|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Mull, Coll, Tiree, Lismore, Colonsay, Barra, South Uist|
Oban has been seen as the 'Gateway' to the Isles ever since David MacBrayne first sailed a steamer out of its harbour, and probably for many centuries before that. At one time Oban was connected to almost every Hebridean Island and Glasgow through a vast network of complex steamer routes. Today, the routes have been rationalised with new ferry ports offering far shorter crossings.
As the box to the right suggests, Oban still provides the mainland terminus for the ferries to a wide range of islands. Below are the main routes:
- Oban to Craignure, Mull
- Oban to Coll and Tiree
- Oban to Castlebay, Barra
- Oban to Lochboisdale, South Uist
- Oban to Colonsay
- Oban to Lismore
From the early days until the car arrived in the West Highlands there was a much greater network of services operating on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule from Oban. Whilst the full list is too long for here, some of the more important routes are listed below. All were superseded in the 1960s and 70s by better roads and roll on roll off ferries.
- Oban - Salen (Mull) - Lochaline - Tobermory
- Oban - Ballachulish (or Kentallen) - Fort William - Corpach for Caledonian Canal service to Inverness
- Oban - Crinan for transit through canal to Ardrishaig and on to Glasgow
The North Pier
Almost every island and mainland pier on the west coast of Scotland has been connected to Oban at some point in the last 200 years. The north pier (now home to the EE-USK restaraunts, built in 2003) was built before 1846 by sinking the hulls of derelict ships. for the next 130 years it was the primary port of call for every passenger vessel on the west coast, and a great number of other boats too. In 1964 the first hoist-loading car ferry Columba started to sail from this pier. Today the north pier is still in use by a number of Vessels, including the Paddle Steamer Waverley, and the smaller cruise ships that sail through the Hebrides.
The Railway Pier
The Railway Pier, was constructed when the railway arrived in Oban. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was primarily used by fishing vessels, but as Oban became busier with steamers and ferries MacBraynes, later Calmac, began using it until in 1976 it had a linkspan constructed at the south end to allow ro-ro car ferries to operate to Craignure. From then on the Railway Pier became the primary berth for all Calmac vessels, due to the linkspan. At the beginning of the new millenium, a substantial new terminal building was constructed here and followed in 2006 by a second linkspan to allow two ferries to berth and load simultaneously. There is also a small slipway, primarily used by the Lismore Ferry since 1974, but suitable for larger vessels too.
The South and Lighthouse Piers
There are two further piers on the south side of Oban Bay. The South Pier was constructed by the Duke of Argyll in c1819 and almost certainly started Oban's pre-eminence in the life of the Hebrides. However, it has rarely been used by steamers since the North Pier was built, and never by car ferries, except as a berth for spare vessels.
The Lighthouse Pier is, as its name suggests, primarily used by the Northern Lighthouse Board, and is their main depot for the west of Scotland. It too is occasionally used to berth spare Calmac Vessels. Since the construction of the second linkspan, it is also used by smaller cruise ships.
A mile or so south of Oban a passenger only service crosses from Gallanach, to the small island of Kerrera, which guards the mouth of Oban Bay and provides the shelter that the port needs. This route is served by the privately operated Gylen Lass, although Calmac occasionally offer a vessel for special loads, but this is a private sailing.
A few miles north of Oban, at what is now the Scottish Marine Institute, another pier was served by steamers in the past. Originally a pontoon, a pier was constructed in the early 20th century, but has since been replaced with a pontoon once more and is now essentially a private berth for the Institute.