In this article, we’re going to take you on an unforgettable journey through the skies with Hebridean Air Services. This isn’t your average flight – it’s a sightseeing extravaganza, soaring from Oban Airport around the islands of the Inner Hebrides and back along the picturesque coastline of Argyll & Bute.
On a Hebridean Air Services scenic flight you’ll be whisked away on an aerial spectacle that’s quite literally a breath of fresh air. Oban Airport, while small, is perfectly situated for these tours which take in sights including Dunstaffnage Castle, the Isle of Mull, Easdale Island, and Tralee Bay.
Let’s buckle up and take to the skies with this in-depth look at what you can expect from this unique sightseeing experience and find out why it should be on every traveller’s must-do list.
|11.00 Wednesday & Thursday
15.00 Friday & Sunday
|£80 per person
|Free car park at Oban Airport.
Tel: 0845 805 7465
|Oban Airport: car park, waiting room, toilets, gifts, hot drinks machine.
Many visitors to Oban – AKA the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ – visit the town for the sole purpose of hopping onboard one of the ferries that sail to the west coast islands.
That’s something of a shame, as this spectacularly pretty part of Argyll and Bute has a ton of attractions that deserve a visit, from the golden sand beaches of Ardmucknish Bay to the watery expanse of Loch Etive.
The islands of Lismore and Kerrera lie to the west followed by the vast expanse of Mull, while the mainland to the east is a spectacular combination of mountains, lochs, and forests which are all as wild and remote as you could ever hope to find in Scotland.
For those tourists yearning to view this landscape during a single visit, there’s one sightseeing option that beats all others – scenic flights from Oban Airport with Hebridean Air Services.
The airport is situated north of the famous Falls of Lora on the edge of Ardmucknish Bay where it commands a fantastic view of the sea and the islands that shimmer in the distance to the west.
This tiny airport was originally built for civil use in the 1930s but it was repurposed during WWII when it saw service as a base to defend Scotland against U-boats, before finally reopening again as a civil airport in the ’60s.
The main flight operator from Oban Airport is the already-mentioned Hebridean Air Services, a small venture that operates a BN2B aircraft and a pilot, along with ground crew.
Though it’s possible to use them to book a charter to other airfields in Scotland, Hebridean Air Services are perhaps best known for their sightseeing flights which take paying guests around the beautiful coastline north and south of Oban as well as across to Mull and a few other, much smaller islands.
Flights take around 30 minutes and follow a pre-set route which you can see in the map below, starting at Connel and heading south to Oban, then the Isle of Kerrera and Easdale Island, turning west to Mull, north past Duart Castle, across the Isle of Lismore, and then down the coast past Castle Stalker and Tralee Bay before landing back at Oban Airport.
While tickets might seem a wee bit pricey for a 30-minute trip there’s absolutely no better way to enjoy the scenery in this region of Scotland and you’re pretty much guaranteed to snap some amazing photos during the flight.
The experience starts with a briefing in the airport about what you can expect to see as well as an overview of safety procedures, after which you’re led to the waiting aircraft to meet the pilot who’ll then direct you to your seat.
As it’s such a quiet airport there’s no hanging around waiting for permission to take off so before you know it you’ll be zooming down the runway and up into the air where the region’s fantastic views immediately fill the windows (well, kind of – see below for more information on that point).
Those passengers with a nervous disposition will be pleased to know the pilot takes it very steady with no sudden movements and the most you’ll feel is a gentle tilt to port or starboard, flying more or less at the same altitude for the entire journey.
It’s a wee bit noisy in the cabin but earplugs are provided and the seats are fairly wide and cushioned so it’s actually quite comfy in there. It’s a rather small aircraft though, so that’s something that needs to be considered for passengers with claustrophobia issues.
As the aircraft flies along the coast you’ll have a great view of the islands and the wee villages that are dotted about as well as more famous landmarks like Duart Castle on Mull and Lismore Lighthouse.
Sadly there’s no in-flight commentary, but at least Hebridean Air Services provide a printed sheet that explains each sight you’ll see along the way. However, I personally found it difficult to work out where I was – and I’ve visited Oban many times in the past – so new visitors aren’t going to have a clue where they are.
That being said, it’s perhaps best to just sit back and snap as many photos as you can while enjoying the view which is nothing short of spectacular.
1: If you’re looking for a unique experience in the Oban area you won’t go far wrong with a scenic flight from the airport at North Connel. This is easily the best way to appreciate the islands near Oban as during the 30-minute excursion you’ll fly over the Isle of Kerrera, Easdale Island, and the Isles of Mull and Lismore.
2: When you get to the Sound of Mull keep an eye open for a stunning view of Duart Castle and the Calmac ferries that sail in and out of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
1: The main tip I have for taking sightseeing flights around Oban is to try to get a seat at the front of the aircraft. There are three rows for sightseers plus a seat in the co-pilot’s chair.
The view is amazing at the front, but from the rear two rows the majority of the window view is blocked by the wing and the wheel strut which means you’ll have to keep your head twisted 90° to see anything. Take a look at the photo further down this page to see what I mean.
2: If it’s a nice day and you have time to spare while waiting for your flight, ask the receptionist to open the airport’s garden. There are bench seats in it so you can chill out and admire the stunning views across Ardmucknish Bay.
3: Due to the fact that Oban Airport is absolutely tiny, there aren’t many visitor facilities apart from toilets and a coffee machine.
If you’re feeling peckish before or after your flight a good option is to drive across the Connel Bridge to the Oyster Inn (address: Connel, PA37 1PJ) which has a good bar and restaurant.
Having flown the Hebridean Air Services scenic flight as well as doing some research beforehand, I have a couple of recommendations that will help you make the most of your experience.
First, binoculars are great – as long as you have the right pair. I own a pair of gyro-stabilised binoculars which level off any shakes from holding them which is a feature that really came into its own on this flight.
Binoculars enabled me to have a great close-up view but I can confirm that when the gyro was switched off they were next to useless due to the vibration.
If you have standard binoculars you might be able to jam your elbow against the window for stability, but if not I’d either leave them at home or consider getting a gyro-stabilized pair.
You’ll find my reviews of binoculars including gyro bino’s in this article.
Second, as nice as the view is out the window, if you’re sitting in the back rows of seats you’re going to have this view for the entire trip…
Yeah, not great is it? Admittedly the passengers towards the front have an almost uninterrupted view, but for anyone who gets in the back, well, let’s just say it’s a pain in the neck, literally. You can enjoy the scenery if you crane your head to the side and look down, but it’s an awkward way to sit for 30 minutes and I finished my flight with a dull ache in my neck.
If you want to take photos I highly recommend a camera with a zoom lens as you’ll be able to focus past the undercarriage, and if using a phone camera I suggest making sure you use the telephoto option if your phone has one.
Once you land you might feel inspired to see more of the area you’ve flown over so I recommend taking a short drive north to Tralee Beach on Ardmucknish Bay. This is a lovely stretch of golden sand that offers a great walk south to the airport, but there’s also a superb Sustrans national cycle route at Benderloch if you’re feeling a wee bit more active.
Alternatively, there’s a lovely walk starting opposite the Benderloch car park which heads to the summit of Beinn Lora where you’ll find a viewpoint that’s almost as beautiful as the views you’ll have on the scenic flight.
Read this article to find out more about it: Ardmucknish Bay Visitor Guide.
Things to Do Nearby
Ardmucknish Bay. Address: Benderloch, Oban, PA37 1QS. Distance: 3 miles.
Ardmucknish Bay is a coastal gem near Oban that offers picturesque views and long, golden sand beaches. The bay is a haven for wildlife but it’s best known for its campsites which offer excellent guest facilities, both at Ledaig (address: North Ledaig, Oban PA37 1RU) and Tralee (address: Benderloch, Oban PA37 1QR).
Dunstaffange Castle. Castle Grounds, Dunbeg, Oban PA37 1PZ. 3.5 miles from North Connel.
This is a 15th-century castle overlooking Ardmucknish Bay. Dunstaffnage Castle was the stronghold of Clan MacDougall but it’s now managed by Historic Environment Scotland. The castle is almost entirely intact and offers visitors the chance to walk around its semi-restored rooms and vaults on a self-guided tour.
Ganavan Sands. Oban PA34 5TB. 7 miles from North Connel.
Ganavan Sands is a scenic point north of Oban that has a wide, golden-sand beach and a large car parking area. The surrounding fields are a popular site for holiday caravans. Rough walking trails follow the coastline north all the way to Connel.
Dunollie Museum & Castle. Dunollie House, Oban, PA34 5TT. 6 miles from North Connel.
Dunollie Castle is a ruined tower house that is the ancestral home of Clan MacDougall. The attraction features a heritage museum, woodland walks, ornamental gardens, a café, and a gift shop. Dunollie Point is a short walk away which has scenic views over Oban Bay.
Falls of Lora. Ardmucknish Bay, PA37 1SJ. 0 miles.
This is a natural spectacle where rushing seawater creates a tidal surge between the narrows of Loch Etive at the point where it exits into the sea at Connel. Good viewing platforms can be found on the Connel Bridge and the Falls of Lora car park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Oban in Scotland have an airport?
Yes, Oban in Scotland does have an airport. It’s called Oban Airport (OBN) and it offers both commercial and private services. The address is North Connel, Oban, PA37 1SW.
How long is the Oban Airport runway?
The runway at Oban Airport, also known as North Connel Airport, is approximately 1,264 x 30 meters or 4,150 x 98 feet.
How long is the flight from Oban Airport to Islay?
The flight duration from Isay to Oban Airport is approximately 35 minutes, depending on the specific flight and weather conditions.
How long is the Hebridean Air Services scenic flight?
The scenic flight operated by Hebridean Air Services takes approximately 30 minutes.