McCaig’s Tower is situated on a hill overlooking the centre of Oban, where visitors are rewarded with panoramic views across the town and the islands beyond.
The ‘tower’ is actually a circular wall ringed with open windows that was built as a monument to the wealthy McCaig family in the early 1900s, but today it’s best known as a landmark and a point of interest for tourists.
|Parking:||No on-site parking|
Free roadside parking and paid car parks in Oban
|Facilities:||None. Toilets, food and drinks available in Oban|
If you’re planning on visiting Scotland’s west coast islands by ferry you’ll inevitably travel from the terminal at Oban. While you’re there, take the time to look across the town and up at the hilltops surrounding it.
You might be surprised, and possibly a little confused, to see a Roman-style colosseum dominating the skyline.
That’s McCaig’s Tower, and If you’re not late for your ferry I recommend you take a short walk up the hill to discover what this unusual structure is all about.
Perched on the summit of Battery Hill, McCaig’s Tower has been a landmark in Oban for over 120 years.
It was the brainchild of local banker and philanthropist John Stuart McCaig who intended for it to be used as a centre for the arts but it was never expanded beyond what we can see today after he died in 1902.
What was left behind is a unique landmark that’s now used as an interesting viewing platform across Oban and the surrounding countryside, and while it’s not exactly the biggest attraction in Scotland it’s well worth making the 10-minute walk from the town centre to see it.
1: McCaig’s Tower offers fantastic views across Oban and beyond. Kids will love watching the ferries constantly sailing in and out of the harbour.
2: It’s not a big attraction by any means, but it’s certainly unusual. And it’s free!
3: The tower is just a short walk from the ferry terminal so it’s a good place to explore while you’re waiting for the next ferry.
1: McCaig’s Tower is just a 25-minute walk from the Calmac quay. If that sounds like too much hard work you could always visit the Oban distillery instead, which is located right in the middle of the town centre on the High Street.
2: After food in Oban? The fishing town is famous for its fresh shellfish. One of the best places to find it is the Oban Seafood Hut situated between The Corryvreckan pub and the Calmac building.
3: There’s another historic attraction located just outside of Oban that you’re also likely to enjoy visiting. To learn more read the Guide to Dunstaffnage Castle.
McCaig’s Tower is well signposted from the town and the walk to the top of the hill on which it sits rewards visitors with beautiful panoramic views across Oban and beyond.
As you stroll up the winding path towards the summit you’ll see well-kept gardens that are maintained by Oban council, and these continue inside McCaig’s Tower which has plenty of open space for children to play and lush grass that’s perfect for a summer picnic spot.
The tower stands some 220 feet above sea level and you’ll get some pretty amazing photos through each of the archways which look down at the town lying beneath it.
Rising to 45 feet, the walls of the tower extend to a 600-foot circumference with 94 arches built into the walls in two tiers that provide stunning views across to the islands of Kerra, Lismore and Mull.
The monument is completely free to visit which makes it a perfect place to kill some time if you’re waiting for a ferry and if you’ve got kids they’ll love watching the ships sailing in and out of Oban Harbour.
For such a remote location this part of Scotland had more than its fair share of wealth back in the day, such as the industrialists who built the nearby Bonawe Iron Furnace.
McCaig’s Tower on the other hand was the brainchild of philanthropist John Stuart McCaig who oversaw its construction from 1895 until his death in 1902.
John McCaig was a very wealthy banker who wanted to keep the stonemasons of Oban employed during the quiet winter months, so he commissioned a building to serve as a monument to the McCaig family that would last through the generations.
The monument was designed by McCaig himself and was built from Bonawe granite at the not-inconsiderable cost of £5000, with subsequent plans to include a museum and art gallery inside.
However, upon his death it was decided by the remaining family to cease construction, and so only the outer walls were ever completed. Even so, it’s still an impressive monument and certainly worthy of its dominant position on the Oban skyline.
Travel to Oban by road is approximately 100 miles (2½ hours) northwest of Glasgow, 130 miles (3¼ hours) west of Edinburgh and 55 miles (1 hour) south of Fort William.
To get to the tower, from Chalmers corner on George Street head up Argyll Street, then to the left of the Congregational Church start picking your way up the 144 steps of Jacobs Ladder and turn left at the top.
Alternatively, you can drive to the base of the tower by following the Fort William road, then take Deanery Brae and follow the signs to the small car park at the foot of the tower gardens.
Find more places to visit with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
Things to do
Breathtaking Panorama: Start your visit to Oban at McCaig’s Tower with its stunning scenic views of the town and surrounding islands. The tower offers an unobstructed panorama of the town, its busy harbour, and the distant islands of Mull, Lismore, and Kerrera. The view is even better at sunset when the sky turns into a canvas of colours, making it a perfect spot for photographers.
Historical Exploration: Immerse yourself in the history of McCaig’s Tower. Built by John McCaig in the late 19th century, the structure was intended to be a lasting monument to his family. Though it remains unfinished, the tower’s architectural design and the story behind its creation provide a fascinating insight into Oban’s history.
Botanical Walk: Within the tower’s walls lies a delightful wee garden, filled with a variety of plants and flowers. Take a leisurely walk from the town centre and relax with a coffee while gazing at the scenery. The tower also makes a great picnic spot if you sit in the stone archways.
Local Exploration: After visiting the tower, explore the surrounding area of Oban. The town is famous for its seafood, whisky distillery, and beautiful coastline. There’s even a beach at Greenacre Bay on Ganavan Road (a 2-minute drive or a 15-minute walk from the war memorial on Corran Esplanade).
Unfinished Masterpiece: McCaig’s Tower, also known as McCaig’s Folly, was commissioned by John Stuart McCaig, a wealthy local banker. However, McCaig passed away in 1902 before the tower’s completion.
Architectural Details: The tower’s structure consists of two concentric walls, the outer being about 200 meters in circumference with walling 12 feet high that features 94 lancet arches.
Unique Purpose: Unlike most towers built for defence or royalty, McCaig’s Tower was created to provide employment for local stonemasons during the winter months and to honour McCaig’s family.
The Original Plan: The initial design of McCaig’s Tower included an elaborate plan for statues. McCaig intended to place statues of his family members within the arches to ensure their memory would endure.
Botanical Gardens: McCaig’s original design also included a plan for a botanical garden within the tower. Although this was never realized, today the inner area of the tower boasts a public garden.
Things to do nearby
Oban Harbour. Oban PA34 5QD. 8-minute walk.
Oban is a historic coastal town that grew around its fishing industry which is still thriving today. The town is the largest in the area and there is a selection of pubs, restaurants and gift shops in the high street along with the west coast island’s main ferry terminal.
Oban War and Peace Museum. Old Oban Times Bldg, Corran Esplanade, Oban PA34 5PX. 7-minute walk.
A small independent museum that depicts Oban’s industrial and maritime heritage with a series of exhibits and displays.
Dunollie Museum & Castle. Dunollie House, Oban PA34 5TT. 6-minute drive.
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.
Dunstaffange Castle. Castle Grounds, Dunbeg, Oban PA37 1PZ. 10-minute drive.
This is a 15th-century castle overlooking Ardmucknish Bay. Dunstaffnage Castle was the stronghold of the MacDougall clan. The castle is relatively intact and offers visitors the chance to walk around its semi-restored rooms and vaults on a self-guided tour.
Ganavan Bay. Oban PA34 5TB. 10-minute drive.
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 tracks follow the coastline all the way to Connel.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to McCaig’s Tower?
McCaig’s Tower is a prominent landmark situated on Battery Hill in Oban, Scotland.
Address: Duncraggan Rd, Oban, PA34 5DP
Directions map: Google Maps
Why was McCaig’s Tower built?
McCaig’s Tower was built by wealthy local banker John Stuart McCaig as a monument to his family, and also to provide work for local stonemasons.
What are McCaig’s Tower opening times?
McCaig’s Tower is open all day, 365 days a year. There is no fee to visit the tower.
How old is McCaig’s Tower?
McCaig’s Tower was built in 1897, making it 125 years old as of 2022.