It is not often that we get an exceptionally sunny and warm Spring weekend in Scotland, but when it happens I am the first to get long for adventure. Not too long ago it was such a weekend, so my boyfriend and I rented a car and drove north. We had our minds set on a little Scottish coastal town not too far from Glasgow but special enough to get away from it all for a night: Oban. Our main mission consisted of cracking out my Heimplanet tent for some campsite romance but we also booked a day trip with National Kayak School. You might remember them from my sea kayaking introduction course I told you about two years ago.

By complete coincidence our tour happened to be on the same weekend as the Oban Live festival, so we were sure to experience the town at its best, buzzing with music fans and people from all over Scotland to enjoy some live music. Here are a few things that you must not miss in order to spend a great weekend in Oban.

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

Campsite Romance

There are numerous romantic hotels and B&Bs in Oban, but I find there is something even more romantic about camping with your significant other – it feels wild and intimate at the same time. I’m a camping enthusiast and on a warm and dry weekend I’d choose a tent over a B&B in a heartbeat.

There are two campsites in Oban, but we pitched our tent at the one on Gallanachmore Farm because there is a small field right by the water. The facilities are a bit of a walk away, but in return you wake up to this view!

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

Exploring Oban

The campsite is about 2.5 miles outside of Oban so you can hop into town really quickly with the car. We decided to walk, which took about 45 minutes including numerous stops to marvel at the sea or incredibly cute lamps playing in the hills beside the road.

Oban might be a small town, but there is a lot to do. You could visit the Oban Distillery to learn more about Scottish whisky and for a dram (a drink), or walk along the promenade all the way to Dunollie Museum & Castle.

For us it was all about having a relaxing weekend – no guided tours or inside activities. We got a sweet treat from The Pokey Hat ice-cream shop and took a walk around the harbour. From there you get a great view of the Oban seafront ‘skyline’ and you can watch as the huge ferries come and go on their way to the Scottish Isles.

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

After stuffing our faces with yummy ice-cream we needed to walk off those calories and made our way up to McCaig’s Tower, which is the round structure you can see behind me on the image above. There are several ways to reach it but signposts in the town centre will lead you towards it either way. The tower was built at the very end of the 19th century between 1897 and 1902 by a local architect and philanthropist, who was a huge fan of the ancient Roman and Greek cultures. Hence, Oban has its own little Colosseum filled with and surrounded by flowers and trees.

You get amazing views from up there, especially at sunset. Of course sunset at this time of the year is not until 9.30/10pm and we wanted to be back by our tent long before that. Our views were still amazing and from above Oban looked a little like a doll-house – too pretty to be true.

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Sea Kayaking

After a short night in our tent we rose early for our breakfast with seaview. We took down the tent (which by the way takes around 10 minutes to pitch and 5 to take down) and headed back to Oban for our sea kayaking day trip. We had booked with Stuart from the National Kayak School (NKS) because two years ago I felt so safe and welcome during my introduction course I wanted to learn more. We met Stuart and two other participants in their kayak shop in central Oban. Together we had a look at the maps and Stuart explained what the current weather forecasts would mean at which location in the surrounding waters. Oban is somewhat the sea kayaking capital of Scotland. You can start magnificent day tours around the Isle of Kerrara right from Oban harbour, drive a bit out of town to reach places like the Isle of Seill or even bring your kayak on one of the ferries and explore one of the islands further away like the Isle of Mull. NKS offers day trips as well as multiple day kayaking trips and training courses, so whether you’re a beginner or looking to improve your skills, they will be able to accommodate you.

Stuart decided that Loch Creran would probably be the best for the day, because it is sheltered enough to protect us from the stronger winds that were predicted for the afternoon (luckily they never picked up). Loch Creran is a sea loch which means it is connected to the sea and affected by the tides. In terms of kayaking that means that you learn the same about how to read tidal currents as when you are out in the open sea, but you are way more sheltered. We drove for about 30 minutes to reach the water, got into our kayaks and paddled away.

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

Throughout the day Stuart gave us landmarks (a significant peak or a point on the coast) to paddle towards so we could paddle at our own pace. Only for bigger crossings with other boat traffic we’d have to stay together as a group. I am usually so scared of the big, dark ocean, but that feeling of being in a kayak surrounded by nothing but water and gorgeous islands in the distance, simply beats everything. Stuart always offered to explain more about efficient paddle strokes, how to use the boat’s skeg and how to read the currents. The idea is that one day we can go out on our own, so for him it is important to teach us something while we’re out having fun.

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

For our lunch break we found a quiet beach next to an abandoned croft. It was easy to land on the shore but because the tide was coming in, we carried our boats a little further up the beach – we didn’t want them floating away! While we sat down next to the croft, there was a huge seabird colony nesting on the other side. Luckily the seagulls and geese were too busy protecting their eggs as to notice our munchies. After lunch I stretched my legs and wandered around the edges of the colony. I found a nest of huge geese eggs, so pretty. Then a nest of seagull eggs, but the parents noticed me and quickly I found myself running from a bird attack. Seagulls are not to mess with. As soon as mummy noticed though that I was merely looking she turned around – I obviously posed no danger for her eggs.

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes   Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

A note about physical requirements

In total we paddled for about 6 hours (including breaks) but with the wind never really against us, it was easily doable at my current level of fitness. As long as you’re used to working out every now and then, you should be fine doing the same. Note also that if you paddle efficiently you work your legs and bum just as much as your arms, back and shoulders, so kayaking really is a great full body workout. No need to mention that of course I was still super sore the next day…

Gone Sea Kayaking: A Weekend in Oban | Travelettes

Oban is certainly one of my favourite weekend getaways in Scotland because you get a gorgeous and romantic town combined with amazing outdoor activities – both are right up my alley.

If you ever find yourself with a weekend at hand in Scotland, ditch the idea of spending all your time on the road to get to Skye or Loch Ness, and head to Oban instead. It only takes about 3 hours to get here from Glasgow – compare around 5.5h to Skye or 4.5h to Inverness – add a few hours to count in for scenic stops and slow small road traffic. With that you have the rest of those long summer days to spend out and about!

I hope my story convinces you! If not, take a look at my one minute travel guide below – how could you not fall for Oban now?!

More inspiration for Scotland:

The Travelettes Guide to Edinburgh

The Travelettes Guide to Glasgow

The Scottish Highlands: The best things to do & see

The Sea Kayaking Introduction Course in Oban

Kathi’s 8 Reasons why Scotland is the Perfect Place for Solo Travel

 

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

Disclaimer: I paddled on courtesy of National Kayak School. Thanks for having me ‘on board’ again!