McCaig’s Tower is Oban’s most famous landmark. It was built by a local banker, John Stuart McCaig, who studied Roman architecture as a hobby. He convinced the town council to allow him to build a replica of the Colosseum in Rome on the hillside above the town in 1897. Unfortunately, McCaig died in 1902 and his money ran out, so it has never been completed! It is sometimes called McCaig’s Folly
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Tours through the Oban distillery - available Monday to Friday all year round plus weekends during summer. Charges apply
Oban is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. It was opened in 1794 and is one of the few remaining in operation that was founded in the 18th century. Oban is also one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland with production of only 650,000 litres per year. This is partly due to the restrictions of its location as the distillery is situated in the heart of the town of Oban, on the west Highland coast, and is surrounded on all sides by other buildings making any expansion impossible. In fact, Oban was just a tiny fishing community until the distillery was built and the town has literally grown up around it. Despite this, Oban is in the world top 20 for single malt sales and is especially popular in the USA. This is due, in no small part, to current owners Diageo continuing to select Oban to be the representative of the west Highlands region in their ‘Classic Malts’ series. This has saved Oban from relative obscurity as a single malt. The small production volume dictates that the only current bottlings are a 14 years old and a limited release 'Distiller's Edition', which is part matured in Montilla Fino sherry casks. Independent bottlings are virtually impossible to find.
The distillery was built in 1794 by brothers John and Hugh Stevenson and was initially run as a brewery until 1798, when distillation equipment was installed and whisky production began. The Stevensons were businessmen with their fingers in many moneymaking pies such as slate mining, shipping and house building. It was one of the first cases of a distillery being set up by office based money men rather than traditional farmers. Oban remained in the Stevenson family until 1866, when local man Peter Cumstie saved the distillery from bankruptcy. He later sells to another local, Walter Higgins, who modernised it before selling on to a consortium consisting of John Dewar & Sons, James Buchanan & Co and White Horse Distillers in 1898. Despite its relatively remote location, Oban continued to thrive while other remote distilleries failed. This was helped by the construction of the Crinan canal and the railway in the 1880s, which helped link Oban to other major industrial centres of Scotland. In 1925, this consortium becomes part of Distillers Company Limited which later evolved into United Distillers and finally Diageo. Two periods of closure followed – the first between 1931 and 1937 due to the world wide whisky slump following Prohibition in the USA and the second between 1968 and 1972 when a new stillroom was constructed. Oban is currently Diageo’s second smallest distillery, behind only Royal Lochnagar in the eastern Highlands.