Scotland is an awesome country to visit and Edinburgh, its capital, is full of culture, history, art, architecture and much more. It is also a great place to base yourself while you explore more of the surround cities, towns and sights. With excellent train and road connections, there are many day trips you can take from Edinburgh.
This article refers to a visit or visits made before the travel restrictions put in place to deal with the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak around the world. Please take into account the advice from your local government before planning any travel and click here to see the current UK government advice regarding Covid-19
I reached out to some of my blogging friends for their recommendations for the best day trips from Edinburgh.
Day Trips from Edinburgh to…
By Gemma from Everything Edinburgh
Often overlooked for the capital, Scotland’s second-biggest city, Glasgow, is a fun option to consider once you’ve explored all the activities and eaten all the food in Edinburgh!
There are two ways to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh.
Firstly, the more expensive but most efficient is to travel by train. Both of Edinburgh’s train stations, Waverley and Haymarket, travel to Glasgow Queens Street and Glasgow Central.
Both train stations in Glasgow are very central, dropping you off five minutes from the shopping drag, Buchanan Street.
Buses are a cheaper option but the traffic into Glasgow does bottleneck at busy times so avoid rush hour if possible.
Glasgow Bus Station is located at the bottom of Sauchiehall Street which is a five-minute walk from Buchanan Street.
Once in the city, there are three areas you should visit, Glasgow City Centre and its Merchant City, the East End and the West End/Finnieston. It’s unlikely you can do all three in one trip so here are the highlights to help you decide which is best for you.
The City Centre is home to The Lighthouse museum, its rooftop has one of the best views of the city.
Next, head to Royal Exchange Square to see the iconic Duke of Wellington with the cone on its head.
Pop into the Gallery of Modern Art and check out the shop for cool souvenirs.
Head to the Merchant City, walking through George Square. Keep your eyes up at the buildings to see some of the Glasgow Murals.
Lunch at the Merchant City before either heading to the East End or the West End. For the latter, hop on the Argyle Street underground stopping at Byres Road.
In the East End, visit the Glasgow Cathedral and then the People’s Palace museum at Glasgow Green park. Dine on Duke Street or back at the Trongate in the city centre.
In the West End, enjoy city life on Byres Road, swing by the University of Glasgow to see the quadrants and walk through Kelvingrove Park to the Kelvingrove Museum.
If you have kids, you might want to check out the Transport Museum on the River Clyde. If you like whisky, don’t miss the Clydeside Distillery.
Dine at one of the many hip bars and restaurants in Finnieston.
Kelso in the Scottish Borders
by Larch from The Silver Nomad
Just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, the charming town of Kelso sits on the banks of the Rivers Tweed and Teviot. Kelso is a traditional market town with a large market square and cobbled streets in the centre of town. On the third Saturday of the month, catch the bustling Kelso Farmers’ Market, full of fresh meats, cheeses, coffee, breads, soap and other goodies.
For history buffs, there are two castles in Kelso; the ruins of the 12th century Roxburgh Castle and the magnificent Floors Castle (pronounced Floo-rs). Built in 1721, it is the largest of Scotland’s castles that is inhabited. Take a stroll through the walled garden and on to the formal Millennium Garden before having tea or lunch at the Terrace Café. In town, there are the ruins of Kelso Abbey to explore.
If you are a sports lover you have a choice of two golf courses – Kelso Golf Club and the picturesque Schloss Roxburghe course – and, when there are fixtures, horse racing at Kelso Racecourse and rugby. For anglers, you can get a visitor’s angling permit form either Orvis in the Square or Fin & Game along in Bridge Street.
Don’t expect to find the normal high street shops in Kelso as most of the shops and coffee shops are independently run. There is a fishmonger, a butcher or two, a greengrocer down by the Mayfield Garden Centre.
You are spoilt for choice for places to eat and drink. Take tea or lunch in Seasons or Café U, Cream Chimneys, Off the Square or the Hoot ‘n’ Cat. Try Cobbles, Lemon and Thyme or Contented Vine for dinner. Round your day off with a wee drink in Rutherfords, Scotland first Micropub.
by Kat from Wandering Bird
One of our favourite day trips from Edinburgh is to visit Loch Lomond, in the Trossachs National Park.
This incredible loch has breathtaking views and a whole range of activities available to you.
You can get there by public transport, but our suggested method is hiring a car and enjoying a Scotland road trip– there are so many places you’ll be able to explore. The drive is about 90 minutes and you’ll pass some beautiful places on the way.
What you do first depends entirely on your interests, but we highly recommend doing a little historic sightseeing.
One of the most famous castles in the area is here- Balloch Castle, built in the 13th century. The castle is set in Balloch Country Park and the entire area is well worth your time.
For lunch, visit the beautiful (and very old!) village of Luss. There’s a small beach here and also a boat tour which allows you to spend 90 minutes on the loch enjoying the views.
There are a couple of pubs and restaurants to enjoy some food and a well-earned ice cream.
In the afternoon, try something more active. There’s kayaking, hiking and even water-skiing for those who fancy it. There are plenty of options and the tourist offices will be able to help you with more details.
Melrose in the Scottish Borders
by Kathi from Watch Me See
Melrose is a bustling village in the Scottish Borders (40 miles south of Edinburgh). Nestled at the feet of the Eildon Hills, steeped in Roman and Scottish history and on the banks of the beautiful River Tweed, it is the perfect getaway from the city.
There are many things to do in Melrose. Whether you’re a history buff, book lover, outdoor enthusiast or a couple in search of romantic places to visit – Melrose has got it all.
Start with a tour around the ruins of Melrose Abbey and find the place where the heart of King Robert the Bruce was buried in 1329.
Grab a light bite at Greenhouse Cafe and put on your hiking boots. A trail leads from the village up to the Eildon Hills which offer a great vantage point. Climb one or all three – it should only take a few hours.
In the afternoon, head on to Tweedbank to visit Abbotsford House, the stately home of Scottish historic novelist, Sir Walter Scott. Fairytale vibes!
Next, drive up to Scott’s View for a magnificent view back to Melrose and the Eildon Hills. The location is named after the writer, who allegedly fell in love with the Scottish Borders in this very spot.
Book a table for dinner at Provender or Burts Hotel in Melrose before making your way back to Edinburgh.
Travel info: The easiest is to drive to Melrose (1 hour), but you can also catch the train to Tweedbank (1 hour) and continue on a local bus to Melrose (5 min).
by Chrysoula from Historic European Castles
The iconic Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, and is still home to The Campbell family today. The castle is situated on the shore of Loch Fyne has a Gothic Revival style with large turrets and spires and sweeping landscaped gardens. While the original castle was mostly destroyed in a fire in 1877, the design still features aspects of the various styles from the 1400s and the later Vanbrugh design of the 1700s.
Inveraray is thought to be one of Scotland’s most haunted castles and whether you’re coming for the ghost stories or the spectacular architecture, you won’t be disappointed.
Inveraray Castle is located just over 100 miles north-west of Edinburgh and can be reached on a day trip from the capital (or even easier from Glasgow), traveling through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. The journey from Edinburgh takes between 2.5-3 hours and can be taken by car or enjoyed as part of a day trip stopping off at Oban, Loch Lomand, and Kilchurn Castle en route.
This is a lovely cultural day trip that is great for all the family and is a wonderful way to enjoy both the history and landscapes of Scotland.
Holy Island Day Trip from Edinburgh
by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Just off the coast from Northumberland is the lovely tidal island of Lindisfarne aka Holy Island. It’s a small island but full of history and beautiful scenery.
The best place to learn about the history is Lindisfarne Priory which dates back to the 7th-century. It’s an English Heritage site. Start by going to the visitor’s centre, then explore the ruins of the Priory. Then you can check out the three-mile-long nature trail which has numbered posts to mark the best places to stop along the way to take in the views and spot the birds. You can also go inside Lindisfarne Castle, which is free to National Trust Members. End your day by doing a tasting of the famous Lindisfarne Mead from St. Aidan’s Winery.
As you can see there are plenty of things to do on Holy Island, it’s definitely worth a visit from Edinburgh. Just be sure to check the tide times and only cross the causeway when it is safe. If you drive, it takes about an hour and a half to get to Holy Island. Alternatively, you can take the train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and get a taxi from there.
by Sonja from Migrating Miss
Glen Coe is one of the most picturesque and iconic landscapes in Scotland. It’s a long day trip from Edinburgh, purely because there are so many great places to stop along the way, but it’s well worth it!
Driving from Edinburgh to Glen Coe by car one way takes around 2 hours 45 minutes, but you’ll want to factor in extra time for stops too. I’d recommend at least Stirling, Doune Castle, and the Loch Lubnaig rest stop just after Callander at the very least. There’s also the Kelpies, or even Luss on Loch Lomond or even Culross in Fife, depending on which driving route you decide to take.
The beauty of Glen Coe itself starts as you cross Rannoch Moor and spot Buachaille Etive Mor, you might recognise it from the James Bond Skyfall film! The actual entrance to the glen begins at Buachaille Etive Beag, the next mountain along, and after that you’ll spot the iconic Three Sisters. This is usually where people stop to admire the view, although you can also stop at the Glencoe Visitor Centre to learn more about the area and see the views from there too.
The village of Glencoe is situated just past the glen itself, and makes a natural turn around point for your journey. This day trip from Edinburgh takes you through some absolutely stunning scenery that will remind you exactly why Scotland is so amazing!
By Pauline from BeeLoved City
If you want to discover a beautiful seaside Scottish town, St Andrews will be the perfect for you!
Saint-Andrews is a traditional and authentic town, full of history like Edinburgh! It became very famous a few years ago as it is the place where Prince William went to Uni and met Kate Middleton!
The best way to get there is to hop on a train from Edinburgh. The journey is only 1 hour and a half long and you will get to see beautiful landscapes from the train.
St Andrews is full of tiny cute streets, perfect for a wander! Walk around, look at the beautiful houses, get a coffee in one of the cafes…
St Andrews is home to one of the best universities in the country. There are a lot of students which makes the town very lively. You will find a lot of pubs that offer delicious breakfasts and lunches!
Due to its location by the sea, St Andrews is also the perfect place to get a fish and chips!
You can then take the coastal path and visit St Andrews Castle.
Finally, enjoy the beautiful beaches! Scotland might not be the warmest destination but it sure has stunning sandy beaches! The one in St Andrews is wide and long, perfect to go on a walk and enjoy the sea breeze!
As most activities in St Andrews are outdoors, it’s a very good place to travel with a dog.
by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Glenfinnan, like Edinburgh, has garnered rather massive fanbase following from Harry Potter enthusiasts who during the summer months in Scotland join a pilgrimage to see the ‘real-life’ Hogwarts Express, or, at least, the real-life setting at Glenfinnan Viaduct which was the backdrop of these now-iconic Harry Potter movie scenes.
So twice daily the Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Hogwarts Express) would puff on past on the bridge during the summer months (June – October) when there will be huge gatherings in the area, many starting out at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre (National Trust) before trekking to the base of the viaduct or viewpoints in the surrounding hills.
The daily times of the Hogwarts Express are normally around 11:00AM and 15:00PM daily so, with a travel time of 3-hours from Edinburgh, it is best to join an afternoon visit when there are 2 trains passing on the route out as well as on the return along the route from Fort William to Mallaig.
A visit should also fit well with a wider day trip itinerary in the Scottish Highlands including the scenic surroundings of Glencoe and just so many mountains and Lochs in between. Fort William is also an ideal vantage point for longer stays.
By Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan
Dunfermline is a small and quiet town today, which belies the fact that it used to be the capital of Scotland. Dunfermline Abbey and Dunfermline Palace, two of the town’s main attractions, are right next to each other and not to be missed. The Abbey is where many of Scotland’s kings and queens were buried, the most famous of whom is Robert the Bruce. The palace was built a few hundred years after the Abbey, in the 16th century. It didn’t last long, though, and was unfortunately sacked during the Scottish Reformation. But the ruins are still quite atmospheric.
Queen Margaret, who was arguably the most influential woman in the history of Scotland, had close ties to Dunfermline. Her personal holy retreat, St Margarets Cave, is worth a visit to enjoy the unique atmosphere and to learn more about the role Margaret played in transforming the nation.
Good places to grab a bite to eat in town include Tapas Ducal, Seven Kings Pub, and the Everest Inn. If you have time before returning to Edinburgh, do a little exploring of the surrounding countryside too. The village of Crossford is just a 45-minute walk away and is home to the first fully vegan B&B in Scotland. Both buses and trains run between Edinburgh and Dunfermline. Buses are generally a bit cheaper and only around 10 minutes longer, taking 40 minutes instead of 30.
by Sonja from Scotland for Families
You could easily drive right past Finnich Glen and not even know it’s there. This 70 ft deep glen is located just off the A809, and you need to descend down the aptly named Devil’s Staircase to enter it.
The staircase was constructed around 1860 and is more a series of huge stones than actual steps. It is notoriously muddy and slippery, although helpful people often attach ropes for you to hold onto along the way.
Your reward for making the descent is the beautiful Finnich Glen, made of high luscious green walls with a river running through the middle. The river is a dark reddish brown colour, owing to the red sandstone of the gorge and you’ll also find a particular rock called the Devil’s Pulpit, made of said sandstone.
If you don’t mind getting your feet wet then you can take a walk further up the river to see more of the gorge. We took some lunch with us and had a picnic!
Finnich Glen is around an hour and 20 minutes drive from Edinburgh. This day trip is best done by car as public transport doesn’t stop right near it and can be intermittent. However, this is not a managed site and you need to take care if you decide to visit. There is a small carpark just down the road but you’ll then need to walk along the grass verge before walking through the forest to get to the staircase.
You should only attempt this trip on fine days and not after rain, as the stairs will be at their worst. It can get busy on the weekend so plan to go early, or choose a weekday instead!
By Monique from TripAnthropologist
Hadrian’s Wall is in Northumberland, in northern England between Bowness-on-Solway and Wallsend. This 73 mile-long wall was built in 122 AD on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to mark and defend the northern most limit of Roman rule. Along the length of the wall are dozens of forts, towers and gates. The wall was in use for the defense of Roman Britain for 300 years until the end of Roman rule in the fifth century.
The whole Wall has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987 and there are many different Hadrian’s Wall Walks that are some of the most popular walking and hiking adventures in the UK. There is an 84 mile-long Hadrian’s Wall National Trail Path and a new Hadrian’s Wall cycle way.
The trip from Edinburgh to Hadrian’s Wall passes through the beautiful Scottish borders country. In only two hours you have travelled the 98 miles to Hadrian’s Wall, crossing the border into Northumberland National Park. Housesteads Fort is a well-developed site with the remains of the Fort, barrack blocks, and a hospital as well as beautiful sections of the Wall high on an escarpment looking down into the Scottish valleys. English Heritage maintain the site and there is a museum, gift shop and café on site.
by Fiona from London-Unattached
Scone Palace in Perthshire, Scotland was originally an Abbey and the site where 38 Kings of Scotland were crowned (including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce). It was central to Scottish history, Parliament was often held on Moot Hill in the estate and the Abbey bell was sounded whenever a new law was passed to let the people of Scotland know!
While the original Abbey was destroyed in 1559, the Bishop’s Palace remained and was rebuilt in 1808. The current owners are descendants of Sir David Murray of Gospetrie who was given the estate by James VI of Scotland in 1600.
Scone means place of beauty in Gaelic and the palace is a stunning building in glorious manicured grounds. You can see the legendary stone of scone and learn how the English tried to use it to take control of Scotland. And, you can marvel at the fine collection of art and Sevres porcelain. There’s also a lovely Zoffany painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, which has a fabulous story behind it and has been made into a film ‘Belle’. Definitely worth seeking out.
It is an hour and a quarter from Edinburgh by train to Perth and then a short taxi ride to the Palace. Or, if you have your own car, it should take just under an hour. There are also plenty of coach trips from Edinburgh should you prefer a group tour.
Which day trip from Edinburgh would you like to go on?
Let me know in the comments below.
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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the following day trips around Europe:
- 6 Great Day trips from Hamburg
- Amazing Day Trips from Brussels
- Best Day Trips from Amsterdam
- 10 Day Trips from Bologna
Larch has had wanderlust all her life, travelling as much as she can whenever she can. Now in her 50’s, she writes about her adventures on her travel blog The Silver Nomad to encourage travellers of all ages to look at different destinations. In early 2019, she qualified as a CAA PfCO Drone Pilot and now travels with her DJI Mavic Pro to capture aerial videos and photos to enhance her work.