Last week we needed to go up to Oban to view a whole load of potential houses for our new home. We have done this trip countless times before and done the 5/6 hours round trip on our own, usually leaving the kids with their Nana. This time however we decided we would turn the whole thing into a mini mid-week break for the whole family.
If you have never been to Oban you should. It is as simple as that. I firmly believe there is something there for pretty much everyone. The scenery first off is stunning. It has that quaint picturesque seaside town thing going on, only in the Summer it is absolutely buzzing and overflowing with folk visiting to bask in the sun (yes sometimes it rains too!) and enjoy the many many attractions Oban has to offer. I remember reading once that Oban’s population more than doubles every Summer season so there must be something drawing people to flock to this beautiful Scottish town. Or as we discovered, lots of somethings!
You can visit Oban just for a day if you wish, there is a fantastic and very scenic direct train from Glasgow. However, as we were travelling with a toddler and a baby in tow, we decided that it would be most relaxing to stay a few nights. We planned to do one day of house hunting and two days of fun family activities and Oban did not disappoint.
As we were taking Oban as our base of operations we wanted to stay in accommodation as close to Oban town centre as possible and somewhere that really showcased the natural beauty Argyll has to offer. Now there are plenty of hotels and B&B’s to pick from in Oban but when travelling as a family of four in which half of the group have (hopefully) a significantly earlier bedtime than the other half, we knew that accommodation with just one room was not going to cut it. Luckily we found the perfect solution; Cologin Lodges is set in beautiful countryside yet is just 3 miles outside of Oban town centre. It took us less than 5 minutes each day to get in and out of the town to return to our own private lodge with seperate bedrooms, bathroom and a fully kitted out kitchen/diner/living room space.
When I first checked out the Cologin website I was rather perplexed that it states on the front page, that these are not ‘luxurious’ cabins. What it does say they offer is comfort, space and a great location. Well we could confirm great location straight away as after a long drive and busy first day house hunting, we were all absolutely relieved to find we found Cologin with no hassle and as I mention, it is located so very close to the town it really couldn’t be any better. Space was the primary reason we looked into a lodge instead of a hotel and the Cologin cabins have plenty of it. The kitchen / diner is open plan with the living room but both spaces are a good size so everyone can fit in comfortably while dinner is being prepared in the kitchen which features all mod cons.
Comfort for us was interrupted by both kids not wanting to sleep great because of a new environment but when we did sleep the beds were comfy and what I always find most important when staying somewhere else, the cabin was spotless! Towels and linen are provided with spare which is always handy. Whilst the decor of the Lodges might not been described as luxurious (I think someone years ago made a killing selling every hotel and self catering in the UK those ghastly muted brown floral bed throws that are everywhere!) it was not half bad at all. The kitchen is modern and the furniture all functions perfectly. What makes the Lodges stand out is their location, the stunning valley they lie in and the fact you can open your patio windows and eat breakfast on your very own picnic bench on your own private decking area.
An added bonus to staying at Cologin was that it is also where you will find the award winning restaurant The Barn. We did go for dinner there one evening and whilst it was a personal family with kids nightmare as Faye was screaming and Aiden managed to fall down and bash his head three(!) times not to mention I poured a full pint all over Keith and Aiden, the food was good (absolutely huge portions! Must remember to just get one kids one next time) the staff were helpful, and there was a relaxed child friendly atmosphere at 6pm so we only felt mildly mortified at what has to be the worst behaved I have seen Aiden when out for dinner (and myself! I have never knocked a drink over before!) You can also visit The Barn if you aren’t staying in the accommodation and I know it is popular with locals across the hills.
The Pokey Hat – Ice Cream Shop
I think there is an unwritten rule somewhere that states that when by the seaside you must, simply MUST buy an ice cream, come rain or shine. Now luckily for us we did get some glorious sun on our trip (we also got some serious downpours too but let’s focus on the sun shall we) and so having only just stepped foot in Oban town and after some serious house hunting viewings, we treated ourselves to some truly scrumptious ice cream from the infamous Pokey Hat. They have a frankly ridiculous section of homemade flavours in their tiny shop and you are sure to find the queue coming out the door on a sunny day. I bumped into several old friends whilst in Oban and when they asked where we are going / had been and we said for ice cream, it was unanimous that the best ice cream came from The Pokey Hat.
Go Bananas – Soft Play
When we first had kids Keith declared that he absolutely hated soft-play and would avoid going at all costs. However, as time has gone on he has mellowed and what do you know, it was actually him who suggested we pay Oban’s one and only soft play centre Go Bananas a visit. (It should be noted that the leisure centre Atlantis also has a soft play area but it is part of the bigger facility and not a stand alone venture as this one is which we found to be better for smaller kids) Go Bananas is perfect for rainy days or to pass a few hours between house viewings in our case. Downstairs you will find The Bridge Cafe which will also bring you food and drinks up to the seating area upstairs at the soft play section. You will find the usual soft-play staples such as slides and huge foam blocks to climb over but there are also three additional separate room that can all be viewed from the comfort of the seating area (if your kids aren’t like mine and let you sit down!) There is a good size balloon room that Faye was crazy about. There is a room with about 10 drive in vehicles which was popular with the kids but as there were a good amount of vehicles I only witnessed one fight and to be frank the wee boy in question was being rather amusingly unreasonable. (All the parents including his Mum agreed!) The other room they have us a general toy room and this was actually Aiden’s favourite room as it has his beloved books and train tracks. It is a really nice and friendly soft play and we are all looking forward to spending a reasonable amount of time there especially in the Winter! Also the food was good value and really rather yummy, as was the hot chocolate and coffee.
Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary
I don’t take my kids to zoos. Simple as that. We are vegetarians and I don’t support animals in captivity when they don’t have to be there. What I do support though and what I very happily we were able to show them with the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary Oban however was just how amazing some human beings are at caring for animals and our environment when situations in nature mean that humans must intervene in order to save lives and protect species.
As a sanctuary, all the animals that are at this Sea Life centre are there because either they are unable to be released from captivity or, and this for me was wonderful to teach the kids, the staff are getting them fit and healthy to release back into the wild. It is a beautiful set up because it allows children to get up and close with a whole variety of animals but the animals are not there for our entertainment and the centre focuses it’s information on what these animals are like back in the wild.
As well as there being regular talks (nice and short for the kids too which was good) throughout the day about the animals, there are permanent displays, an aquarium, an outdoor forest play area and a cafe. All of which mean there is plenty to keep you occupied for a good few hours and Aiden certainly didn’t want to leave at nap time. The staff to boot are not only very friendly but they go out of their way to interact with you and are exceptionally well informed and were able to answer all our random questions (well nearly all, even I couldn’t answer all Aiden’s questions!)
The Sea Life Sanctuary Oban is open seasonally so currently in Summer it is open 10am – 5pm and in Winter it is 11am – 4pm. There are all types of ticket prices for different adults and children combinations but it is definitely worth buying online as the discounts are significant.
Oban Community Play Park
Now we don’t mind paying to visit great attractions when they are value for money and bring as much enjoyment as all the ones we have mentioned so far did, but you can’t take Scouse thinking out of a Scouser even when I have been living in Scotland for over a decade now, and you know what we love just as much as great value attractions? Free attractions! I first read about the Oban Community Play Park initiative before I was even pregnant with Aiden and have followed it’s progress ever since. Long story short, a truly inspirational group of Mum’s (there may also have been Dad’s involved!) decided to take things into their own hands when they saw the state of their local park and they have fundraised over £335,000 (I know right! Bloomin’ good going!) to build two awe inspiring play parks and a lovely musical garden. The play park for the over fives was the one we visited as the under fives park is currently being built. To say that we are excited about it opening when we move up to Oban is an understatement because what they have achieved with the park for older kids and the garden section is just astonishing. Everything has been so well thought through and it is an inclusive park so caters for a lot of extra needs which we don’t require but we certainly saw as a fantastic thing. I know Aiden would always want all his friends to be able to go play at the park with him. These women (and men!) are everyday community heroes and I am so thrilled our family will be joining their community and benefiting for years to come from all their hard work. The park is bright and bold and not your usual play park. Aiden just repeated “Oh WOW!” and “oh you HAVE to check this out!” over and over.
Please do pop over to their Facebook page and follow them to see how things are progressing and support their project if you can!
Disclosure: We received the entrance fees and accommodation costs either free or at reduced rates in exchange for this post. All opinions are still mine and completely truthful.