Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Spent last weekend in Oban aka the small bay (Gaelic), aka the gateway to the isles (kitschy tourist brochure speak). First time i've been there in many a year. Oban really is a gateway to many of Scotland's finest isles and ferries nash in and out the busy wee bay all day long. The Cal Mac ferry above batters to and from and Mull 7 times a day. Boats also regularly ply (love that word) from Oban to Collonsay, Lismore, Coll, Tiree, Barra and South Uist. One day soon i'm gonna get that camper van back on the road to Mull and the isles.

In the meantime, local prawnboat skipper, very tall man and all round guid guy, Doll, is arranging a wee trip for 6 of us on his boat from Oban to St Kilda via Uist, Harris, Lewis and erm...other places. That's gonna have to happen next summer now as diaries are kinda full but it'll be worth the wait. St Kilda - ya beauty, bring it on.

Anyway, Seony, Johnny D and masel werenae in Oban to island hop but to fix a big garden and check the local boozers. The garden was very big, it was full o buttercups, it was a rocky, claybound, messy pile and now it looks magnificent. Really. Well worth the sensation of having been used as the ball in a game o shinty. Well worth walkin all week since like i've just shat ma pants. I can only hope its owner agrees cos it feckin hurt. Good fun though.

In between the gairdnin we were, as mentioned, checkin out the boozers. Rather disgracefuly i cannae mind the name of our first (very loud) port of call but it was swiftly followed by the Waterfront (much better than a Simple Minds song), Cuan Mor (serves great food, including tiptop nutroast wi mashed tatties an cheese), the Aulay (proper radgeworks clientele, very cheery staff) and finally the Lorne (weltoest boozer in the west, barman wi froggy tatts and the hardest looking friendly bouncer ever seen).

Oban's kinda pretty to look at (from a distance) and packed to the gunnels wi tourists but it's rough as biscuits under the surface. The peeps we met were not genteel - they swore like fuck, grabbed each other's baws , nipped each other's erses, did that wet finger in the lug thing, smoked like kippers. They stared a bit at first and took the pish when i asked "Do you ken where the Lorne Bar is?" (ans: "Yer pal Ken's round that corner and so's the Lorne.") But i liked them. They mainly said hullo and cheerio and apologised ("fuckin sorry about that, pal") when falling across our table.

Oban even manages to smell o chips and big old fishing boats in an inoffensive way. Which is some trick to pull off. I think Muhammad Ali said it best when he said, "I shall return". And i shall.


  1. You forgot to mention the midges. My arms and neck look like a join the dots puzzle waiting to be completed and a havnae stopped itchin and scratchin since we got back. But it was worth and, even if i do say so myself, i thought we done a right barry job on that garden and added some value to the we hoose it belonged to.

  2. I need to go and give Oban another chance. I know it is beautiful but when I went there it was after a week of solitude in the Highlands and Oban was therefore ruined by having people in it...bit unfair eh?

    I loved your bit about the apology for falling across your table - very funny!

  3. Goddamit, now I want to go to St Kilda! Much to the astonishment of my American friends I've never been to Scotland - living on the south coast it's normally cheaper and easier to fly out to continental europe that wend my way to scotland.

  4. Totally random - but my word verification was 'ingles' which seemed oddly appropriate.

  5. Right enough, Johnny, what were those flyin wee nippy sweeties like? Glad i lathered on the Skin So Soft and munched an anti histamine. But aye, well worth the hassle of daytime midgies when we stood back and beheld our efforts. Percy Thrower would be proud of us.

  6. JJ, I love the loneliness of the Highlands too but Oban's okay as large Highland settlements go. It's way prettier than Fort William, Inverness, Dingwall, even Ullapool (oh oh, the wrath of the heelans will rain down on me for that). I'd give it another go - it's got great pubs, restaurants and a few groovy wee independent shops.

  7. J, i know exactly what you mean. Since the advent of cheap air travel (that's a lie, since cheap Inter Rail tickets in the late 70's) i've been swifter to nip to Europe than i have to investigate this magic group of islands i live among. Only been to Ireland 4 times and never been to Wales, which is disgraceful.

    It's probably easier for Scots to visit England than vice versa cos we tend to have friends and family working/living there. St Kilda though - if you ever get a chance, take it. It's almost mythical in my mind and i'm super excited about the prospect of camping there for a few nights next summer. Oh aye.

    Ingles by the way. That's brilliant.

  8. It's amazing that people often don't explore their own places.

    I can practically smell Vancouver from here but haven't set foot in it in over 10 years (except inside the airport on connecting flights off the rock I live on) and I've yet to hike on trails here that attract people from around the globe.

    'Some day'... 'it's just right there if I wanna go'... etc. Good on you for busting through that.

    And nothing like a good case of delayed onset muscle soreness to make you start eyeing up all those handrails in the disability loos as possible additions to your own. ;-)

  9. Yer spot on there, Ms TB. Edinburgh is firmly on the tourist trail but i very seldom visit the (actually very insteressting) touristy bits of it. I do try and get out camping at weekends to see a bit of this wee country but even that gets blown out by weather, gigs, parties, general slackness.

    Vancouver though? How can you avoid that amazing city? I was there for about 3 days when i was 14 and loved it. One day, when the time is right if i've nothing else on and i can be bothered i really will return.

    My handrails are definitely in the post.

  10. Three days at age 14! That's probably the best time to visit. ;-)

  11. Yes, 'plying' is definitely classy. It's years since I've been to Oban. I remember the rain, and the whirlpool. To my alarm, my daughter is taking part in the Mod this year, but I've subcontracted the going to Oban with her to my husband, who I don't think quite realises what he's in for.