Great Scottish DrivesHighlands Scotland

Great Scottish Drives: Glasgow to Oban

The drive from Glasgow to Oban is one of the best in Scotland

Road trips are often the name of the game when it comes to the Highlands of Scotland. Very difficult to adequately experience without a car, there’s an obvious temptation to head north and just see where the road takes you. There have been much worse ideas. The Cairngorms, the North Coast 500, Lochaber et al make for a mouthwatering collection of options. Trying to identify the best routes is no easy task but Glasgow to Oban is one of the most straightforward and accessible, even for first time visitors to Scotland. Belt up and prepare for one of the great Highland road trips!

Loch Lomond

What makes this route so special? Well the fact that it incorporates fabulous Loch Lomond would be a good start. One of the most visually appealing spots in the country, this drive takes you along the well-travelled western shore of the Loch. The fact that this scenic masterpiece is within 30 minutes of our biggest city seems almost unfair as you rapidly leave your urban frustrations behind. At times running directly alongside the deep blue bonnie banks, Britain’s largest lake is yours to enjoy up close. A mistimed twist of the wheel as you frantically try to find your camera at the bottom of that bag on the passenger seat and into the water you shall go I assure you. The drive is winding but spectacular as you take in the many peaks on the Loch including Ben Lomond itself.

ben lomond snow luss top 5 walks in scotland beginner

loch lomond glasgow to oban

Argyll

Leaving the Loch behind your Glasgow to Oban drive north continues. You can choose whether to head directly west into Argyll and follow the coast via Inveraray and Loch Fyne or head further north first before turning west. Both are magnificent options and, for a return trip, I suggest going out one way and back the other. Assuming the latter for the outbound journey, this is the most direct route. You’ll turn right at pretty Tarbet and keep the loch on your right hand side as you continue north. A busy route in summer, it is also spectacular off-season when the roads are quiet. In autumn expect a rainbow of colour in the glens you pass through. Reds, greens, yellows and browns are there beneath the mist. Winter has its own unique appeal too when the snow-topped peaks come to life.

This is Scotland. This is what I think of when I talk about the Highlands and the great Scottish outdoors. To the extent that taking this route makes up my view of the Best of Scotland in a Day, which is worth a read if you’re in this area.

kilchurn castle argyll road trip

Next up is Loch Awe. You might think having just driven the length of Loch Lomond another Loch might leave you water-saturated but it really looks and feels completely different. Long and thin, the northern shore is flanked by some magnificent peaks including Ben Cruachan. Stop by the staggeringly intricate St Conan’s Kirk for a quick look at one of Scotland’s most beautifully structured buildings and for immaculate views over the water. En-route Kilchurn Castle is also one of the most stunningly located ruins in Scotland – you’ll find this on Loch Awe’s northern shore. For many the stereotypically Scottish castle, it has everything. Inky-black waters, stunning mountain backdrop and cragged ruins that would have poets, writers and photographers in a state of euphoria. Miss this at your peril.

 

Oban

The next stop is Oban itself, The Gateway to the Isles. Ever-popular with travellers heading to the likes of Mull and Iona or even to the Outer Hebrides, Oban is a constantly bustling place. The only settlement of any significant size in the area, it’s an almost alarming return to civilisation as the buzz of holiday-goers shakes you out of your Highland slumber. Options galore await you at the ferry terminal as the draw of the western islands of Scotland takes grip. If you’re looking for more inspiration of this kind – take a look at my thoughts on top things to do on the Isle of Barra.

glasgow to oban fishing

drone dunollie castle oban

By the time you arrive in Oban chances are you will be hungry. As you would expect there are many choices for fresh fish but I recommend Ee-Usk for fairly high-end seafood and, for something more casual, Oban Fish and Chip Shop. As good fortune would have it Oban Distillery is on the same street, how thoughtful! An excellent choice as an introduction to whisky, Oban malts have the saltiness and perfumed appeal of the west coast – without the heavily peated notes synonomous with the likes of Islay in particular.

With a whisky-induced spring in your step, you can explore Oban itself on foot. Dunollie Castle and Gardens are a short walk from the town centre; McCaig’s Tower (the odd-looking Roman-esque structure hovering over the town) is a steep but rewarding walk and a nosey at the pier as the fishermen come and go is likely to bring out the photographer in you. All told, Oban deserves at least a couple of hours of your time.

 

Where to next?

The journey length for this direct route from Glasgow to Oban is a little over 2 hours. But you would be mad not to stop at several of the points described above for photos. Don’t rush. At no point in the journey is the drive hugely challenging and the roads are generally in pretty good condition.

If you were making a return journey back to Glasgow, you could simply retrace the above Glasgow to Oban route or drive directly south from Oban to Lochgilphead and then Inveraray. Add at least an hour to your journey time for this approach. It takes you on a scenic drive passing the likes of Kilmartin Glen (famous for its standing stones) and further on to run parallel to Loch Fyne. This route will eventually return you to Loch Lomond and the home straight from Tarbet. You can read about my Glasgow to Inveraray drive for more details of this stretch of the Southern Highlands. Expect plenty more castles, lochs and seafood.

Awful, just awful.

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13 Comments

  1. We did this drive, although in a bit different way. We drove up from Glasgow and loved Loch Lomond. We stayed the night at a B&B in Dalmally and then drove east and north to Bridge of Orchy and through Glen Coe before driving back south to Oban and returned to Glasgow on this drive. It was a day of stunning scenery.

  2. Thanks Lance. Yes there are a few routes to take in the area, none of which will disappoint. Squeezing Glencoe in is a great shout if you have the time!

  3. I am looking for some advice. We are doing a fairly extensive trip of Scotland and the islands in May and will be doing the Durness to Ullapool route. On our last day we will be driving from the Ardnamurchan peninsula to Glascow to catch our plane home. We are wondering which route would be the most picturesque. Do we take the coastal route alongside Loch Linnhe or across through Glencoe? Either way we will be going past Loch lomond.

  4. Hi Neil, this is very helpful to me as a plan a 6 day drive from Glasgow to Edinburgh. We are going via A82/A85. Our itinerary is fairly packed but I would love your opinion on how feasible it is.

    – Arrive in Glasgow on 9/1 staying through 9/3
    – Leave in the early morning to drive to Inverness on 9/3. On the way to Inverness we are looking to stop at Oban, drive through Glencoe, stop at Fort William, Loch Ness then on to Inverness.
    – Stay overnight in Inverness (any recommendations for pub/restaurant for dinner or/and a B&B?)
    – 9/4 early start on our way to Dundee stopping at Aberdeen (any suggestions for a day hike on the way to see some sights? and or B&B in Dundee)
    – 9/5 from Dundee to Edinburgh (any suggestions on day hikes or must see stops on the way?)

    Would love to get your opinion. Thank you.

    1. Hi Antonette,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll drop you an email with some thoughts on your itinerary as there’s quite a lot in there ;-). Neil

  5. Hi I would love some help!
    We are driving from Manchester Uk to Oban and staying on Mull for a week then returning with two days to drive and stay somewhere.. we love the coast and dramatic views! We also have two dogs! So from Oban we want the most dramatic drive back done to England.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Sam, I’d head inland past Loch Awe, then south via Inveraray before working east to Loch Lomond. Loads of places to stop en route. If you want to stay coastal cross over from the Erskine Bridge (before Glasgow) onto the M8 headed towards Greenock and keep on the coastal road all the way south through Ayrshire and into D&G. Eventually you can head east via Dumfries before joining up with the M6 south into England. If you’ve time for such a drive will be an awful lot nicer than the direct route!

  6. We took Neil’s advice last year and enjoyed the Loch Lomond/ Inverary/Kilchurn castle/ to Oban drive so much I’m doing it again this year! Stop in the wee village of Luss for picturesque charm and an easy view of Loch Lomond.

  7. A helping hand, please! We are driving from Glasgow, and will be staying two nights at Aultguish Inn, Garve in early June. We need to catch a flight departing Glasgow at 1325. How much time should we allow to make the drive and turn in the hired car at Glasgow airport? I fear it will be a spectacularly early morning! Thanks, Joel and Barbara Gordon

    1. Hi Joel, allow at least 4 hours driving time to Glasgow Airport from up there. Roads in good condition but delays always possible and work on-going still on the A9. You’d want a couple of hours at the airport to return car, check in etc. So….absolute latest you’d want to leave would be 7.30am, but I’d allow an extra hour. Good luck and have a great trip!

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