Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles”. There are many ferries that depart from it’s main port and go to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. It’s a beautiful town, with lots to do and it’s surrounded by miles of coastline and a beautiful countryside.
But, one of our primary philosophies as slow travelers is to engage with the local community which is why it didn’t work for us in Oban. We just never felt that connection.
Here’s a few reasons why….
1. It’s A Tourist Town
Since, it is essentially the gateway to the Isles, the ferry terminal brings in lots of tourists. High tourism areas like Oban usually don’t have that community feel as other more residential towns. You can often feel like you’re being treated as a tourist rather than a local resident which makes it harder to integrate into the local culture. This was the case for us.
2. The Younger Demographic
Oban has a population of roughly 8,000, in the summer they can get up to 25,000 people. I think about a third of those are kids in the 19-35 age range. So there are discos and bars with late night shenanigans, and loud people walking the streets at ‘very late O’clock’.
Which by the way, we have nothing against kids, adults, babies or teens—in fact, we have 3 of our own. But slow traveling is about being relaxed and peaceful. That zen feeling. Waking up to screaming kids at 2 am does not lend itself to those feelings.
3. Locals That Keep To Themselves
The best place to meet people in Scotland, is the local pub. Pubs in Oban have a completely different vibe than we are used to for Scotland, at least the 4 that we visited. First, it’s mostly locals—which is great because we like to meet locals. But most places we went to the locals kept to themselves and it was blatantly obvious they didn’t want to socialize.
Usually when we walk into a pub, someone hears our accent and then promptly tells us about their holiday to America, or their cousin that has been to America…and then we usually end up in a lovely conversation.
The second problem is the drinking age. I am not kidding, I think the drinking age in Oban is 16. Okay, I am exaggerating but it’s young. So you will see lots of teenagers and younger adults in the pubs, drinking and doing kid things like horsing around, screaming, running after each other……..you know the typical high school antics.
4. Our airBnB
The bottom line on airBnb’s or any place you stay is that it makes or breaks your vacay. We were in an airBnb that was on the main road, which we knew when we booked it. But little did we know it was smack dab on top of car and foot traffic! I don’t think we had one decent’s night sleep in 7 days.
OH and don’t get me started on Mr. Neon Green Salon owner across the street. Yes, I am throwing you under the bus man! I realize you have a rock and roll theme in your salon and guitars hanging on your wall, but jeepers creepers dude….do have you have to hook one up to an amp at 9 in the morning?
And geezus…learn some new songs. Try “Fly Me To The Moon” so we can all wake up in a better mood.
Again, to be perfectly clear, Oban is a beautiful port town in the west of Scotland. And believe it or not, we had a nice time there.
I just think it would make a better day trip—say on your way to the ferry, or even to spend a few days there. But, in my humble opinion, I don’t think it’s suited for slow travel.
As always, Happy Trails 👣!