We’ve spent the last couple of nights in Oban (Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay) which is a resort town on the Firth of Loin in western Scotland. Oban Bay is a near perfect horseshoe bay, protected by the island of Kerrera, beyond which is Mull. Apparently this was just an insignificant town until the railway opened and steamers began arriving in large numbers in Victorian times. Most of the early activity in this area was based around quarrying for slate.
It has been wet and very windy over the time that we have been here and the weather has created a real sense of bleakness for us. Temperatures have stayed around the 10 – 12 degree mark. We have seen a good bit the town as we have walked around to find restaurants (in the rain) and done some shopping.
There is a distillery in the main street that has operated since 1795. A large colosseum like structure, named McCaigs Tower, sits on the hill overlooking the town and dominates the skyline.
I visited a little museum that has been set up by the local war veterans group. It tells the story of the WWII North Atlantic Convoys that formed up in the bay, as well as the flying boat squadrons that were based here. Coincidentally, this was the location of the RAAF’s first involvement in the war. A Sunderland crew were training here when war was declared, so they continued on and were detached to a British Squadron. Their greatest notoriety in the town came from them nicking beer from the British Sergeants Mess in petrol tins.
We had thought of taking the ferry across to the Isle of Mull, but the weather was so bad we decided to go to a more local island instead. This was to one of the slate Islands; Seil
Seil has been linked to the Scottish mainland since 1792 when the Clachan Bridge was built by engineer Robert Mylne. Also known as the Bridge Over the Atlantic, this humped bridge is still used today, but busses no longer have disembark passengers to reduce weight as they did in the past.
The main settlement on Seil is former slate-mining village Ellenabeich, where parts of Ring of Bright Water were filmed. It is right at the far end of the island and is very picturesque. The village consists of two long, straight rows of 19th century slate worker’s cottages and the Oystercatcher Bar and Brewery. Needless to say, this was a nice place for lunch and in which to celebrate my birthday. Thanks, Ruth! There is also a quite garish tourist shop that looks out of character with the rest of the buildings.
In one of the cottages is a small, but fascinating, museum which is free to enter. It has some excellent displays on local history and the quarrying industry. The quarries themselves were over 300 feet deep and were flooded in a huge storm in the 1960’s.