Oban Harbour, Scotland - August 2008
Oban (An t-Òban in Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay) is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland. It has a total resident population of 8,120. Despite its small size, it is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William and during the tourist season the town can be crowded by up to 25,000 people. Oban occupies a beautiful setting in the Firth of Lorn. Oban Bay is a near perfect horseshoe bay, protected by the island of Kerrera, and beyond Kerrera is Mull. To the north is the long low island of Lismore, and the mountains of Morvern and Ardgour.
Oban "The Gateway to the Isles" has a large Gaelic speaking popluation. All road and street signs are translated into the Scottish language.
Attractions in Oban include the Waterfront Centre, the Cathedral of St Columba, the Oban Distillery, Dunollie Castle, Dunstaffnage Castle and McCaig's Tower, which dominates the town's skyline. Oban is an excellent base from which to explore the sights of Kilmartin Glen.
The Oban Tourist Information Centre, operated under VisitScotland, is located in the centre of the town in Argyll Square. It is housed in an old Church of Scotland building. In 2004, the Oban Tourist Information Centre was the busiest tourist office in Scotland, miles ahead of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
During World War II, Oban was a busy port used by merchant and Royal Navy ships. The RN had a signal station near Ganavan which is now a private house. Also near Ganavan was a anti-submarine indicator loop station which detected any surface or submarine vessels between Oban, Mull and Lismore. There was a controlled minefield in the Sound of Kerrera which was controlled from a building near the caravan site at Gallanach. There is one surviving air raid shelter in the centre of Oban.
There was also a Royal Air Force flying boat base at Ganavan and on Kerrera. The airfield at North Connel was originally built by the Royal Air Force during World War II. A Sector Operations Room was built near the airfield and after the war this was extended to become the Royal Observer Corps Group HQ.
Oban was also important during the Cold War because the first Transatlantic Telephone Cable (TAT-1) came ashore at Gallanach Bay and this carried the "Hot Line" between the US and USSR Presidents. There was protected accommodation for the cable equipment at Gallanach Bay.
In 2003, Oban hosted the 100th Royal National Mod (a Gaelic festival), in anticipation of which many signs were replaced with bilingual versions. Not only was Oban the venue for the 100th Mod but it also hosted the centenary Mod in 1992 (the year it became Royal). The reason for the different dates for the 100th and the centenary being stoppages for the wars. Oban is considered the home of The Royal National Mod as the Mod was first held in Oban in 1892 with 10 competitors on a Saturday Afternoon. The 2009 Mod is to again be held in Oban.
The town boasts a two-screen cinema. Oban has also been used as a backdrop to several films including Ring of Bright Water and Morvern Callar. See .