Gateway to the Isles | (2023)

Obanis the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, and it’s just a ferry ride away to enchanting isles such as Kerrera, Lismore, Mull, Iona, Coll. Outdoors activities abound, from relaxing boat tours, cycling, beach combing, diving, hill- walking, kayaking or fishing-it’s easy to get out in the pure island air and leave the workaday world behind.

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(Video) Discover Oban - Gateway to the Isles

Scotland's largest ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne, or CalMac Ferries as they are known locally, operate an extensive service from Oban. During the summer months the company offer a range of Day Trips from Oban including whale watching and a wildlife adventure tour.

Up to the minute information on sailing times, ticket prices and special deals can be obtained from theCalMac websiteor from their telephone enquiry line on +44 (0) 1475 650100.


Just across the bay from Oban lies the scenicIsle of Kerrera, so named by Norse invaders in their language for “island of coppiced trees”.Today, the trees have given way to pasture for sheep and cattle, and a sparse population of only 30 something residents live on the island, which measures seven by two kilometres and is divided into a south and north half.

You can reach the smaller north part of Kerrera via a short ferry ride from Oban’s North Pier for a short stroll around Hutcheson’s Monument, a Victorian memorial to one of the founders of the Caledonia MacBrayne ferry company. Enjoy the views back to Oban and across to the Isle of Mull.

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Gylen Castle. Image courtesy of VisitScotland

If you fancy a bit more of a hike, catch the south Kerrera ferry and attack the 11 kilometre walking trail that circles the island and visits the moody ruins of Gylen Castle. Built in the late 1500s by Duncan MacDougall and burned in 1647, the castle, known in Gaelic as “Caisteal nan Geimhlean”, is remarkably well preserved, and its location on a rocky peninsula atop steep cliffs is particularly dramatic. The island, which seems to be unspoilt by modernity, teems with wildlife, so be on the lookout for otters, sea eagles, wild goats and Sika deer, not to mention intriguing geology and sea views for days.

(Video) Oban, Scotland: Gateway to the Scottish Isles - Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide - Travel Bite


The Isle of Lismore lies in Loch Linnhe, at the southern end of the Great Glen. Its English name is taken from the Gaelic "Lios Mor", literally translated as Great Garden. And this gives a clue to why the Island is worth a visit. Throughout the year there is an ever-changing display of wild flowers crowding the roadsides and verges. And as if that wasn't enough, the island is also rich in historical sites, wildlife and magnificent views.

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Castle Coeffin. Image courtesy of Imagine Alba Day Tours.

With a proper choice of ferries, you can have up to six hours ashore, which is an ideal introduction to the island. The ferry from Oban to Achnacroish on the island's south west takes about an hour, and carries a limited number of cars so booking in advance is advisable. Alternatively, leave the car in Oban and take a bike. The island is only about ten miles long and one mile wide so you will still be able to see a great deal. There is a cafe and historical centre which is well worth a visit.

Mull, Iona and Staffa

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Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull. Image courtesy of VisitScotland.

Boasting spectacular wildlife and scenery, as well as outstanding seafood and amazing castles, Mull is truly up there with some of the world’s finest tourist attractions. Lonely Planet lists ‘going wild on Mull’ in its guide to 40 amazing experiences in Europe. Referred to as ‘Eagle Island’ by some, the Isle of Mull is the best place in the area to see White-tailed and Golden eagles. Mull boasts some of the best sea life tours anywhere.In fact, The Telegraph named Mull number four on its list of the 10 best places in Europe to spot whales.

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(Video) Mallaig - Gateway To The Isles | Scotland Travel

Iona Abbey boasts fine examples of medieval Celtic crosses. Image courtesy of Imagine Alba Day Tours.

Known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, Iona is a magical isle. From the founding of an abbey by St Columba in the 6thcentury, to the final resting place of kings, to its current reputation as a leader in fair trade and ecotourism, this tiny emerald island off the western shore of Mull captures the hearts and spirits of those who make the pilgrimage. Visitors can take a short foot passenger ferry to tour the abbey and graveyard, and view the fascinating collection of carved crosses and stones, which, along with reproductions of illuminated manuscripts, are thoughtfully displayed and interpreted throughout the church and the grounds.

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Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa. Image courtesy of Coastal Connection.

Lying six miles west of Mull, Staffa is formed of hexagonal columns that were created millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions and a vast blanket of lava that spread into the Atlantic Ocean. Years of waves crashing against these columns created the magnificent Fingal’s Cave, which inspired Felix Mendelssohn to write his famous overtureThe Hebrides.Staffa was hardly known until 1772, when the botanist Joseph Banks highlighted the wild, natural beauty of the island. Famous visitors have included Queen Victoria, Lord Tennyson, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Keats; all fell under the island’s spell. The island came into the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1986 and was designated a National Nature Reserve in 2001.

For further information on Mull, Iona and Staffa, visit theHoliday Mullwebsite.

Coll and Tiree

The Isle of Coll is a real hidden gem amongst Scotland’s Hebridean islands. Situated around 40 miles West of Oban, and accessed via a 3 hour ferry journey, the island is off the beaten track and offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle on the mainland. With numerous sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife, Coll rewards the intrepid explorer looking for an island adventure.

At around 13 miles long and 3 miles wide the Isle of Coll is a great size for getting out and about – big enough to find your own peace and quiet but small enough so that you won’t get lost! With a local population of just over 200 people, don’t be surprised if you choose a beach for the day and find that you have it all to yourself.

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And not far from Coll is the windy island of Tiree.

Well known among windsurfers this flat island (almost a raised beach) hosts theTiree Wave Classiceach October and is world famous for its superb surf. Despite the wind (which is at its strongest in the winter) Tiree is blessed with the most hours of sunshine in the UK. Another festival success is the home grownTiree Music Festivalwhich has won 'Best Small Festival' and 'Best Cultural Event' - proof if needed that small can indeed be beautiful!

Seil and Easdale

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Another rewarding journey takes you south of Oban over the famous "Bridge over the Atlantic" to the Island of Seil, and by boat toEasdale Islandwith its fascinating history of the Scottish Slate industry.

Following the defeat of the Jacobite Army at Culloden and Bonnie Prince Charlie's subsequent flight from Scotland, the Government banned the use of the Gaelic language and the wearing of tartan and the kilt. The Islanders from Easdale and Seil would change from their traditional garb at the Inn beside the bridge before crossing to the mainland. The inn to this day is still known as 'Tigh an Truish' - "the house of the trousers".

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The ferry to Luing leaves regularly from North Cuan, Seil, which is 16 miles south of Oban and is served by bus service. You can take your car, but keen cyclists may want to rent a ride at Luing Bike Hire -at only six miles long and relatively flat, a bike is the perfect way to see this historic and beautiful island.

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Stop at the beautifully designed Atlantic Islands Centre,where you can learn about the history and geology of the islands, along with art exhibitions and a local history and genealogy reference library. Visit the gift shop, which showcases work from local and regional artistes and follow your nose to the café and fuel up with yummy hand baked goodies or a hot lunch.


Is Oban the gateway to the Highlands? ›

Oban today has a resident population of 8,500 and is the unofficial capital of the West Highlands - the "Gateway to the Isles" - however it has recently become better known as "The Seafood Capital of Scotland".

How long is the ferry from Oban to Harris? ›

This crossing takes approximately 1 hour 40 minutes, running 7 days a week. There is 1 crossing a day, there and back, sometimes 2 depending on the day of the week.

Where do the ferries from Oban go? ›

Oban is the 'Gateway to the Isles', and it's just a ferry ride away to enchanting isles such as Kerrera, Lismore, Mull, Iona, Coll.

Can you day trip to Mull from Oban? ›

For many visitors to Oban, a trip to the Isle of Mull is a holiday highlight, and the 45 minute ferry makes it an ideal choice for a day trip. Mull attracts visitors throughout the year, with its stunning scenery, fascinating history and wonderful wildlife.

Why is Oban so popular? ›

Oban has earned its reputation as a holiday resort town because of its spectacular views of the port. The popular bay view shops along the bustling road run right through the town. The town has a population of just over 8,000 and is capable of hosting up to 25,000 tourists.

Is Oban worth visiting Scotland? ›

Tourists and Scots alike often make a trip to Oban before continuing on to the Scottish Highlands. The town itself is quite picturesque, there are many fun things to do in Oban, and you can also visit some of the surrounding islands quite easily from here.

Can I take my car to Isle of Harris? ›

By car. You have two options - drive to Mallaig and go over the sea to Skye, or drive further north to Kyle of Lochlash and cross to Skye via the bridge. The ferry from Mallaig to Skye takes 30 minutes and docks at Armadale, from where you can drive north to Uig, which takes about 90 minutes. Can't decide?

How long do you need on Isle of Harris? ›

Isle of Harris – a circular tour

You can drive round south Harris's circular road in around three hours, but it's sure to take you longer, as you won't resist frequent stops to take in the stunning land and seascapes.

Do you need a car to get around Harris? ›

Harris bus services are ok but i would def recommend taking the car over- even for journeys to the shops or to get access to more varied walks the car is very useful, Its a stunning island with some of the best beaches you can imagine and often you have them all to yourselves. You cant help but relax.

How long is the ferry from Oban to Islay? ›

Caledonian MacBrayne operates a ferry from Oban Ferry Terminal to Port Askaig Islay Ferry Terminal twice a week. Tickets cost £9 - £11 and the journey takes 3h 55m.

How often do the ferries run from Oban to Mull? ›

Crossing time is 5 minutes. Booking isn't possible, just arrive in good time. The ferry runs every 20 to 30 minutes, and is operated by Highland Council (not CalMac).

How long is the ferry from Oban to Barra? ›

The main route to Barra is by CalMac ferry from Oban, on the mainland. The crossing takes 4 hours 45 minutes. You can also get a ferry to Barra from the island of Eriskay which takes 40 minutes.

Can you do Mull and Iona in one day? ›

Experience two beautiful Inner Hebridean islands in one day!

You will have two hours to soak up Iona's peace and tranquillity as well as discovering its stunning beaches and awe-inspiring history.

Can you visit Mull and Iona in one day? ›

Discover the Inner Hebrides in one day

Our island tours allow you to discover up to three beautiful and diverse Inner Hebridean Islands – Mull, Iona and Staffa – on a day trip from Oban. Tours operate from March 2022 to October 2022.

How much is it from Oban to Mull? ›

How far is it from Oban to Isle of Mull (Island)? The distance between Oban and Isle of Mull (Island) is 16 miles. How do I travel from Oban to Isle of Mull (Island) without a car? The best way to get from Oban to Isle of Mull (Island) without a car is to ferry which takes 1h 8m and costs £15 - £20.

What is the most scenic part of Scotland? ›

20 Most Beautiful Places In Scotland
  1. 01 Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire. ...
  2. 02 Bow Fiddle Rock, Moray. ...
  3. 03 Isle of Iona. ...
  4. 04 Traigh Hornais Clachan Sands, North Uist. ...
  5. 05 Bealach Na Ba, Wester Ross. ...
  6. 06 Loch Ken, Galloway Forest Park. ...
  7. 07 Glenfinnan, Fort William. ...
  8. 08 Eoligarry Beach, Isle of Barra.

What does Oban mean in Gaelic? ›

In Gaelic, Oban is called 'an t-Òban', which means 'little bay' and Iona is called 'Ì Chaluim Chille', which means 'St Columba's Island'. It's not just the names of towns that have a Gaelic origin.

Can you visit Oban distillery without a tour? ›

You do not have to do it, but I recommend it - especially the Oban tour is really nice.

Is Oban or Fort William better? ›

Fort William has rugged scenery really close by. Oban probably gets better sunsets and has a more salty sea-going air. An unbeatable range of options afloat in Oban. Seals, basking sharks and so on, all queue up in the main season to sport in front of the visitors.

How long is the train journey from Glasgow to Oban? ›

The trip from Glasgow to Oban is one of finest in Scotland. With an average journey time of just over 3 hours it is part of the world famous West Highland Line which also heads off to Mallaig via Glencoe and Fort William.

Is Glencoe worth visiting? ›

If you're visiting outside the ski season, then Glencoe Mountain is still well worth visiting. Usually the chair lift runs in the summer, and there's a range of mountain biking, hiking and other outdoor activities available as well.

Can you drive around Lewis and Harris in a day? ›

Unfortunately, you will not be able to visit in really just a day, since a day trip from the mainland is impossible due to ferry times and schedules. You will have to plan an overnight stay – 2-3 nights at best, so you can take in all of Lewis and Harris as well.

Can you do a day trip to Harris? ›

Isle of Harris Day Tour

at your leisure, you can relax and pickup shells, soak up the atmosphere and listen to the waves rolling in on the golden sand. Visit Tarbert the main town on Harris and ferry port, as well as Leverburgh which is the ferry departure point for the Uists.

How many days is Lewis and Harris? ›

At the end of the Orkneys tour the guide recommended the three-day tour to Harris and Lewis (Outer Hebrides) as even better than the Orkneys if we were ever to come back.

What is the best time of year to visit the Outer Hebrides? ›

The best time to go to the Hebrides is between April and October when the weather is most stable and mild, and almost all trips operate only in this window.

Is Stornoway worth visiting? ›

As home to the island's airport, as well as a busy sea port, Stornoway offers a warm welcome to anyone choosing to visit Lewis as part of their Outer Hebridean explorations, as well as providing the backdrop to many a fond farewell.

Can you drive between Lewis and Harris? ›

Lewis and Harris are connected by land to each other and there is a main road (A859) that runs from Stornoway (the capital of Lewis) to Leverburgh in the very south of Harris. There are two ways to get to the island; by air or by sea. Stornoway Airport has regular flights to Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Are Lewis and Harris the same island? ›

Lewis and Harris. Off the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris form the main island in the Outer Hebrides. They may sound like two separate islands, but Lewis and Harris are actually two parts of the one island, with the largest town Stornoway on the east coast.

Why is it called Lewis and Harris? ›

Although usually referred to as if they are, Lewis and Harris are not separate islands. Instead they are the northern two-thirds (Lewis) and southern third (Harris) of the same island. Some say the distinction between the two dates back to a split in the MacLeod clan which dominated the Western Isles for centuries.

What are the roads like on Harris? ›

The roads are extremely windy on the South of the Island and full of blind corners and summits. Sheep often cross or even sit in the middle of the road. Don't assume they will get out of the way, because they won't.

Do you need a car on Islay? ›

You do not need a car on Islay as there is public transport with buses and taxi services.

Where do you catch the ferry to Islay? ›

Get the ferry to Islay from Kennacraig on Kintyre, landing at Port Ellen (2 hours 20 minutes) or Port Askaig (from 1 hour 55 minutes). Vehicle reservations are recommended.

How long is the ferry from Oban to Colonsay? ›

The CalMac ferry from Oban to Colonsay takes 2 hours 20 minutes. You can also sail from Islay, which takes 70 minutes and can be reached from Kennacraig.

Do you need a car on Isle of Mull? ›

You're best to take a car onto the island if you want to be able to reach all the places you're interested in. The transport is not ideal, but there is a bus service run by 'West Coast Motors', and taxis are available if you book in advance.

Is Mull worth visiting? ›

If it's fine white sand and clear blue waters that you want, there's no contest and it's an easy win for Mull. Skye does have a few nice beaches and Camas Daraich at the western tip of the Sleat Peninsula is a lovely spot. But Mull and the neighbouring Island of Iona have so many great beaches to choose from.

Can you go to Mull for the day? ›

It is entirely possible to visit Mull on a day trip from Oban, but I would recommend choosing one particular part to visit (e.g. north or south) instead of zooming around and trying to cover too much ground. The north of the island is also a popular day trip from Ardnamurchan or Morvern.

How much is it from Oban to Barra? ›

The distance between Oban and Barra Head (Island) is 87 miles. How do I travel from Oban to Barra Head (Island) without a car? The best way to get from Oban to Barra Head (Island) without a car is to ferry which takes 5h 10m and costs £14 - £16.

What does Barra mean in Scottish? ›

barra (plural barras) (Tyneside) A barrow; a hand-pushed cart of the type commonly used in markets.

Is there a causeway between Barra and South Uist? ›

The ferry to Barra sails from the southern end of Eriskay, and, with the causeway constructed in 2001, means that only two ferry crossings now separate the entire island chain.

Can you walk around Iona? ›

Scottish access legislation means that you are welcome to walk over most of the island, but please remember that Iona is a living, working community.

How long is ferry to Iona? ›

From Craignure, either drive or get the bus south west to Fionnphort and take the 10-minute passenger ferry to Iona. No advance booking is necessary for the ferry to Iona.

Can you stay on the island of Iona? ›

Accommodation choices are many and varied on the island, catering for all tastes and budgets. You can choose the campsite, or a stay in the hostel, or try one of the family run B&Bs, or perhaps one of the island's two hotels. There are also several self-catering houses on the island.

How long do I need on Iona? ›

A regular day trip from the mainland will give you 2-3 hours on Iona, and enough time to take in the atmosphere and visit the main attractions. If you are holidaying on Mull then you can be more relaxed about when you travel, and even take advantage of the after-hours water taxis that can be booked from Iona.

How do I get from Tobermory to Iona? ›

There is no direct connection from Tobermory to Isle of Iona. However, you can take the line 495 bus to Craignure, Ferry Terminal, take the bus to Fionnphort, Post Office, take the walk to Fionnphort Mull Ferry Terminal, then take the ferry to Iona Ferry Terminal.

How long does it take to drive around Mull? ›

We took our car over on the ferry and I thoroughly recommend you have your own transport too. The thing I did not appreciate about the island was how long it takes to get anywhere. What we thought was a 30-minute scenic drive was actually 2 hours, including many, many stops to just take in the views.

How do you get around Mull without a car? ›

Transport on Mull & Iona

West Coast Motors run bus services from Craignure (the main ferry terminal for Mull) to Tobermory and Fionnphort (for Iona). The Tobermory bus calls at the Fishnish ferry in both directions. There is also a service from Tobermory to Dervaig and Calgary.

What time is the last ferry from Oban? ›

25 March - 23 October 2022

Thursday** 6:00 a.m. - 8.05 p.m. Friday 5.10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. - 9:45 p.m. Saturday 6:00 a.m. - 8.05 p.m. Sunday*** 6:00 a.m. – 7:45 p.m.

Is Oban near Inverness? ›

How far is it from Oban to Inverness? The distance between Oban and Inverness is 88 miles. The road distance is 107.7 miles.

What part of Scotland is Oban from? ›

Oban (/ˈoʊbən/ ( listen) OH-bən; An t-Òban in Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay) is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland. Despite its small size, it is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William.

Where is Oban distilled? ›

Oban distillery (/ˈoʊbən/ ( listen) OH-bən; Scottish Gaelic: Taigh-stail an Òbain) is a whisky distillery in the Scottish west coast port of Oban. Established in 1794, it was built before the town of the same name, which sprung up later in the surrounding craggy harbour. Oban distillery is owned by Diageo.

What does the word Oban mean? ›

Definition of oban

: a large oval Japanese gold coin of the 16th to 19th centuries that varied in size and weight.

Can you visit Oban distillery without a tour? ›

You do not have to do it, but I recommend it - especially the Oban tour is really nice.

What does the name Oban mean? ›

The name Oban is boy's name meaning "the little bay". A pretty town in Scotland, named for its perfect horseshoe-shaped bay.

How much does a bottle of Oban cost? ›

OBAN 14 YEAR SCOTCH WHISKEY (750 ML) - $119.99 - $125 Free Shipping -

What is the meaning of Glenfiddich? ›

The name Glenfiddich derives from the Scottish Gaelic Gleann Fhiodhaich meaning "valley of the deer", which is reflected in Glenfiddich's stag logo. Glenfiddich distillery. Region: Speyside. Location. Dufftown, Moray, Scotland.


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