Oban

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Back in May, our pal Chris came over from Colorado to visit.

It wasn’t the easiest task to work out where we could go in Scotland that was easy to get to without a car, as we had already been to most of those places the last time he visited.

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Oban ended up fitting the bill. I hadn’t been since I was young, it was just a short hop over to Iona/Staffa, and the trains ran directly from Glasgow Queen Street. Result.

We arrived just in time to see the famous steam train set off. Looked fancy.

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Oban’s a funny wee place. It isn’t exactly a major travel destination, but it does get enough for there to be a pile of tourist orientated restaurants and bars. I was pleasantly surprised to find a restaurant with gluten free pizza, and then had my dreams bitterly crushed when I tasted it. Probably the worst meal I’ve ever paid for… so bad infact, that I felt compelled to go and get a fish supper from the nearby chippy. Unbelievably, they also did gluten free batter…

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It didn’t really seem like Oban would get enough visitors to support the sort of businesses that were there, so it was heartening to see that some places retained a sort of bizarre, no nonsense approach that one would expect.

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There was even a smattering of guerilla knitting.

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Memory fails me as to why I took a picture of this, but I’m sure it was something to do with a hopeful look towards the upcoming independence referendum. I’m glad I didn’t know back then what I know now.

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One of the most famous sights in Oban is a structure called ‘McCaig’s Tower’ that overlooks the town.

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The similarity to the Colosseum is not accidental, having been paid for by a wealthy banker who admired Roman and Greek architecture. There’s a quote from the Wikipedia entry on the intentions for the tower that’s just so great, it has to be noted:

‘Inside the central tower he planned to commission statues of himself, his siblings and their parents. His death brought an end to construction with only the outer walls completed.’

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Sounds awfully like a rich guy had an insane plan to build a monument to himself that nobody really wanted or cared about, and who were relieved to abandon the whole thing once he was no longer around. Madness.

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McCaig’s tower probably says a lot about Oban actually. They’re both beautiful, but feel a bit bizarre; insecure about what their purpose is.

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The view from the top is nice at least.

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As I mentioned earlier, one of the main draws of Oban is its port, with the proximity to various islands.

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This is something we took advantage of.

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Grace and Chris are from Colorado, a land locked state. The water looked pretty amazing to me, and must have been even more so for them. I can’t imagine growing up in a place that was thousands of miles from the sea.

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These next couple of pictures are from the Isle of Mull. Living in solitude like this isn’t something I would be too keen on – not permanently at least – but the views are striking. The lull of the great Scottish wilderness is starting to make sense.

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The tower you can see here is the remains of Dunollie Castle. Somewhere we wandered along to visit.

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On the way there is a huge rock, which legend has it is where the giant Fingle used to tie up his massive dog.

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and there was a decent amount of wildlife about. If you look closely in this picture, you can just make out a young deer through the woods. Pretty cool.

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The castle itself was pretty disappointing. The whole thing was in a state of disrepair, the bushes had been allowed to grow so that the views from the top (which were unquestionably pretty good otherwise) were obscured, and there were makeshift mesh fences around the whole thing. I mean, could they not have picked some better way than using these?

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To top it all off, we had to pay to get in… which was something we’re not too used to having to do in Scotland – where most things are paid for by the taxpayer already. They told us that because of heavy rain the previous few days, it might not even be possible for us to go up to the castle. Eh, aye right. We ignored the sign saying the path was closed and slid up over the mud anyway. No chance we were paying to get in and then not seeing the bloody thing.

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So that was that. Would I go back to Oban? Yes. Not just because we didn’t end up visiting the local distillery. Would I go recommend anybody go to Dunollie castle? Probably not.

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Oban – May 2014
Lomo LC-A, expired 35mm film

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