One of the amazing things about Scotland is the landscapes and small towns all over the country. None are extremely far away however, as I am still one year shy of the minimum age to rent a car, getting to them becomes slightly more difficult. The solution to this presented itself in the form of Student Tours Scotland, a tour group that runs day trips out of Glasgow to some of the places I wanted to see. The one I went on was the West coast Oban and Inveraray tour. Meeting earlier in the morning than I’m usually awake, we left Glasgow. Even the scenery along the highway is gorgeous here. Finally we arrived in Inveraray.
It was a Sunday morning so most of the town was inside the Parish church, which is one of the last churches that still does service in both English and Gaelic. Established in 1745 and often used as a last stop before going up into the highlands, Inveraray is a small town in Argyll and Bute. We wandered under the pier where there was an old boat at dock and then along the coast, passing by the local jail, coffee shop, and mill. Everything in this town is painted the same colour of white, giving it a beautiful quaint unity. The Inveraray Inn has housed many famous people including James Boswell and Robert Burns.
The history of Inveraray is also closely connected with that of the Duchy of Argyll. Located just up the road from the town is the castle of Inveraray. I walked alongside the road until we got to a bridge where we had an unobstructed view of the castle. Unfortunately as it was a Sunday in January we couldn’t get any closer due to the grounds being closed. This castle is the second Inveraray castle, the first was demolished in 1744 when the Duke of Argyll III decided to build a new one from scratch.
After our quick stop in Inveraray we were back on the road to Oban. About halfway there we pulled over for a quick photo stop of Kilchurn castle, one of the castle ruins surround Loch Awe. Kilchurn castle is a castle soaked in history and myth. Our tour guide elaborated on many of the myths surrounding Scotland in general and the areas we saw on our trip. My personal favourite was the one involving the creation of Loch Awe and the monster that dwells in its depths. The first part of Kilchurn castle was built around 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell but it has had countless additions throughout the years, including a three storey L shaped block in the 1690’s as the castle was converted into a barrack.
Hoping back on the bus to our final destination of the day – Oban. Oban is a small town on the coast of Scotland. It is located in the Argyll region. The first stop after arrival was getting food. Upon recommendation from our guide we decided to try one of the many fish and chip places. And we were not disappointed. The town is full of fish and chip options from mom and pop grab and go to high end sit down. Opting for a middle ground, we chose Cuan Mor. A restaurant along the main street.
After refuelling the first thing to do was climb up to one of Oban’s main attractions. McCaig Tower. Based on the Coliseum in Rome, John Stuart McCaig’s monument sits atop Battery hill and provides a perfect overlook for the town of Oban. An uphill trek from the town itself, we walked 15 minutes before finding the base of the monument. There is a viewing platform behind one of the archways that faces the Sound of Kerrera.
The next place to check out in Oban was Dunollie Castle. Dunollie Castle sits atop the entrance to Oban Bay and was the most important fortress for the MacDougall for many years. Due to the fact it was built in an almost impregnable location getting up to it is quite a challenge. Unfortunately we were only able to get to the base of the hill as the path that goes all the way up is only open until October. One of the other interesting features near the castle is the Dog Stone. According to Celtic mythology it is the stone where Finn the Fingal used to tie his giant dog Bran.
After the castle we decided to just wander around Oban and explore the town. The town of Oban is one of the most populated towns in Scotland despite it’s small size. The location has been occupied by humans since at least mesolithic times. With a rich history including being vitally important during numerous wars Oban is an absolutely delightful town to spend the day, evening, or weekend.
After walking around Oban for a couple hours the rain began to come down. We grabbed a quick tea in the local Costa coffee, as it was the only place open at 4:30pm on a Sunday, and watched the rain fall. As it gets dark fairly early here the patio lights started to go on and the whole town began to light up – adding to its quaint beauty.
We loaded back onto the bus and drove back to the school. It was pitch black so we couldn’t see any of the scenery. But we did get to play bus bingo and take some naps. All in all it was a great day beginning to explore Scotland.