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The Out About Scotland complete guide to McCaig’s Tower
Category: Landmark, Monument
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 6 out of 10
About McCaig’s Tower
If you’re planning on visiting Scotland’s west coast islands by ferry you’ll inevitably travel from the terminal at Oban, and while you’re there you might 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. This is McCaig’s Tower, and If you have the time I recommended you take a short walk up the hill to discover what this 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 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 structure 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 while you’re waiting for your next island ferry to arrive.
Things to do at McCaig’s Tower
McCaig’s Tower is well signposted within 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 walk up the winding path towards the summit you can enjoy the extremely well-kept gardens that are maintained by Oban council, and these continue right inside McCaig’s Tower itself 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 can 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.
Thankfully 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 numerous ships sailing in and out of Oban harbour. McCaig’s Tower is both an unusual and unique place to visit, and I’d recommend taking a look if you have some free time while you’re in the town.
The history of McCaig’s Tower
McCaig’s Tower is the work of the 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 that would 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.
What I liked about this attraction
- It offers fantastic views across Oban and beyond
- It’s free!
- It’s an interesting structure and offers a great photo opportunity
My top tips
- It’s a 25-minute walk from Oban’s ferry terminal to McCaig’s Tower. Bear that in mind if you’ve got a ferry to catch.
Address and map
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.
Prices and opening times
McCaigs Tower is open all year round and is free to enter.
Getting there: Car park available road-side
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Conveniences available in Oban town centre