Family Travels

A common theme of my travel research is that a family holiday is a chance to reconnect and take time for each other, to learn about one another on a deeper level and to appreciate each other through shared experiences.

As I write this column during the February “Family Day” season here in Canada, I look forward to a new travel experience with my own family this summer; I’ll be meeting up with all of my immediate family members for a special holiday in Spain to celebrate several milestones with my sisters. I’m looking forward to some quality time exploring Barcelona, taking my nieces and nephews to the beach and sipping rioja on our villa terrace at sunset. We’ve spent a lot of time planning this trip to make sure it suits everyone – not easy when our group will have members from every decade spanning 70 years. We’ve booked a villa within walking distance of a medieval village, close to hiking trails and beautiful beaches. We’ve lined up our flights to meet at the airport, and we’ve talked about daytrip options and house rules. Now we will spend time researching all the fun activities we can do there and I’m learning Spanish at the College of the Rockies. It’s amazing how quickly you can get from “Dos Cervezas, por favor” to “Ellos quisieran arrendar un kayak para dos persons durante dos horas” under Javiera’s guidance! (Any grammatical errors are entirely my own.)

But, this is a travel column, not a personal diary; so let me tell you about a beautiful and historic place to visit in Scotland. I’m lucky to have family in several of Scotland’s most beautiful places, and Oban, on the Argyll coast, is certainly one of the most lovely towns. I’m lucky to be able visit regularly and explore this special place.

Known as the “Gateway to the Isles,” Oban has a bustling harbour with ferries and cruise ships coming and going through the narrows of Kerrera on a regular basis. Oban is the seat of the Clan MacDougall, and Donollie Castle (now a fascinating ruin), has recorded history dating back to the 7th century. The Castle Museum tells stories of Scotland’s connection with Ireland and the kingdoms that rose and fell around this area under various clan chiefs and lords over the course of 1300+ years.

Oban itself is a charming harbour town with a Victorian feel, lined with 19th century hotels and shops. High above sits McCaig’s tower, a giant folly of granite arches built between 1897 and 1902 as a memorial to the architect’s own family. It’s easy to see this structure as the nonsense of a wealthy banker with an inflated ego, but it’s just as true that McCaig built it to provide winter employment to local stonemasons. Oban is like that – you can’t define it with one story.

Other points of interest include Pulpit Hill (a beautiful two-hour hike with spectacular views towards Mull) and the Oban Sea Life Centre – wonderful for small children. The Falls of Lora are a spectacular natural phenomenon just north of town where a tidal race is formed between Loch Etive and the Firth of Lorn (the open sea) and is a popular spot with sport kayakers and photographers. For more info on Oban visit oban.org.uk.

Fernie-ites will love the cycle touring options in Scotland, Oban is on Route 78 of the Caledonian Way. The 77km stretch from Oban to Fort William is mostly traffic free and follows the coastline with beautiful views, including spectacular Castle Stalker. More info at: sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/oban-to-fort-william.

I’d love to hear and write about your travel experiences – write to me at hall.rebecca.j@gmail.com. Happy travels! 

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