For a small town, Oban hosts a fantastic variety of festivals and events throughout the year, either in the town itself or in the surrounding area. From music and dance to food and drink, you’ll be sure to find a festival for you. Here’s a guide to the best festivals in Oban.
Once the weather gets good, one of the first events to take place is the Highlands and Islands Music and Dance Festival. First held in 1984, the festival has become one of the most important music and dance events in the country, aiming to encourage young people to take part in the traditional arts of the region. The festival has now developed to include a huge number of competitions and events, with over 1100 young people participating every year. Categories include highland dancing, fiddle, accordion, piping and singing, amongst others. In addition to the main festival in May, the festival hosts a number of special events throughout the year, such as the Scottish Choreography Challenge, the Highlands and Islands Fiddle and Accordion Masters and the Festival Fling.
The end of May is when the town usually celebrates its Festival of the Sea. Organised by the Scottish Association of Marine Science, each year sees a different aspect of the sea, but always focuses on how our seas and oceans sustain the life on our Earth and how they provide a lot of produce for the town of Oban and the Islands.
Argyll’s largest outdoor music festival, Oban Live, takes place in June annually at Mossfield Stadium. The festival attracts a whole host of traditional, rock and pop bands and musicians. 2019 will be the festival’s fourth year and promises an exciting line-up, including the X Factor’s Lucy Spraggan, award-winning bluegrass and Americana Irish quartet JigJam and international Celtic fusion band Skerryvore.
West Highland Yachting Week is Scotland’s largest yachting event, taking place from the end of July to the beginning of August every year. A historic event now in its 69th year, Oban unites with Tobermory and Craobh to provide visitors with a unique experience of competitive racing along with a comprehensive family-friendly programme of events.
The Highland Games are famous worldwide, and there are a number of events throughout the Highlands in the months of July and August. The games come to Oban in August when the Argyllshire Games take place. Competitions include the Hill Race, a number of athletic events, Highland dance, as well as the ever-popular tossing the caber and the World Championship Solo Piping.
Since 2011, the Oban Winter Festival has taken place during the month of November. Originally organised by a group of community-based volunteers, it has now become one of the major events on the Oban calendar with an extensive programme filling ten days. One of the main draws are the markets; at the Victorian Market you can buy handmade gifts and home-made produce, and the Distillery Markets have a vast array of food and goods stalls as well as live music. Other attractions and activities include reindeer, street parades, performances from both local and international musicians, lantern parades, fire art and pipers.
The end of the year means Scotland’s event of the year – Hogmanay – and pretty much all of the establishments in the town host spectacular New year parties. While some of these will be a traditional Ceilidh, if this isn’t for you, there’s plenty of other options for you to enjoy lots of music, from rock to folk. Outside of Oban, lots of traditional Scottish pubs offer their own Hogmanay celebrations. Public celebrations tend to happen once every two years, but even if you’re not visiting when there’s a street party, you’ll find that the festivities move out into the public spaces, creating a unique festive atmosphere.
Other events are held throughout the year, including food and drink festivals and charity events. For up-to-date details on what’s happening, keep an eye on Oban’s tourist information website.