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History of Oban

Images of Old Oban, Argyll, Scotland

All images in this section of the website are reproduced with kind permission of the author of Old Oban, Michael Hopkin. The book is available locally in Oban or online from Amazon.co.uk for £8.09 by clicking here »

Ancient Oban

Oban Bay has provided food and shelter to mankind since Mesolithic times. Evidence of early cave dwellers has been found in several locations in the centre of Oban, coincidentally at Oban Distillery – around which modern day Oban grew. Before the development of the distillery, founded in 1794, Oban was a shadow of the town it is today, with little in the way of housing and only a small quarry and shipbuilding industry. Once the distillery was in production, Oban began shipping the alcohol; along with wool, slate and kelp, to larger ports such as Liverpool and Glasgow and the town began its rapid expansion.

Evidence of its ancient origins is still apparent today and Oban’s oldest building – Dunollie Castle – with its bronze age foundations is worth the steep climb from the roadside. In many ways, the views from Dunollie are unchanged from the time when the Clan Macdougall chiefs ruled Scotland from their strongholds in Argyll. At the height of their power they had eight strategically positioned castles (mostly around the coastline) which allowed them to rule Dalriada (ancient Scotland) throughout the 12th century. In nearby Dunollie House you can view the MacDougall collection (by appointment) as the Clan continues its fund raising to put the collection on permanent show to the public. Their website gives the full history of this influential clan. 

If ancient history excites you then you can’t better the collection of bronze age relics at nearby Kilmartin House Museum. Kilmartin boasts 350 ancient monuments within a 6 mile radius of the village centre; 150 of which are prehistoric. Named one of Scotland’s "Richest Landscapes," the glen contains one of the most significant monuments in the whole of Scotland, Dunadd on the River Add, a fort believed to have been constructed and occupied by people from as early as AD 500. Dunadd, (meaning "fort on the river," after its original occupation in the Iron Age), is reputed to be where the ancient kings of Scotland were ‘crowned’. Believed to be the mark of these followers, a number of footprints are seen carved into the rock.

The site is considered one of Scotland’s most impressive Ancient Monuments, and under the care of the Historic Scotland, is open free of charge to the public all year round. A definite must see for history enthusiasts! 
Tel: 01546 510 330 

The history and heritage of Argyll has long provided artistic inspiration. The legends of Ossian (a 3rd century Gaelic poet who was reputed to have lived in the area) were ‘discovered’ and published in the 18th century by James Macpherson, however many of his contemporaries considered the poems ‘fake’ and some scholars claim that Johnstone and Boswell’s Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland 1775 was in fact a mission to prove that Ossian did not exist and that Macpherson had made the legends up! Johnstone and Boswell visited Oban several years before the distillery was founded (and 20 years after the Highland Clans had been disarmed and their culture subjugated) but even then they recorded several ‘passable hostelries’ and remarked on the beautiful scenery and the hospitality of their Highland hosts.