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.
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
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
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
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
It was an amazing meal topped off with our favourite
Magner's Cider (£41.70). Oban is certainly the Seafood capital
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
See the links to each day
of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top
right of this page.
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7 Jan 2011, last update
02 Jul 2017
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