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Short break: X-Factor performance icing on the cake of a great explore of the Oban area

Views of Ben More on the Isle of Mull
Views of Ben More on the Isle of Mull

I’m ashamed to say I’ve visited Oban before and failed to stay long enough to explore the amazing scenery nearby.

Following this trip, I’ve realised what a mistake that was.

As Oban is a small town, it’s easy enough to see most of it quickly but it’s the surrounding areas that need that bit of extra time.

Having arrived in the west coast town late on the Friday evening after a nearly three hour drive, the first thought on our minds was a good rest before a day of exploring.

Perle Oban’s Station Road location helped speed up that process as it’s about as central as possible.

The faint smell of paint in the vast corridor gave away the fact the hotel had been recently revamped while the perfectly cosy room with sea views was exactly what was needed.

Perle Oban

A good, freshly cooked to order breakfast the next day at the hotel set us up for a day of exploring.

The fantastic Isle of Mull is such a short journey away that it’s a shame to miss it out if you’ve got a full day here.

It’s clearly well-known among Scotland’s many treasures but seeing it for the first time was a great experience.

Double room at Perle Oban

The March visit meant ferry times to and from Craignure were well-suited to enjoying a full afternoon exploring the beautiful island.

With a car, getting around was very easy and the great condition of the roads made it a very relaxing place to drive.

The many single-track roads were easy enough to navigate but it’s not only other drivers to keep an eye out for —we were halted in our tracks a few times by herds of sheep out for a daunder.

We managed a loop around the north coast of Mull and back round the north-western edge on a good sunny Spring day.

The first stop was the quaint little harbour town of Tobermory before heading to Calgary Bay’s beautiful if windy beach.

Calgary Beach, Mull

The route then took us to Ballygown and incredible views of Ben More from the north.

Upon our return to Oban in the evening, we dined at Perle Oban’s Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Baab Meze and Grill.

Our choice was somewhat limited as three out of the ten small plates were not available, while two of seven of the large plates were also off the menu that night.

We decided to share the hummus with chickpeas on top from the ‘small plates’ menu.

It was certainly not small and we struggled to finish it while guarding against overeating before the main.

It was a fantastic dish and made me realise how plain the supermarket hummus I regularly buy is. It was bursting with flavour and a great dish to start off with, if a little filling.

For mains, my girlfriend went for the grilled whole sea bream which was outstanding.

Whole grilled sea bream

This could be a bold claim, but it may well be up there with one of the nicest seafood dishes I’ve ever tasted.

Despite her belonging to the ‘if I can see its eyes, I don’t want to eat it’ crowd, she tucked the vast majority of it away.

I also went for seafood,  selecting the slightly charred tamarind prawns which were equally sweet and tasty, with a generous amount of sesame and honey in equal measure.

The only criticism would be the lack of any background music, making it felt a little like last orders at the bar.

The meal was great overall and we enjoyed a surprise intimate performance from a former X-Factor star in the hotel’s bar in the next room across.

Glaswegian Gregor Coleman, who featured in the ITV singing show in 2017, told us afterwards that he plays regularly at the hotel.

Our attempts to convince him to join us for a couple of drinks failed however, as he had to drive down to the West Midlands at 5am the next day to perform at a wedding.

My girlfriend, feeling brazen after a few Chilean vinos, unabashedly tried to book him at our wedding, despite me having made no proposal.

Before our return journey back to Dundee the next day, we braved the slightly rainy weather and walked the short but steep path up to McCaig’s Tower to enjoy stunning views.

There are many beautiful sites to stop at if you’re making the cross-country journey from the east coast.

Dunstaffnage Castle, for example, is just three miles outside Oban, dramatically perched on a large rock, and is one of the oldest stone castles in all of Scotland.

It’s well worth a visit.

The former Clan Campbell stronghold of Kilchurn Castle, just off the A85, is equally impressive, as was our pit stop in Killin to see the spectacular Falls of Dochart which run through the village.

Perle Oban

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From £119 for a standard double room (B&B) – / – 01631700301