Stepping off the train in Oban, the first people in sight were wives, husbands, children and friends running towards my fellow passengers to welcome them home. And then I heard bagpipes.
Turning the corner was a marching school band of bagpipes and drums! Members of the community, including those who had just alighted from the train, were surrounding the school children with smiles on their faces, and as the slow sunset began over the harbour I knew I’d found somewhere special.
Backpackers Plus Oban
Wandering up the stairs of the ‘Old Church’, home to Backpackers Plus Hostel, the ringing of the bagpipes in my ears was soon replaced by the bustling sounds of a community getting ready for dinner and settling in after a long day in the fresh air of West Scotland.
I’d had a long journey and was looking forward to a shower and settling in, but even so I couldn’t help myself slowing down in the hallway to read some of the messages left by past guests…
“Toulouse loves Scotland”
“Nice cosy lovely kitchen… a place to hang out for sure”
“It’s been good Oban – miss you already!”
Entering the large open common and kitchen area I knew the authors of these scribbles were on to something. And ‘cosy’ is definitely the word I would use.
The centre point of the hostel common area, or the ‘Sky Room’ as it’s fondly known, is a large table offering individual travellers and groups alike the opportunity to sit down with others for an evening meal after cooking together in the spacious kitchen. Asking if it was okay to take a spare seat at the table later that evening, I grabbed a beer I had stocked earlier in the fridge and let the conversation flow.
Shortly, with the offer to join the other guests and volunteers to the local pub the conversation swiftly moved on from the table to the pool table.
Here I was mercilessly defeated by another guest and ended up hanging my head in shame as we retired back from the pub to settle in to the cosy lounge chairs of the Sky Room…
On my final night, exhausted from a day trip to the three Isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa (a must do if you are in Oban!), I chose one of these comfy sofa chairs to curl up in with a book. Their arrangement, usually three of four around a coffee table, makes it really easy to strike up casual conversation with whoever else might be sat opposite you.
Oh, and not only is the Sky Room great for meeting other guests or relaxing after a long day’s exploring… it’s really beautiful!
Finally, the atmosphere doesn’t get much better than on a Thursday night in Oban, when guests are collected from Backpackers Plus by a piper in the street! That’s right, a Scotsman with bagpipes arrives every Thursday to lead guests and locals down to the local Skipinnish Ceilidh House!
Fancy learning how to line dance along to traditional Scottish music? Or dance along to the Skipinnish bagpipes cover of a Taylor Swift Song? And then finally end the night singing all time favourite disco songs and swinging around the dance floor with your new hostel buddies?
Then you best stay at Backpackers Plus on a Thursday because this night was SO. MUCH. FUN!
Backpackers Plus Hostel is run by a combination of full time staff, part-time volunteers, and the awesome Peter and Maria who run a great team from their reception area in the centre of the Sky Lounge!
Like any great hostel team, the volunteers seem a close group of friends but don’t be shy to introduce yourself and ask to join them! Managing to squeeze myself in to their group each night resulted in great conversation and we were even a little late for Skipnish thanks to the great hostel tradition of Ring of Fire!
If it’s local advice on Oban that you’re looking for, any one of the brilliant staff members will be more than happy to suggest their favourite island day trip, or which bus you need to get to take a picnic in their favourite park.
But if you’re really stuck, there is a man at Backpackers Plus who was frequently referred to by guests as “the man that knows everything”. His name is Peter and he really does know everything that there is to do in and around Oban. He is also the owner so we have a lot to thank him for for creating this beautiful traveller’s home in the West of Scotland…
Custom made bunkbeds? With thick, firm mattresses? And each with their own electrical plugs and light switch? This hostel keeps getting better…
Backpackers Plus offers the options of private rooms, mixed dormitories and female-only dormitories. I stayed in a six-bed female dorm and the only thing that kept me getting the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks was a (very lovely) lady who snored her way through the entire Friday night.
Aside from this, the bunks are really wide, cosy and sturdy. And by sturdy I mean… no squeaking! Always a plus. The only sound that could be annoying is the loud click of the door locking when guests are on their way out. With a thick chubb lock on each door the rooms are definitely secure, but it does cause the door to bang a little. Of course this is easily prevented by considerate guests who insert their key when closing the door but not everyone is that considerate…
The good news of course is the fact that each room can only be accessed by guests with a key. But this isn’t the only security on offer. The custom made bunk-beds each have offer two huge locking cupboards below (one for each bunk!) that can be secured easily with your own padlock!
In addition are hooks on each bunk for towels and coats, plus the female-dorm had a full length mirror and a cosy chair to sit in and read if you really don’t want to socialise in the Sky Room. Finally, the wifi was great! I had a few articles to finish off and easily uploaded them without having to wave my laptop around for connection.
If you’re a fan of en-suite bathrooms, who won’t find them in Backpackers Plus. However, the bathrooms you will find are beautiful, and they were always spotlessly clean! With the option of separate male and female showers, I’m afraid I can’t comment on the men’s bathroom. But the female one was always fully equipped with soap and hand towels.
As for showers, they have the pressure buttons that you have to press to release the water which then turn themselves off after some time. I don’t find this annoying at all as I’d usually switch off the water anyway to wash my hair (check out my other tips for responsible hostel travel), and when the water is as hot as they offer at the hostel there’s little else to complain about!
As well as all the facilities mentioned already, it’s worth pointing out that Backpackers Plus have their own fully equipped kitchen for guests to use as they please.
It is really well stocked with pots, pans, plates, cutlery, ovens, and two sinks. Guests are also welcome to use any of the spices and herbs available.
And if you need to research your next destination or make transport bookings there are also two computers free to use for guests in the wonderfully decorated corridor to the dormitories.
The walk from the train station to Backpackers Plus Hostel takes less than ten minutes, although the town is so beautiful that it took me a bit longer as I couldn’t resist stopping every few steps to take pictures!
Based in an old Church, the hostel is pretty hard to miss! If you’re arriving by train, it can be found after a really simple walk up Oban high street from the harbour, as it is bang in the centre of an intersection.
And if you’re wondering just where the hell Oban is, then it’s just over a three hour train ride from Glasgow Queen Street Station.
If that sounds long don’t worry; the views from the train journey are absolutely stunning as you pass through the Trossachs National Park and more Lochs than you can shake a bagpipe at.
Beds in the dormitories at Oban Backpackers start from as little as £16 per night and include a free continental breakfast of toast, spreads, cereals, tea and coffee. Private rooms are sold from £24.50 – £58 per night depending on your room choice, so for a full list of options make sure to check their website and book direct!
I would like to thank Backpackers Plus for organising my visit to Oban, but as always opinions are honest and my own. In fact I had such a great time that I extended my stay, and would have done so for another week if I didn’t have appointments elsewhere!
So until next time…!
Lots of love,