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McCaig’s Tower, Dunollie Castle and that big stone you can’t miss on the way to Ganavan are just some of the things I’ve grown up seeing on a regular basis.
Despite living in and around Oban all my life, I’ve never actually bothered to learn about the history of these structures.
To me, they were just a backdrop to my childhood; somewhere tourists visited.
That was until last Thursday when I was a guest on one of the Oban walking tours.
I made my way to the North Pier at around 1.45pm – 15 minutes early, something my colleagues would consider a miracle – and met Farooq, my guide.
We got chatting and he explained that he predominantly lives in Glasgow, but visits his daughter in Oban and loves it. In fact, he loves it so much that he decided to become a guide.
The 90-minute tour got under way at 2pm and we started at what Farooq referred to as Oban’s crown – McCaig’s Tower.
He went into extreme detail about the life of John Stuart McCaig, who built the monument as a memorial for his family and to also keep the local stone masons in work over the winter months.
From there, we walked along the sea front to The Oban Times building, where the newspaper was once produced from. Here I learned about the history of the paper and how the building came to be.
We then turned to look over the bay and learned about the island of Kerrera, somewhere, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never set foot on.
On the way to the war memorial, Farooq shared information on some of the hotels and guest houses that were built along the front.
He said the Alexandra Hotel was originally built as it was thought to be an ideal place to carry out ozone therapy – an alternative treatment that sought to increase the amount of oxygen in the body by using the ozone.
From there, I learned about the important role Oban played in both world wars – in the First World War alone, the town suffered 170 deaths.
We then crossed the road and headed towards Dunollie Castle, but not before we stopped at the ‘dogstone’.
It was only recently that I learned that this giant piece of rock, situated on the right-hand side of the road, just past the war memorial, had a name.
I learned that there were two explanations for this 400 million-year-old boulder.
Folklore has it that this is the place where Fingal used to tie his dog. But the scientific version states that it was a bridge arch that formed when the location was ‘an extremely volcanic area’. But the arch snapped a long time ago, leaving behind the ‘dogstone’.
From there, we followed the path to Dunollie Castle, before heading back to St John’s Cathedral, via the Corran Halls.
The tour ended at Stafford Street, looking on to Oban Distillery, which was built in 1794 by John and Hugh Stevenson. Oban as we know it was subsequently built around the distillery.
Farooq then shared his knowledge with me on the history of transport and fishing in Oban, before heading off, with his shepherd’s crook in hand.
To book a tour, call 01631 569915.