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Oban and Wee Impressions of Scotland

Oban, Scotland

Oban, Scotland

About Oban, Scotland

Oban is a beautiful little town.  It is also chock full of tourists, many here to visit the Oban Distillery.  I made a visit to the distillery myself and got a one hour tour for the very steep price of 7.5 pounds (about $12. US).  On the tour, I learned that whiskey is first beer.  I learned that under Scottish Whiskey Regulations, single malt means that a whiskey can only be made of three things: barley, water, and yeast and must be aged a minimum of three years in an oak cask.  The various flavors of a whiskey come from the air, the casks, and the amount of time that the barley and water is left to ferment (On the fourth day after the yeast is added, citric acid is produced which adds a citrus flavor to Oban Whiskey.  Most distillers do not allow the fermentation to go past three days.)  The spirit is aged in Bourbon bottles from the United States for 14 years.  Over the 14-year aging process, about 25% of the alcohol is lost by evaporation.  This is called the “angel’s share.”  We had a tasting of Oban whiskey aged only ten years and it was like firewater.  I must admit, although I used to enjoy it, I could barely get the sample of the Oban 14-year whiskey down.

Oban, the town, is situated around a very busy harbor with ferries taking people to and from the Isle of Mull among many other isles and lochs.  It is bustling with tourists and cafes where people sit outside under awnings and avoid the nearly constant rain.  A cliff sits behind the harbor and holds storybook-looking homes in it’s forested crevices.

My Wee Impressions of Scotland

It rains a lot here which is news to exactly nobody.  But it does make holiday planning difficult.  You either have to accept being wet or accept that your plans will likely change.  Or go to the pub.  While planning the trip I had romantic notions of walking across Scotland which were quickly drowned in the day after day rain.  I spent three days in Fort William wanting to climb Ben Nevis and for three days it rained, making the adventure uninviting to say the least.

Costs

I ate lots of Baked Beans in Scotland.

I ate lots of Baked Beans in Scotland.

Scotland is very expensive.  I shopped at the grocery store and prepared most meals to avoid the big costs of eating out.  For a bed in a hostel you can expect to pay between 15 to 20 pounds a day which is equivalent to $25-32 US.  Some very basic hostels with no competition are even more expensive.  For this reason alone, Scotland is certainly not a budget destination.

Getting Around

I did not rent a car because of the added expense.  Getting around Scotland by bus, especially in the Highlands, is not the easiest thing to do.  Buses are infrequent and often quite expensive.  There are often long distances between sights and this means that if you are without a vehicle, you may only be able to see one or two sights in a big area.  I did run across several men who had hitchhiked all over Scotland and they told me it was very easy.  I considered doing the same but passed because I’m a paranoid American woman.

Food in Scotland

It seems that Scotland has a love affair with Fish and Chips and being a vegetarian, I did not partake.  Scones, the daily snack, felt like a daily punishment.  I tried many, many scones and fail to see the source of pleasure in them.  There were Indian and Chinese restaurants everywhere, even in tiny Braemar, so if you can afford to eat out and are vegetarian, there are options.

Solo in Scotland

Scotland is not a great solo destination.  For one, it’s romantic – the cool, rainy days, the beauty, the history.  It all kind of makes you want to cozy up to someone.  Also, it’s a place where I felt the desire to drink – a huge part of Scottish culture involves drinking – and since I am alone and one of me has to be alert, I tend to avoid going out and drinking alone.  That’s a crying shame in a place like Scotland.  I couldn’t tap into (pun intended) pub life.  There aren’t that many other options on a dreary, rainy day.

Men in Scotland

Scottish men are not my cup of tea.  Now mind you I have dated men with lazy eyes, pot-bellies, missing teeth, limps, speech impediments, and other “situations” so it’s not that I am excessively picky.  But the paleness and overall depressed look does not light my fire.  I’m not even going to go into the eyebrow situation.  Lordie.  In comparison to a place like Argentina where 80% of the male population makes Anthony Banderas look like a monster, and will approach you, well, there really is no comparison.  If only Argentinean men wore kilts…that would really be a force to reckon with!

I have certainly never felt as invisible in my life as a woman as I did in Scotland.  This is not the place to go if you’re a single woman looking for romance (or even a flirt!).

People in Scotland

I found the people in Scotland to be reserved but friendly.  There is a certain depressive look and feeling that seems rather pervasive.

Summing Up

Overall, it is not a place I would feel particularly compelled to return to as a solo traveler.  The Isle of Skye was the highlight because of the magnificent landscape.   I am thankful that I got to visit, and realize that I only scraped the surface of the country in three weeks.  However, my heart was not broken to leave.

And now, on to England.

Photos of Oban, Scotland:

One Comment

  1. Hahahahaah…totally feel you about traveling solo in some places. Ruins it! One such place for me was Paris…why!?? Raining in the summer or fall, I guess, is a total bummer. Too reminiscent of Portland. And makes such a place sooooooo hard to fully enjoy. I remember England and the ever constant partaking in pub pleasures. I enjoy drinking, but not every single day. Just too much.

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