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Scotland's Hebrides Islands, off its west coast, offer a wonderful range of different sights and experiences.

Our Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour takes you 8 islands (via 11 ferry crossings and a steam train ride), giving you a great time seeing much of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as time in the Highlands.

Here is one person's account of her experiences on our 2010 tour.

 
 
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Scotland's Islands & Highlands Tour Diary

Day 4 :  Over to Oban
 

Oban from the harbor, looking up to McCaig's Tower

We return back to the mainland today, see some ancient stone circles, and end up in the lovely town of Oban for the night.

Part of an 11 day/page trip diary - click the links on the right hand side for the other days in this diary.

 

 

Jeanette and her husband Ken were on our 2010 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour, and Jeanette kept a detailed day by day diary of the tour.

She has very graciously allowed it to be re-published here, so as to allow you an unvarnished view into what the tour was all about.

The text is hers, which I've respected and not changed apart from a few subheadings and extra paragraph breaks and some Americanizations of her English spelling (they are from New Zealand).

I've sourced the pictures and their captions are also from me, not Jeanette.

You can follow along with her narration by tracking the tour on this tour itinerary page and the linked Google maps.

I hope this will encourage you to come on our 2011 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour.

Day 4 – Thursday June 17th 2010 – Oban

Google Touring Map for the Day

The alarm woke us at 6:45am. We had our bags downstairs about 7:30am and were the last into breakfast. Ken had a full Scottish breakfast with haggis and black pudding while I had very nice scrambled egg and mushrooms. We were all in the bus and away 4 minutes early, at 8:11am, to pick up the rest of our party at the Harbour Inn. We left at 8:30am for the short drive back to Port Ellen to catch the ferry back to the mainland at Kennacraig. There was a sprinkle of rain on the windscreen but it did not amount to much.

We were at the port by 8:50am so we had time to look around the town before the ferry, The Hebridean Isles, arrived about 9:15am on a perfectly calm sea. This ferry is larger than the ferry we came across on 2 days ago and will be full as there are a lot of cars, trucks and our coach waiting to board. The ferry was due to depart at 9:30am but our coach did not board until 9:40am. We sat up in the top observation lounge for the 2 hour 25 minute crossing. As we started to pull away from the wharf the vibration set off a number of car alarms. They would stop for a while then start again so we stayed inside to avoid the noise. The sky was overcast but it did not rain.

Jane and Charlie Goldman were leaving the tour in Inverness so they were interested in swapping their 'front seat' allocation for the last day. We offered our Friday afternoon 'front seat' on the Isle of Mull to them and they accepted. I enjoyed chatting with Jane about their 3 trips to Antarctica, two with the Lindblad company. We saw Shearwaters on the water, in the mist which enclosed us once we were out of the sheltered bay. We also passed Guillemots resting on the water. About 11am the mist cleared and the sun shone through the clouds. It was a very smooth crossing over a glassy sea.

We arrived at Kennacraig at midday and were off by 12:10pm on our way to Lochgilphead for lunch. David told us more about 'the Highland Clearances' and the 11 year potato famine in the early 1800's. He also told us about the Crinan Canal with its 15 locks. 2,000 to 3,000 vessels pass through this canal each year from here to the Sound of Jura.

While most of our party went in search of a good fish and chip shop, Ken and I sat on a bench overlooking the bay, with the tide out, and had a banana and a muesli bar. David joined us with his hot fresh Haddock and chips. It was a very nice quiet town. 7 people were 5 minutes late back to the bus but David was busy on the phone and waited for them.

We passed the ruins of Dunadd Fort, which between the 6th & 8th centuries was one of the most important places in Scotland. The original Scots were migrants from Ireland who from about 500AD settled across Argyll in ever greater numbers, founding the Kingdom of Dalriada. Dunadd was the capital of the Kingdom and where its Kings were anointed. There are a large number of Standing Stones in this area with at least 360 within 5 miles of Kilmartin. At 1:50pm we arrived at the Nether Largie Cairns which were built between 3,000BC and 1,000BC. We had 30 minutes to walk across the field to the Temple Stones then along the lane to the Cairns. The coach picked us up at the end of the lane to save us having to walk all the way back across the field. It was a lovely rural walk with some interesting ancient sights.


Hilda and Sue among the ancient burial stones at Kilmartin Church.

At 2:30pm we had arrived at the Kilmartin Church to see many ancient burial stones in the churchyard and 2 special stones crosses inside the church itself, one 9th-10th century, the other late medieval. By 2:45pm we were on the road again. It was now a very warm sunny day. The drive through a narrow valley of pine forest and heather hills was very pleasant. We passed a very nice yacht harbour at Kilmelford. Some members of our party had been having difficulty flushing the toilet in their hotel rooms during the last 2 days so David gave a graphic description of the difference between American and English toilets and told everyone to attack the flushing handle 'with vigour'. He explained to the Americans that American toilets flush by a lever simply lifting up a flap in the bottom of the cistern and the water rushing down, English toilets flush by a siphon action with the lever priming the siphon, a gentle movement is insufficient to prime the siphon.

We arrived in Oban at 3:35pm to find a traffic jam, probably due to school children being picked up after school. Oban, meaning “little bay”, is the main port for the Hebrides Islands with a direct rail link from Glasgow. We were all staying at the Caledonian Hotel on the waterfront. Our room (#312) faced the hills behind the hotel with lovely houses among the trees. The room was much better than last night with a large bathroom and a bath. The double bed looked good but when we sat on it we realized we could feel the individual springs in the mattress. It needed a rubber pad, or similar, on top of the spring mattress.

About 4:30pm we went out for a walk to see the Coliseum-like structure called McCaig's Folly (or Tower). We first walked around the town's main street then along the esplanade. We stopped at the Visitor's Centre where they had a brilliant exhibition of the history of the Isles and Argyll. We walked on out of the town looking for a Waterstone's Book shop that we had seen on the drive into town. We never found the book shop but we found Tesco where we bought a jar of mint hot chocolate and 2 boxes of muesli bars (7.08). We walked back to our hotel to drop off our purchases then up the steep hill to McCaig's Tower.

I had to take the climb slowly but I eventually made it after stopping for a short chat with a lady working on tiling her front steps. The tower, in the shape of a coliseum, was an amazing structure, even though it was purely a shell as it was never finished. We met a family in the tower and Ken enjoyed chatting with Rob who was wearing an All Black jersey. He is Scottish, now living in Sweden with his Swedish wife and 2 year old son Luke and is a Rugby Coach in Sweden. His friend had recommended the Waterfront Restaurant for dinner as they have excellent seafood for a reasonable price so we said we might see them there later. We got magnificent views over the bay and Oban town from the tower.

On our way back down we stopped at the house where the lady was covering her steps with tile chips, creating interesting patterns with the broken tiles. She is an artist specializing in printing and is married to a New Zealander. We had a lot of fun talking to her about her visits to NZ and her life here in Oban. When we got to the bottom of the hill I commented to Ken that I should have asked her for her business card. He told me to go back up the hill and ask her. I walked back up the steep hill and she was very nice and gave me her card and a postcard with a picture of her tile work. It made the walk up the hill again so worthwhile.


Peter and David seem to be enjoying themselves along the esplanade in Oban.

We then walked along the esplanade, past our hotel to the Waterfront Restaurant where we met Rob and his family again. I had the most amazing bowl of seafood chowder with huge chunks of salmon, sole, scallops, and mussels in a smooth creamy soup. Ken had a very nice bowl of broccoli soup. For main course Ken had fresh local Haddock and chips while I had baked Cod on a bed of mashed potatoes and spinach in a mussel sauce, with about 6 mussels still in their shell.

It was an amazing meal topped off with our favourite Magner's Cider (41.70). Oban is certainly the Seafood capital of Scotland.

The ferry (which we will catch tomorrow) was alongside the wharf when we left the restaurant. It was just a short pleasant walk to the hotel at 9:15pm, still daylight. We both enjoyed being able to have a bath for a change and I washed my hair. No internet access so we could not ring Mum. We were ready for lights out about 11pm. It was a very warm night and noisy with traffic noise all night because we had to have our window open for fresh air.

Read more in the rest of Jeanette's Diary

See the links to each day of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top right of this page.

 

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Originally published 7 Jan 2011, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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