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Oban as a base

Wondering what your thoughts are on using Oban as a base to stay in for a few nights while exploring the area.

I'm thinking of having a car to head over to Mull, etc... and also to visit the Highlands in the area. I'm also thinking of not having a car and thinking of it as a tour base to the islands, and perhaps bus/train for short day trips. As well, maybe use it as a spot for a "Quiet Day".

Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.

Posted by
3481 posts

If you want to go to Iona and Mull, Oban is a great base as there is an easy ferry to the islands. It's also a good place to base for a few day trips. The town itself is worthy of a full day or perhaps a day and a half if you are seeking a "quiet day".

Posted by
4767 posts

Oban can be seen in half a day. It’s not overly exciting, but it’s a good base to get to the islands. I wouldn’t use it as a base to cover the Highlands as I prefer Glencoe/North Ballachulish. It’s much easier to explore with a car as public transport is limited.

A day’s drive around the Ardnamurchan would be a must for me in this area - stunning scenery and wildlife.

Posted by
18923 posts

Verify that your car-rental company will permit you to take the car on the Oban-Mull ferry. I took the day-trip put together by West Coast Motors.

Posted by
3226 posts

I agree with Jennifer’s assessment that it’s good for a half day by itself. Other than walking along the waterfront and up to McCaig’s tower, there’s little else to see. There is a distillery right by the waterfront if you like whisky. When we were there we came down from Fort William and Glencoe and spent a night before heading to Loch Lomond then into northern England. As a base to visit the islands, it’s great.

Posted by
1879 posts

I can't comment based on experience but if you're looking for a quiet day have you considered staying in Tobermory on Mull? You could spend one day driving the Island and another doing the Iona and Staffa thing. That was our plan for June 2020 and now the plan for June 2022.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, pastorash,

A car is pretty much a necessity if you're going to be taking day trips from Oban. There are limited long haul buses out of Oban - only three per day heading north toward Fort William, and limited service south toward Kilmartin, Kennacraig, and Campbeltown. If you wanted to visit someplace like Glencoe, you'd need to take two different buses. The train will take you back to Tyndrum, where you can catch a connecting train to Fort William. The Tyndrum to Fort William train runs across Rannoch Moor, and is one of the many scenic train journeys in Scotland

Without a car, you could still catch the ferry to Craignure, take a bus to Fionnphort, and take the passenger ferry to Iona. You could also take a bus up to Tobermory, which is charming, but again, there's not a whole lot to do. However, as Allan pointed out, if you're looking for a "quiet day," Tobermory would be a better choice than Oban. If you have a car, you could visit the hamlet of Calgary, which has one of the prettiest beaches on the islands.

If you decide to spend a couple of days in Oban, you could visit the islands of Kerrera and Lismore, both of which have excellent walking/hiking. Kerrera is the closest to Oban, and can be reached by a passenger ferry. Lismore is a bit farther away, but would make for a good day trip. Last I heard, they still had bicycle rental near the ferry terminal. There's virtually no traffic on Lismore, so bike riding is safe.

If you're going to wait until you get to Oban to hire a car, be aware that there are only a couple of small car hire companies in town, and because they are small independent companies, you'd need to bring the car back to Oban. Also, because they have the Oban market cornered, they are not going to be cheap. You need to have no worries about being able to take a hired car on to the ferries. You can't get around the Highlands and Islands without taking ferries. Scottish car hire companies understand that.

If you have a car, I'd recommend one or two nights in Oban; the ferry to Craignure; and one or two nights in Fionnphort, so that you can have a full day on Iona and a boat trip to Staffa. From Fionnphort, you could drive up to Tobermory, spend an overnight, then take the Tobermory to Kilchoan ferry. From Kilchoan, you can follow Jennifer's advice, and visit the western end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. After you've visited Ardnamurchan Point and Sanna Bay, you'd have the choice of heading back along the peninsula, then north from Salen to meet the A830, which would give you the choice of heading west to Mallaig and Skye, or east to Fort William via Glenfinnan. Your other choice from Salen would be to head directly east along Loch Sunart, and take the Corran Narrows ferry back to the A82 south of Fort William.

Mull does not have as complex a road system as Skye does. Almost all of the roads are coastal, and the minor roads are spectacular.

Whatever you decide enjoy your time in Scotland!

Best wishes, and stay safe.

Mike (Auchterless)