A historic county comprising the archipelagoes, peninsulas, and islands of the Inner Herbrides of western Scotland, Argyll is a land of scenic beauty and ancient origin, home to the earliest of the Scot-Irish kingdoms in Great Britain.
Oban, a lovely resort town in this stunning region is one of the largest and busiest populated areas between Helensburgh and Fort William. Oban often enjoys a seasonally-spike in inhabitants during the summer months. The town and surrounding region are blessed with spectacular coastal scenery, and its mountains and landscapes are dotted with castles and ancient religious sites. Oban Bay is a particularly lovely horseshoe bay, with the islands of Kerrera and Mull providing extra shelter to the wilder coastline.
Oban is one of several locations carrying the title as ‘Gateway to the Isles’. But it’s also an ideal spot for visitors to use as a base for local sightseeing and other leisure activities in and around Argyll.
Things To Do in Argyll & Oban
Outdoor activities including hillwalking, mountaineering, bird watching and fishing all draw visitors to Argyll each year. This is because the great outdoors is particularly spectacular in this part of Scotland. Tourism, fishing, crofting and whisky distilling are the region’s main commercial enterprises. The Oban Distillery put the town on the map but it remained a quiet fishing village until the Glasgow to Oban railway opened in 1880.
Now the largest port in northwest Scotland, Oban is a good jumping-off point for fishing trips, ferries and pleasure boats. As a center for tourism, historic and culture, tours are readily available from Oban taking visitors to a host of fascinating and picturesque top locations throughout the Argyll region.
Top Destinations in Argyll & Oban
Oban – The town has its fair share of historic and notable buildings. The Cathedral of St Columba designed by the world-famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Neo-Gothic style is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.
Perched high on a hill overlooking the town, McCaig’s Tower is another prominent feature on the Oban skyline and shares a fascinating history. The imposing circular structure is built of granite, and takes the form of a two-tiered amphitheatre that’s 200 metres in circumference with 94 arches. Based on the Roman Colosseum, the tower was designed as a monument honoring an influential family but was never completed after the death of the family patriarch.
On the outskirts of the town, Dunstaffnage Castle and Dunollie Castle stand as sentinels of the countryside. Although Dunollie is largely in ruins and much smaller than Dunstaffnage, both castles are well worth a visit.
Tarbert – A small fishing village perched on the shores of Loch Fyne, Tarbert is home to an annual music festival each September. The village is at a strategic point along the coastline, guarding the access to Kintyre and the Inner Hebrides. Dolphins and swans are regularly seen in this scenic harbour.
Glencoe – A centre for hillwalking and mountaineering, Glencoe is the ideal base for exploring the picturesque but often harsh beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Once the scene of the treacherous 1692 Glencoe massacre, a monument to the fallen MacDonalds now stands in the village to remind visitors of the infamous event. The high mountain ridges, peaks and waterfalls form some of the most famous scenery in the country.
Mull of Kintyre – The most southwestern reach of Scotland, this picturesque tip of the Kintyre Peninsula overlooks the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. On a clear day, distant views as far as Malin Head in County Donegal can be enjoyed. The Mull of Kintyre was immortalised by Paul McCartney’s 1977 hit song. Reached by a single-tracked road from the small village of Southend, the Mull has been an important land bridge throughout history. Golden Eagles and other birds of prey, including hen harriers, peregrines, kestrels, buzzards and sparrow hawks frequent the spectacular sea cliffs and wild moorlands of the peninsula.
Rothesay – On the Isle of Bute, the town of Rothesay showcases some well-preserved Victorian seaside architecture. Reached by ferry from the Firth of Clyde, the town has some beautifully kept traditional Winter Gardens. At the centre of the town is the 13th-century ruin Rothesay Castle, unique in Scotland for its circular plan. Nearby, the Rothesay Pavilion attracts visitors as it’s one of the finest architectural examples of Art Deco in all of Scotland.
Dunoon – A resort town on the Cowal Peninsula, Dunoon sits on the Firth of Clyde to the south of Holy Loch. Two ferries operate from Gourock, with access to the national rail network and Glasgow provided by a local train service. The town’s largest annual event is the Cowal Highland Gathering held here since 1894.
Cairndow – Set in an idyllic position at the head of Loch Fyne near the mouth of the River Kinglas, Cairndow boasts one of the oldest coaching inns in Scotland. The local Kilmorich Parish Church is one of only two Scottish churches to be built in a hexagonal shape.
South of the village, the Ardkinglas estate and woodland gardens house an amazing collection of trees and shrubs originating from all corners of the world. It’s home to several ‘champion trees,’ including the largest conifer in Britain. Lovely woodland trails and occasional sightings of red squirrels help attract visitors to the estate throughout the year.