban are only value for money if you're traveling alone. If this is the case, try staying in one of the independent hostels in the town centre.
To get out of Oban, there are bus connections with Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Fort William, Glencoe, and Inverness. Local buses run to Dunstaffnage Castle, Seil Island, Inverary, etc. Trains run to Edinburgh and Glasgow. To get to Fort William by train, you need to change at Crainlarich. It's not worth it as it makes it a very long and expensive trip. A direct bus goes in 90 minutes.
Ferries are frequent and very cheap if your a foot passenger. Five day return tickets or mulitple journey tickets a good bargain if your intending to do a lot of sailing. They also offer Island Rover tickets on set routes.
When I got up to my second-floor room, my spirits lifted. It was a 10-bedded female dorm room, but very clean and spacious, with its own shower. It was comfortable enough. The view was amazing from the windows - right across the bay. On my second night, there was a lovely red sunset.
There is a comfortable TV lounge, but it was dominated by smoochy couples - not a place to go to meet people. Conversation was nonexistent in there and not welcoming for someone on their own. The kitchen and dining area was more lively, but was mainly due to family groups. The kitchen was very well equipped for self-caterers, and the dining area was comfortable. There is a laundry. Breakfast (cereal, milk, juice, rolls, jam) was on sale for 1.85, but I didn't bother with this.
In the three nights I stayed there, I found it to be like a hospital - clean, comfortable, and warm, but somewhat lacking in atmosphere and rather sterile. There was little social interaction between guests. They tend to be groups, families and couples.
The hostel has Internet access, but I would advise you to avoid it - it costs five pounds an hour, which is very expensive compared to other places. It was also very slow. I found out the next day that you can get much cheaper Internet access in town.
The showers were hot, but the type where you push the button to get water. You must keep your finger on the button at all times - as soon as you let go, the water stops.
Dorm beds cost £12 per night (in September 2003). Check out is by 10:30am. The hostel is about a 15-20 minute walk from the ferry terminal and railway station. Keep this in mind if you have heavy luggage or an early-morning train/boat to catch. You can book it online on www.syha.org.uk or by calling the SYHA central reservations line on 0870 1 55 32 55.
In all honesty, if I am staying in Oban again, I will try one of the other hostels or B&B's. I would stay here again, but only if I was really desperate. I would recommend this to couples and families. I would NOT recommend this to lone travellers - you can do much better than this in Oban.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
Oban Youth Hostel
Starters--soup, garlic bread, prawn cocktail--range from £2 in price. Main courses go from £3.50 (salad) to £4.50 - £7.00, such as fish and chips (£7), fishcake and chips, chicken and cips, pie and chips, and pasta dishes such as macoroni cheese, lasagne, and vegetable lasagne. Deserts are mainly ice cream based, from £1.80. There is a childrens menu available for under 13.
I would have preffered a takeaway, but it was pouring with rain. I had fishcake, chips, and peas for £5.50 and a coke. I didn't think it good value for money--the portions were small and child sized, the peas were tinned garden peas (soft and salty, not chip shop mushy peas), and the fishcake seemed to consist entirely of mashed potato without any fish. I only had a mian course, so I cannot comment on the starters or desserts. The pasta dishes that the couple on the next table were having looked very nice--substantial and well cooked.
The takeaway section is a lot cheaper. Fish and chips £4.50, fishcake and chips £2.50, regular portion of chips £1. Much better value for money.
I would say shop around first, but if you're hungry and it's late afternoon, your options are limited, so this would be a good fall back.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
Oban Fish and Chip Restaurant and take away
This includes a starter, main course, and EITHER an accompaniment such as rice OR a dessert. Starters include onion bajhis, pakoras, sheesh kebab, etc. Main courses are a choice of dish--rogan josh, korma, madras, etc--in either beef, chicken, or vegetable (king prawn £2.50 extra). The accompaniments include boiled or pilau rice, roti bread, or salad. Desserts were ice cream based.
I found this excellent value for money. I had vegetable pakora, which came with a wonderful garlicky yoghurt dip that tasted wonderful. My vegetable rogan josh was very nice, lots of it, with big pieces of vegetables in a good textured sauce, and it came with a generous portion of pilau rice. All was freshly cooked. The service was of a high standard with friendly staff.
The evening menu is similar but more expensive--starters from £2 upwards, mains from £5.50 upwards. A special set meal for two was £25.
I highly recommend this lunch time option--cheap, very filling, and good quality food.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 26, 2003
I had a veggie burger and chips. The meal was very well cooked and I liked the veggie burger a lot. The dessert menu looked tempting, with chocolate fudge cake.
Not at all the smartest place on the block, but good for a cheap and qucik meal or snack. I went in hour when I had an hour to kill before getting a bus.
Argyll Bakeries Restaurant
7 Argyll Square
Oban, Scotland PA34 4AZ
The service heads past Kerrara. The views are amazing, and the further the boat gets out, the prettier the seascape, hills, and rocky islands become. The mountian views are spectacular. The day I did the cruise, there was a rainbow over a distant island. On the other side, there are views of the bay of Oban and Dunollie castle ruins.
After about 20 minutes, the boat comes near a rocky island where seals bask and swim. The boat doesn't get close enough to frighten them, but close enough to see them clearly.
The seals were mainly basking in the sunshine, and swimming and diving. They didn't seem to be bothered by our presence. Seals in the water kept popping their heads up, and it was funny watching people trying to take photographs of them - they disappeared beofre the photo was taken, only to pop up somewhere else.
I highly recommend this cruise - the seals are so incredibly cute and the scenery is lovely. We saw loads of seals. However, the cruise is worth it even if you don't, as the scenery is so nice. The boat has outdoor seating only, so wrap up warm, and bring plenty of camera film.
Seal Colony Cruise
Departs from Railway Pier
+44 01631 571010
For a bargain of £4.25 you get some stunning scenery and a trip across Oban bay and back, and almost two ROUGH hours at sea. When the ferry gets to Lismore, just stay on if you're intending to come straight back.
As it is a small boat, it is quite a rough ride when the sea is not calm. Keep this in mind if your prone to seasickness. However, if you're pushed for time and haven't much money, this is the cheapest option. I would recommend this if it's all you can do. There are no facilities, though an indoor cabin with seating area is provided.
If you want more comfort, the sail to Mull is £6.45 return (foot passenger). The much larger ferry has outdoor decks, indoor observation lounges, a reasonably priced bar, cafe, shop, etc, and it is a lot smoother. You still get the lovely views.
Oban Ferry Terminal
+44 (0)8705 650000
Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom