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The Scottish capital is one of the most fascinating places to visit in the UK. Spades of history and culture, vibrant restaurant and nightlife scenes, and if you come in August, the biggest arts festival in the world. Edinburgh is a city where you won’t get bored!
However, you might feel like you need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life after a while. Scotland was recently voted as the most beautiful country in the world, so you’ll want to take in some of that while you have the chance, right?!
We can help you plan that. Our team of expert travel writers have put together this guide to the best day trips from Edinburgh. There’s plenty to suit different travel styles, budgets, and interests.
So, let’s jump straight in. Here are the 15 best day trips from Edinburgh!
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The Scottish capital has thousands of accommodation options, so knowing where to stay in Edinburgh is a tricky riddle to solve. Do you want to be close to the charismatic Royal Mile?
Perhaps you’d like to have a view of the Castle from the New Town? You may even want to base yourself further out to get some peace and quiet. Here are three of the best places to stay in Edinburgh. They may have different price ranges and travel styles, but they all guarantee a wonderful stay!
Set in the West End of town, this is the perfect option if you want to experience local life while still close to the city centre attractions. It’s one of the most reasonably priced hotels in the whole of Edinburgh!
There’s a great restaurant and bar on site. Try the Scottish favourite haggis before enjoying one of the lively quiz nights!
Located in Edinburgh’s New Town, each room here is designed and decorated in a traditional Scottish style. The friendly and quiet atmosphere is just one of the reasons to make this your base in Scotland. From the bar and restaurant, you can enjoy views of Queen Street Gardens. However, the real treat is if your room is on the top floor. From some rooms, you can get views all the way to Fife!
The Witchery by the Castle is as you’d expect from the name, right by the castle. This five star option is definitely the best luxury hotel in Edinburgh. The Gothic-inspired suites reflect Edinburgh’s ghoulish past while supplying you with the ultimate comfort. If this hotel tickles your fancy, you’d best book quickly. There are only 9 suites!
Best Day Trip from Edinburgh – Loch Ness
Best Day Trip from Edinburgh by Train – Stirling
Best Day Trip from Edinburgh by Car – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Best Romantic Day Trip from Edinburgh for Couples – The Outlander Experience
Best Day Trip from Edinburgh with Kids – Fort William and the Hogwarts Express
It’s no surprise that Loch Ness is one of the most popular day trips from Edinburgh. The loch is steeped in mystery and intrigue, and it’s said to be home to a monster. Bring your binoculars and your camera, you may be the first to get absolute proof of its existence!
It’s a 3 hour coach trip from Edinburgh to Loch Ness, but it won’t feel that way. The trip through the Scottish Highlands is spellbinding. Sweeping landscapes, ancient castles and mountains all await you on the way. This is one journey you don’t want to fall asleep on.
At the loch itself, take a boat trip out onto the calm (but cold waters). Also, if you fancy getting acquainted with local history, check out Urquhart Castle!
Stirling is one of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train. That’s partly because it’s just 40 minutes away and you can get a return ticket for less than £10! Known as the Gateway to the Highlands, Stirling is a lovely place to spend the day, but it also has a lot of attractions nearby.
The most obvious is the castle, which sits atop the hill the city stands on. Go inside to learn about the history of the castle and the city, which is pretty fascinating. This place dates back to the Medieval times and actually withstood several Viking attacks!
As well as a picturesque city centre, there’s plenty to see nearby. If you have time to get out of the city, we’d recommend Doune Castle, which starred in Outlander!
Glencoe was voted Scotland’s most romantic glen. So, it’s definitely one of the best romantic day trips for couples from Edinburgh! No matter who you’re travelling with, you can’t fail to be impressed by the stunning valley and surrounding mountains.
It’s one of the most popular spots in Scotland for outdoor activities too. You can go walking or mountaineering in the Munros surrounding the valley. For a more relaxed alternative, check out the tea rooms and shops of the village of Ballachulish, all the while enjoying the stunning views!
If you have more than a day to spend exploring the Highlands, Glencoe is a great place to stay overnight! It’s also often included in day trips with Loch Ness, so you can easily visit both of these stunning locations.
Probably the best day trip from Edinburgh by car, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs are proof that wild and untamed countryside is within easy reach of the Scottish capital. This is a great alternative if you don’t want to go all the way to Loch Ness or Glencoe. In fact, it’s often referred to as the Mini Highlands!
Remarkably, this was actually the first national park in Scotland. A great way to get better acquainted with it is by taking a boat cruise on the peaceful Loch Lomond.
This day trip isn’t just packed with natural beauty, but you can also learn a lot about Scottish history too. After all, the area around here was the home of legendary outlaw Rob Roy McGregor!
Let’s make this simple. These are the best hotels in Edinburgh!
Home to the oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Scotland is the pretty town of St. Andrews. Although, fans of golf will know the place well for a very different reason! It’s one of the easiest day trips from Edinburgh via bus, train, or car, and will take you around 1 and a half hours to get there.
Once you arrive, explore the town centre, packed with pubs, souvenir shops, and a fair few fine dining options! You can also check out the university’s buildings. If you want to escape the town, head to West Sands Beach, where Chariots of Fire was filmed.
Near St. Andrews, there are also some charming fishing villages, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit them if you have it!
A report in 2015 listed Edinburgh as the 3rd safest city in the world. That’s pretty good going! Obviously, as it’s a capital city, there are some things you should look out for. As with any big city, pickpocketing and petty crime is a risk, but use common sense and big city awareness to minimise the risk of that happening!
Although we already mentioned that Glencoe is pretty romantic, it’s just about trumped by this. Yes, if you’ve watched Outlander, you’ll know that it’s the most enchanting (and possibly only) TV show set in 18th century Scotland. Visiting some of the key filming locations definitely makes for the most romantic day trip from Edinburgh!
Recreate Claire and Jamie’s scenes (not those ones) at the home of Clan MacKenzie, Doune Castle, see the stately home of Hopetoun House, and visit Linlithgow Palace. If you’re a fan of the books or especially the TV series, don’t miss out on this fantastic day trip!
Lots of people have a clear favourite between Edinburgh and Glasgow when they travel to Scotland. This cool day trip offers you the chance to make your own mind up, and it’s just an hour away on the train. This is a very easy one to do since trains travel between the two cities regularly each day!
The city has involved in recent years to becoming one of the most exciting cities in the UK. A burgeoning music scene, great places to eat, yet it’s still down to earth and great fun. Look out for the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh across the city.
Less subtle are the large Victorian buildings throughout Glasgow, one of the most impressive being the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There are incredible exhibits here, and the park which surrounds it is a great place to disconnect from city life!
A lot of the trips we’ve included so far involve heading north to the Highlands. However, it can be just as rewarding taking a trip south from Edinburgh, as this trip to Rosslyn Chapel proves!
The chapel is set in a small town on the outskirts of Edinburgh and is one of the holiest religious sites in the entire country. You may recognise it too – it had a starring role in the film version of the Da Vinci Code!
Trips here often include trips to nearby Melrose Abbey, the burial site of Robert the Bruce’s heart. And of course, it wouldn’t be Scotland without heading to a whisky distillery!
There’s no question that riding the Hogwarts Express is the best day trip from Edinburgh with kids! Although it’s possible to do this in a day, it’s really magical if you can give yourself two to do the train ride and visit Fort William. Yet another town known as the gateway to the Highlands!
On the Jacobite Steam train, you’ll get sumptuous views of Loch Ness and the highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis. Although not at the same time! You’ll even pass over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. You’re sure to recognise that from a famous scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!
Falkirk is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Edinburgh (as long as you get on a train). You can get there in less than half an hour from the Scottish capital! It’s a notable spot for proud Scots and history buffs alike, as it’s where William Wallace died in 1298.
As well as the historical side of Falkirk, you can be really wowed by some of the architecture here. The Falkirk wheel connects two canals, but that’s not the impressive part. It’s that it’s the only rotary connector in the world! It’s certainly intriguing to look at.
Also, you won’t want to miss the Kelpies, the largest equine statues in the world. The mythical water-dwelling horses look especially good at night, and positively demonic if you see them lit up in red!
One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of a city is by going to the beach. You’ll be happy to know that just 30 minutes away on the train, you can get to North Berwick. This pretty place is the definition of a Scottish seaside town!
If you don’t mind braving the waters of the North Sea, take a paddleboard out into the waves or go for a swim. If you do mind, you can always just walk along the beach with an ice cream. Just make sure you avoid the cheeky seagulls!
Those who do want to get close to seabirds should check out Bass Rock, where large colonies congregate. The Seabird Centre is well worth a visit too!
This Gateway to the Highlands title really is being aggressively wrestled… Callander is another town when you’ll often stop on the way to Blair Atholl that claims this title! In fairness, it is right in the heart of the Grampian Mountains and the Central Highlands.
The town of Blair Atholl is well worth exploring, and its castle is one of the most famous stately homes in Scotland. The town does have a rich history and was once the home of the only private army in the UK: the Atholl Highlanders!
Nearby, there are some stunning Highland locations. These include the Falls of Bruar, Ben Vrackie, and Loch Tummel!
Travel from the modern-day capital of Scotland to the town that held the status for 600 years! Perth has lost none of its splendour even though the title is long gone.
For many, Scone Palace is the highlight of a visit to Perth. It’s one of the best examples of late Georgian Gothic style architecture in the whole of the UK. After exploring the palace, you’re bound to feel your stomach rumbling.
Well, you’re in luck! Perth is considered a foodie haven. It’s one of the best places to try traditional Scottish food in the entire country.
Edinburgh is just over an hour away from the English border by car, so it’s perfectly feasible to take a day trip down into England! And what a beautiful county you’ll be travelling to: Northumberland.
The main sites that you’ll want to see in Northern Northumberland are Holy Island and Alnwick Castle. Holy Island was once one of the most important religious learning centres in the entire British Isles.
There’s also the characterful market town of Alnwick. The castle was used as a filming location in the Harry Potter films, and you can eat in a treehouse restaurant there!
If you’re planning to drive yourself on this tour, do check the tide times for getting to and from Holy Island. You definitely don’t want to get stuck on the causeway!
A disclaimer to start off with: Skye is a very ambitious day trip from Edinburgh. By car, it takes around 5 hours, and that’s without traffic and roadworks. It’s better to take a couple of days or a multi-day trip to this stunningly beautiful island, the largest of the Inner Hebrides.
Head to the Talisker whisky distillery to learn about how its produced and have a sample. Be amazed by the green waters of the Fairy Pools, or if you’re really adventurous, try your hand at climbing The Cuillins.
We’ve definitely cheated by including Skye in our list of the best day trips from Edinburgh, but you’ll thank us for it if you end up travelling here!
So, that concludes our list of the best day trips from Edinburgh. Whether you head north, south, east, or west, you’ll find something that will appeal to all ages. Scotland is full of dramatic landscapes, mountains, lochs, and some would even say monsters! The jury’s still out on that one…
If you’re travelling by train, you’ll be delighted to know that as the Scottish capital, Edinburgh has excellent connections across the country. You can also easily head south to England too! For some of the trips though, it will definitely be easier if you take a tour or have your own transport. Especially out into the Highlands!
Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple, or with the family, you’ll find a day trip from Edinburgh perfectly suited to you. We hope you have a great vacation in Scotland and do let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed anything!
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