History of 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 at www.dunollie.org 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, as shown below:

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.

Oban 200 Anniversay

The town was officially 200 years old in July 2011.

Old ObanIt's perhaps surprising given Oban's ancient roots, that the town is ONLY 200 years old. There is some debate surrounding the actual date that the town was official granted Royal Burgh status. Oban was raised to a burgh of barony on the 18th July 1811 by a royal charter in favour of the Duke of Argyll, but for a reason that has now been long forgotten (possibly a clerical/legal error with the charter itself) this was set aside by the Court of Session and a new charter was granted in August 1820 in favour jointly of the Duke and Mr Campbell of Combie. (For a potted history of the town visit http://www.scottish-places.info/towns/townhistory552.html it gives a fascinating insight into Old Oban.)

Images of Oban, Argyll, Scotland »

Old ObanArgyll and Bute council decided to go with the July 1811 date of the first charter which made the town 200 years old in the summer of 2011. The town celebrated its bicentenary in style with HRH Princess Royal attending the rededication ceremony - the highlight of a ten day festival of events. The Big Strip brought over 2000 locals and visitors together for a giant Strip the Willow along George Street - a successful attempt to break the existing world record!

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