Classification and Statistics

Settlement Type: small town
Population (2011): 8574    
(2001): 8120
(1991): 8203
(1981): 8113
(1971): 6897
(1961): 6869
(1951): 6226
(1901): 4848
(Parliamentary Burgh)
(1881): 3991
(1871): 2413
(1861): 1940
(1851): 1742
(1841): 1398
(1821): 1359
(1791): 591

Tourist Rating: Three Stars
Text of Entry Updated: 02-MAR-2021

Latitude: 56.412°N Longitude: 5.4721°W
National Grid Reference: NM 859 298
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Located on Oban Bay, the town has grown along the coast, hemmed in by hills rising steeply to the rear. The Black Lynn flows through the town to spill into the bay. The Corran Esplanade represents a raised beach which stretches around the coast past Dunollie to Ganavan, and includes several relict sea-stacks, one of which is known as Fingal's Dogstone. Fine Late Victorian villas spread along the Esplanade beyond St. Columba's Cathedral, most of which are now hotels.

Oban Airport is located at North Connel, 5 miles (8 km) to the northeast.

Thomas Pennant gives a brief description of the town in his A Tour in Scotland in 1769. James Boswell (1740-95) and Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84) visited on the return from their Hebridean Tour of 1773, with Johnson describing Oban as having a "tolerable inn." The author Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) visited in 1814 and Queen Victoria visited in 1847, reporting in her journal that the town was "one of the finest spots we have seen."

RAF Oban was a base for flying boats patrolling the North Atlantic for German U-Boats during the Second World War. Its headquarters was at Dungallan House in the south of the town, flying operations were from Ardantrive Bay on Kerrera, on the opposite side of Oban Bay, and there was a maintenance facility at Ganavan.

The government established a fishing station in Oban in 1786 and a small shipbuilding yard opened here in 1796. Although never a major fishing port, Oban Harbour still has a small inshore fleet and a modest fish market. Britain's first steamboat The Comet entered service between Glasgow, Oban and Fort William in 1819, but was unfortunately wrecked near Oban the following year. David Hutcheson (1799 - 1880) and David MacBrayne (1818 - 1907) began bringing tourist steamers here in 1851. Today, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries sail to the islands of Barra, Coll, Colonsay, Islay, Lismore, Mull, South Uist and Tiree, as well as Kennacraig on Kintyre. A small ferry connects Gallanach (1¼ miles / 2 km to the south of the town) with Kerrera. Since 1794, whisky has been produced at Oban Distillery, which is still located prominently in the town centre. Oban has had a weekly livestock auction since the 19th C. which continues today at the Oban Livestock Centre.
References and Further Reading
Faichney, Alexander Mailer (1897) MacKay's Complete Tourists' Guide to Oban and Vicinity. New and Enlarged Edition. D. Mackay, Bookseller, Queen's Park Place, George Street, Oban
Tranter, Nigel (1977) The Queen's Scotland: Argyll and Bute. Hodder and Stoughton, London
Walker, Frank Arneil (2000) The Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute. Penguin, London

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