The first half of today was business and the second half was basically ours to do with as we pleased.
Our first activity was an historical walking tour of Oban.
We got a lot of historic info about Oban and the architecture. Being an English major and professor, I was really interested to hear that Dr. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did a tour of Scotland and wrote about Oban, referring to the inn they stayed in as "tolerable." Not the highest praise, but at least Oban got mentioned?
Religion always has an interesting history, and a lot of the churches were established so different groups could assemble and worship. This wasn't part of the tour, but apparently the church pictured below had recently been a night club!
Chalmers is a beautiful building and the upstairs was used as a tenant house. You can get a custom-made kilt there now!
After our walking tour, the students got whiney and wanted snacks, so we walked them to a coffee shop and stood outside in the sun until it was time to attend a Rotary Club meeting. The Rotary Club in both cities are the big sponsors of the exchange, so we were invited to talk about our experiences so far in Oban and to meet the members.
As I was standing in line for food I tried to pass on the info that the students needed to eat their fries (I mean, chips!) with their forks rather than fingers so we looked a little civilized. My words of wisdom came back to bite me. While we were eating I ended up slipping with my knife and sent a fry flying towards one of the students who looked mortified and then couldn't stop laughing. Classy and civilized. Sticky toffee pudding made it all better, though!
After lunch we had free time, so fiancé and I decided to do a tour at The Oban Distillery. I think it's fascinating to learn about how things are made and our guide was really great at explaining the process. At the end we got a cute souvenir glass and got to taste an extremely strong 8-year whisky that burned before it even touched my mouth!
After the tour we, of course, had to do a tasting of their four whiskys – Oban 14 Year Old, Oban Distillers Edition, Oban Little Bay, and Oban Distillery Only Bottling.
We were fans of all four, but the higher the price, the better the whisky!
The next thing we needed to check off our list was to finally hike our way up to McCaig's Tower. This was not a smart idea with bellies full of whisky.
McCaig's Tower has a really interesting story, and if you visit Oban there's no way you can miss it because it towers over the town. John Stuart McCaig built the tower in 1897 as a way to provide work for the stonemasons in the town, and as a memorial to his family. The tower was never finished and (according to people we talked to) McCaig's intention was to have statues of his family put in the windows of the tower.
The walk up was super steep, but it wasn't a long walk (we were still wearing our dress clothes from the lunch, although I totally changed my top when we got to the tower parking lot). And the view is BREATHTAKING! We were lucky to have a beautiful day to view Oban, Kerrera, and Mull.
It's funny to visit people in other places and hear them talk about how boring their town is, but look at this place! I'm sure it's easy to take the beauty for granted, but I was ready to pack my things and move here!
I grew up in the mountains, which is why I think I loved Oban, and Scotland in general, so much. It's the perfect combination of mountains and coast.
I know this is an overload of pictures, but I can't help it. I'm having major Scotland withdrawal!
I tried to convince the fiancé to just have our wedding in this open area. How gorgeous would a wedding be here?
Later that night our group met at The Skippinish Ceilidh House for a traditional Scottish music concert put on by students. I was blown away by the talent and many of them were attending universities and majoring in traditional music. They were incredible!
On our walk home we got to witness a fantastic sunset (it was about 10pm – it's weird to see a sunset that late).
Cameras can never seem to capture the actual beauty of a sunset. I am happy, though, that these pictures show the colors reflecting off the water. It was an amazing moment!
I hope you're not tired of hearing about and seeing Scotland because there's lots more to come!