I first came to Oban on the west coast of Scotland soaked to the skin, aged 17, traveling alone as a hitch-hiker on a mission to explore the countryside of Argyll. I found myself wandering down a deserted Glen Lochy in torrential rain as darkness fell, with my plan to walk onwards looking like a route to death by hypothermia.
A mile or so down the glen I found a house with a decrepit old stable behind it and I decided that would have to be my home for the night. I thought of asking permission, but things were desperate and my request might have been refused, so I quietly stumbled inside, feeling my way in complete darkness and hoping it was empty. I spent a largely sleepless night wet and cold under some straw, with what I presumed to be mice or rats scurrying all around and over me.
I ventured out to the road again at dawn, my clothes still soaking, and managed to get a lift into Oban in the back of a delivery van carrying the day's newspapers. I became instantly attracted to the place - essentially a semicircle of buildings around a wide bay that is busy with boats of all sizes. The big ferries sail serenely in and out against the backdrop of the islands of Mull, Kerrera and Lismore, with the water of the Sound of Mull stretching into the distant view if the weather is clear.
Oban is the departure point for the voyage to many of the outer western isles, but the option of day-return passenger tickets on the ferries to the inner isles offers cheap excursions at a far more reasonable price than any formal boat trip.
Standing on the deck of a ferry plying its way out from Oban bay, I always wonder is there anywhere else in the world I'd rather be? There is just something I love about this place and the seas and islands around it.
And the big gulls are a constant presence, so unafraid that they will let you stand right next to them to take a photo, while they casually investigate if you might have some fish and chips that you might offer to share with them. With so many obliging tourists, these are very well-fed gulls.
Each year as I travel back to Oban, usually for summer and autumn visits, I pass my old emergency refuge in Glen Lochy in a warm car with my wife by my side and a dry hotel room booked. That is always a considerable improvement on the circumstances of my first visit, but the first one remains the most memorable.
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Our guest today is Andrew MacLaren-Scott from Scotland, who signs in under the name Don QuiScottie. How fun is that! He is a writer and author of 10 books, some translated into many languages. His most recent funny-but-serious fiction novella is "Aileen the Alien," which can be accessed at his Don QuiScottie website. And he found us through our own Cherry! Welcome to V&V, Andrew--er, Don!