Seen the Edinburgh Castle from many different angles and strolled a zillion times along the Royal Mile? If you have experienced all the amazing things to do in Edinburgh, it’s worth taking a day trip to uncover some of the surrounding hidden gems of Scotland.
No matter if you are a frequent visitor or a resident, we recommend adding a few day trips to your Edinburgh itinerary. So, hop on a train or into your car, and go on an epic adventure around Scotland.
Day Trips Less Than One Hour from Edinburgh
The largest city in Scotland, Glasgow is one of the easiest day trips from Edinburgh. The city is renowned for its various avant-garde museums, friendly locals, shopping opportunities, colourful street arts and buzzing nightlife.
There are loads of fun and cultural things to do in Glasgow in a day for every traveller.
No visit to Glasgow is complete without a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. From ancient Egyptian artefacts to Renaissance art, Kelvingrove houses a vast collection of 8000 objects within its 22 galleries.
Next, visit the historic Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Mungo – the patron saint of Glasgow. It is the oldest and only surviving medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland.
Riverside Museum is another unmissable attraction in the city. It has an impressive collection of 3,000 objects, reflecting the rich industrial legacy of Glasgow. Also, visit the nearby Tall Ship Glenlee.
Also, watch out for the beautiful street murals around the city. Before heading back to Edinburgh from your day trip, don’t forget to check out Glasgow’s diverse food scene.
How to Get to Glasgow: There are frequent bus and train services from Edinburgh. It takes around an hour and a half by bus and about 45 minutes by train.
From the battleground of William Wallace’s victory against the English army to being the home of one of the oldest castles in Scotland, there are loads of awesome things to do in Stirling – a myriad of fascinating history waiting to be explored.
Sitting proudly over a volcanic crag, Stirling Castle is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland. It was the primary Scottish royal residence before the Act of Union with England.
From the castle esplanade, you will get a stunning panoramic view of the city, Forth River, Ochil Hills and National Wallace Monument.
Wallace Monument is another must-visit landmark in Scotland. It commemorates Sir William Wallace – one of the greatest national heroes of Scotland. Once here, you can climb the 246-step spiral staircase to reach the top of the monument. The views are well worth the effort! Also, there are exhibitions showcasing historical artefacts and busts of several famous Scottish personalities.
Other attractions in Stirling include The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, the Battle of Bannockburn Experience, Old Stirling Bridge and Cambuskenneth Abbey.
How to Reach: You simply need to take the train from Edinburgh Waverley. It will take you to Stirling in about 50 minutes.
3. North Berwick, East Lothian
Sandy beaches, abundance of wildlife, scenic boat tours, dramatic rock formations, the smell of fresh fish & chips, golf courses and a clifftop ruined castle – this seaside town has all the ingredients for an ideal day trip from Edinburgh.
Make your way to the Scottish Seabird Centre near the beautiful North Berwick Harbour. They operate various boat trips to the local islands and give you the opportunity to see the wildlife of this area up close.
You can visit the famous Bass Rock, a tiny island on the Firth of Forth and home to the largest gannet colony in the world. Tours run from late March to early October.
North Berwick has two extensive sandy beaches. Weather permitting, you can sunbathe, picnic or explore the rock pools. Also, you can sample some delicious local seafood at Lobster Shack.
If you are up for a little hike, climb the North Berwick Law. You will get an uninterrupted view of the coast, Bass Rock, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh and the Pentlands.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit the Tantallon Castle, a 14th-century ruined fortress located on the outskirts of North Berwick.
How to Reach: Train from Edinburgh Waverley only takes 30 minutes to get to North Berwick.
4. South Queensferry and Inchcolm Island
Situated on the shore of the Firth of Forth, South Queensferry is a must-visit for anyone travelling to Edinburgh. The cobbled streets of this picturesque coastal town are lined with colourful houses, cosy cafes, bakeries, restaurants, traditional pubs and shops.
One of the main tourist attractions of South Queensferry is the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 for its extraordinary engineering and design. When it was completed in 1890, this rail bridge was the longest single cantilever bridge in the world.
Many sightseeing tour companies offer guided boat tours of the three Forth Bridges. You might spot seals, puffins, and various species of marine wildlife.
We will highly recommend taking a boat tour to the island of Inchcolm as well. There, you will find the historic Inchcolm Abbey. It was founded in the 12th century by Augustinian monks and is called ‘Iona of the East’.
You can visit South Queensferry and Inchcolm Island in half a day. But if you are staying longer, you might add the nearby Hopetoun House and Midhope Castle to your travel itinerary.
How to Reach: Hop on the local Lothian Bus service 43 from Princes Street. Also, there are regular train services from Edinburgh Waverley to Dalmeny, which take only 15 minutes.
5. Linlithgow and Falkirk
Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh located only half an hour’s drive away from Edinburgh. Tourists visit this historic town on a day trip to explore the ruins of Linlithgow Palace.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the palace served as one of the main residences of Scottish monarchs. Mary, Queen of Scots was born here in 1542. After your visit to the Linlithgow Palace, take a stroll around the scenic Linlithgow Loch.
Not too far from Linlithgow, Falkirk is home to two of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions – The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel.
Residing inside Helix Park, The Kelpies are two gigantic, metal horse-head sculptures. They are the largest equine sculptures in the world and depict the mythical creature from Scottish folklore known as Kelpie. Also, they are a homage to the horse-powered industrial heritage of this area.
The Falkirk Wheel is another feat of Scottish engineering. It is the first and only rotating boat lift in the world. It connects the Forth and Clyde Canals with the Union Canal. You can take a boat ride to experience it.
How to Reach: Trains from Edinburgh to Linlithgow take about 25 minutes. Linlithgow and Falkirk are well-connected by regular bus and train services.
6. Pentland Hills Regional Park
If you are visiting Edinburgh in summer and feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, we highly recommend hopping on a bus and heading down to the Pentland Hills Regional Park. You simply can’t beat a day out in nature.
If you have climbed Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat, you would have noticed a range of hills to the south of Edinburgh. These are the Pentland Hills. It is a perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities like walking, cycling, horse riding and fishing.
There are 100km of waymarked routes around the park that are suitable for both experienced and novice hikers.
We loved the hike to Allermuir Hill. It starts from the snowsports centre at Hillend and takes around 2.5-3.5 hours. From here, you will get a sweeping view over Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth, the Fife coastline and the countryside.
Scald Law is the highest point of the Pentland Hills. The hike to Scald Law starts from Flotterstone and takes about 5-6 hours.
How to Reach: There are various access points to enter the Pentlands. You can catch Lothian bus service 4 to reach Hillend. Alternatively, you can ride bus service 101, 101A and 102 to Flotterstone.
7. Roslin, Midlothian
This idyllic place is very close to Edinburgh and makes a great day trip choice.
The small village of Roslin is home to the historic Rosslyn Chapel, one of the most prominent religious sites in Scotland. The chapel appeared in Dan Brown’s famous mystery thriller novel, The Da Vinci Code and later in the movie starring Tom Hanks.
Rosslyn Chapel was founded in the mid-15th century by Sir William St Clair. The interior of this chapel is stunning. You can admire the intricate stonework and mysterious symbolism of the walls. The dramatic ornate carvings of angels, knights, gargoyles and green men make this place mysterious. There are many myths and legends associated with Rosslyn Chapel.
After exploring the chapel, take a short stroll to visit Roslin Castle. Perched over a steep-sided wooded valley overlooking the River North Esk, this ruined castle was founded in the early 14th century by the aristocratic Sinclair family.
There are various walking trails around Roslin Glen. From Roslin Castle, you can follow the signposted pathway to the gunpowder mills, reminiscent of this area’s industrial past. Also, this woodland is a haven for diverse wildlife.
How to Reach: Jump on Lothian Bus service 37 from Edinburgh city centre.
Day Trips Between One to Two Hours from Edinburgh
Loch Lomond is one of the best places to visit in Scotland and is not too far from Edinburgh for a day trip. It is the largest freshwater lake by surface in Britain and an outstanding place to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Start your adventure from Balloch, a beautiful village on the shore of Loch Lomond. Take a wee wander around the beautiful gardens of Balloch Castle Country Park. One of the best ways to admire the lake and the surrounding landscapes is by boat cruise. Several companies operate tours from Balloch.
Another nearby tourist attraction is the tiny village of Luss. Located on the west bank of Loch Lomond, Luss is famous for its neatly lined quaint cottages, well-maintained gardens and breathtaking panoramic views of Loch Lomond. During summer, you can take a dip in the lake.
There are many hiking trails around this area. Avid walkers might consider climbing the mighty Ben Lomond. Alternatively, we recommend hiking to Conic Hill from Balmaha.
Before heading back to Edinburgh, if you have time, make your way to the historic town of Inveraray.
How to Reach: There is no direct train. So, you will have to change trains at Glasgow Queen Street Station. It takes only 50 minutes from there to reach Balloch.
If you fancy visiting someplace offbeat for a day out in nature, St Abbs is the place for you. It takes about an hour to drive here from Edinburgh.
St Abbs is a small fishing village on the Berwickshire Coast in the Scottish Borders. There are plenty of things to do in St Abbs for all travellers.
Recently, the movie Avengers: Endgame was filmed in this fishing village. It also appeared in the Harry Styles music video, Adore You.
Nature lovers will love a scenic hike around the St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve. It takes approx an hour to reach the beautiful St Abbs Head Lighthouse. The view of the village and the coastline is absolutely stunning.
From May to July, thousands of seabirds nest here. Watch out for guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, shags, herring gulls and fulmars. Also, peel your eyes out for dolphins and porpoises.
Meander around the tiny harbour of the village. Boat tours depart from here. Pop inside the Ebbcarrs Cafe to try out their delicious crab sandwich and Cullen Skink.
How to Reach: Take the train from Edinburgh towards Berwick-upon-Tweed. It takes about 40 minutes to reach Berwick. From there, catch the local 235 bus towards St Abbs.
10. Culross & Dunfermline, Fife
Culross is one of the prettiest villages in Scotland. Wandering through the narrow cobbled street makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. This coastal village has appeared in the popular TV series, Outlander.
Culross, combined with Dunfermline, makes a wonderful day trip choice from Edinburgh. It is perfect for all history and nature lovers.
One of the main tourist attractions of Culross is the bright-yellow-coloured Culross Palace. It was founded in the 17th century by a wealthy merchant. You can take a tour of the palace. For a lovely panoramic view, climb to the top of the palace garden. Also, check out the ruins of Culross Abbey.
Dunfermline is the newest city in Scotland. Dunfermline Abbey and Palace is a must-visit. Many notable Scottish kings and prominent historical figures are buried here. It is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s great warrior king.
Later, you can visit the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum close to the abbey.
How to Reach: You can catch a bus or train from Edinburgh to get to Dunfermline. Trains only take 38 minutes. From Dunfermline, Stagecoach operates buses 8 and 8A to Culross.
Referred to as the ‘City of Discovery’, this city on the bank of the Firth of Tay is famous for its industrial and maritime heritage. In 2014, Dundee was declared the UK’s first-ever UNESCO City of Design. Dundee is the perfect destination for spending a day outside of Edinburgh.
Start your Dundee adventure with a visit to the V&A Dundee. Opened in 2018, this is the first design museum in Scotland, and entry is free. They host various galleries and exhibitions showcasing Scottish creativity. Adjacent to the museum is the RRS Discovery, a Dundee-built steamship used in Antarctic expeditions.
The McManus Art Gallery & Museum is a must-visit for all art lovers visiting the city. The stunning Gothic Revival-style building houses a great display of paintings, sculptures and artefacts.
If you have time, visit the nearby Glamis Castle, unarguably one of the prettiest castles in Scotland. Located just 12 miles from Dundee, it is the childhood home of The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret.
How to Reach: The easiest way to get to Dundee is by train. Direct trains leave regularly from Edinburgh and take about an hour and a half. Also, there are bus services run by Megabus and Ember Bus.
World-famous golf courses, vast sandy beaches, a ruined medieval cathedral, and dramatic coastal views make this lovely university town a top day trip choice from Edinburgh.
The dramatic ruin of St Andrews Cathedral is a must-see tourist attraction in St Andrews. Built in the 12th century, it was the largest church in Scotland and was once an important religious site.
The cathedral museum has a great collection of Pictish carvings, medieval stoneworks and sculptures. Climb St Rule’s Tower to get a stunning view over to the city and the surrounding areas of Fife.
The Old Course in St Andrews Links is one of the most iconic places in the world for all golf lovers. Frequently referred to as the home of golf, it is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. Golf has been played here since the 15th century. It is open to the public. So, you can book a spot here too.
Take a stroll around the extensive West Sands Beach. It was featured in the movie, Chariots of Fire. Before saying goodbye to this seaside town, taste the delicious ice cream from Jannettas Gelateria.
How to Reach: Trains from Edinburgh to Leuchars take around an hour and a quarter. There are frequent local bus services from there that will take you to St Andrews in nearly 10 minutes.
13. Melrose, Scottish Borders
Often overlooked by tourists, Scottish Borders is a fantastic place to spend a day away from Edinburgh and enjoy the Scottish countryside. Also, this area of Scotland has some of the most beautiful ruined abbeys in the UK.
Melrose is one of the most picturesque towns in the Scottish Borders and the home of the historic Melrose Abbey. It was founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks on the orders of King David I. Several Scottish royalties are buried here. Most famously, Melrose Abbey is the final resting place of the heart of the legendary Scottish warrior, Robert the Bruce.
Next, stroll around the beautiful Harmony Garden and Priorwood Garden. If you are here in summer, pop inside the Priorwood to see the blooming apple orchard.
Outdoor enthusiasts would love a hike to the nearby Eildon Hill. It takes around 3-4 hours to complete the circuit. The stunning view over Melrose and the surrounding landscapes are well worth the effort.
A five-minute drive from Melrose will bring you to Abbotsford House, the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott, a renowned Scottish writer.
How to reach Melrose: Trains leaving from Edinburgh take about an hour to reach Tweedbank. From there, local bus services 67 and 68 take only 11 minutes to get to Melrose town centre.
14. The Fishing Villages of Fife and the Isle of May
Without a doubt, Fife has some of the prettiest seaside villages in Scotland. You can definitely visit some of these charming fishing villages on your day trip from Edinburgh. They sit on the famous Fife Coastal Path, a long-distance walking route.
Anstruther is the largest fishing port of East Neuk. Take a wander around the pretty streets and the busy harbour. This seaside settlement is famous for its fresh seafood. Try the traditional fish and chips at the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar.
From Anstruther, you can take a boat trip to explore the Isle of May. This tiny island in the middle of the Firth of Forth is home to numerous species of seabirds and wildlife. If you are visiting between April and August, the sight of cute little puffins will melt your heart.
The pretty fishing village of Crail lies about 4 miles walk along the coastline from Anstruther. Pop by Lobster Hut for some freshly caught lobsters and crabs.
Another stunning traditional fishing village in East Neuk is St Monans. Around the cosy harbour huddle a charming blend of whitewashed and colourful houses. Don’t miss to visit the photogenic St Monans Windmill and St Monans Parish Church.
How to Reach: It takes around an hour and a half to drive to Anstruther from Edinburgh. Also, you can catch Stagecoach bus X60 from the city centre.
15. Pitlochry, Perthshire
Surrounded by the stunning landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, Pitlochry is a charming little town in Perthshire. Dramatic vistas, extensive woodlands, scenic lochs and several hiking trails make this Victorian town a must-visit for day-trippers from Edinburgh.
We love travelling to Pitlochry in autumn when the leaves change colours, and the whole area looks absolutely spectacular.
Pitlochry is a nature lovers’ hotspot. Take a gentle stroll along the River Tummel to visit the salmon ladder and the atmospheric Loch Faskally. You can continue to follow the riverside path to Killiecrankie. Avid hikers will enjoy a walk to Ben Vrackie. From the summit, you will enjoy a spectacular view over Pitlochry and the surrounding mountains of Perthshire.
Catch a local bus from the town centre to visit the nearby Queens View. This iconic viewpoint is named after Queen Victoria, who visited this place in 1866 and fell in love with the sweeping view.
No visit to Scotland is complete without a tour of a distillery. Luckily, there are two distilleries in Pitlochry – Blair Athol Distillery and Edradour Distillery. They offer different guided tours and tasting sessions.
How to Reach: Direct trains from Edinburgh take around an hour and fifty minutes.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, usually known as Newcastle, is considered the unofficial capital of North East England. From magnificent architecture to vibrant nightlife – there are plenty of fantastic things to do in Newcastle. If you love city breaks, this day trip from Edinburgh is perfect for you.
Ramble around Grainger Town, the historic heart of Newcastle. The area is named after Richard Grainger, who reshaped Newcastle in a neoclassical style in the 19th century.
Next, make your way to Newcastle Castle, a 12th-century Norman fortress the city is named after. Take a tour to explore the chambers, dungeons and the prison.
Newcastle is the city of seven bridges. The iconic Tyne Bridge is the most famous of them. Constructed in 1928, it connects Newcastle with its neighbouring town, Gateshead.
Ramble along the Newcastle Quayside to enjoy stunning views of the Seven Bridges. This area on the River Tyne is brimming with various trendy restaurants, cosy cafes and gastro pubs.
Take a short bus ride to see the stunning sculpture of the Angel of the North by Antony Gormley.
How to Reach from Edinburgh: Trains from Waverley will bring you to Newcastle in about an hour and a half.
17. Alnwick Castle and Bamburgh, Northumberland
Now, we know what you must be thinking – why on earth would you go on a holiday to Scotland and then a day trip to England?
Well, with a driving time of less than two hours and well-connected public transport, it’s probably not the craziest idea.
Dramatic castles, miles of sandy beaches, fresh seafood, plenty of wildlife, and rich heritage, make Northumberland a popular day trip choice for tourists visiting Edinburgh.
The most famous attraction in this area is Alnwick Castle. It is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK. This magnificent fortress is one of the filming locations of the Harry Potter movies. Also, it appeared in the British TV series Downton Abbey.
Castle lovers and history buffs will be delighted to visit the Bamburgh Castle. The earliest surviving part of this legendary fortress dates from the 12th century. Also, from here, you will get an awe-inspiring view of the nearby Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland’s coastline, Lindisfarne Castle and Farne Islands.
How to Reach: Trains from Edinburgh takes almost an hour to get to Alnmouth. From there, the local bus takes about 12 minutes to reach the Alnwick bus station. Local bus services are operated by Arriva and Travelsure.
The cathedral city of Durham is another city in England that you can visit on a day trip from the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh. There are tons of amazing things to do in Durham.
Durham Cathedral is the main attraction in the city. It was built in the late 11th century to house the relics of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. Also, it is another Harry Potter film location in the UK.
In 1986, Durham Cathedral, alongside Durham Castle, received the UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Durham Castle was built in 1072 and has served as the official residence of the Prince Bishop of Durham. You can take a guided tour to learn the history of this castle.
River Wear flows through the heart of this historic city. Walk along the riverside path for a stunning view of the Cathedral and other important city buildings.
Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, is only 22 minutes drive from Durham.
How to Reach: CrossCountry and LNER operate train services from Edinburgh Waverley to Durham, and it takes only one hour and forty-five minutes.
Day Trips over Two Hours from Edinburgh
Truth be told, York is a long day trip from Edinburgh. If you’re short on time, spending a day in York will surely give you a good sense of this medieval city. It takes around two and a half hours of train journey to get here from Edinburgh.
York is an ancient city with over two thousand years of riveting history. Also, it is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the UK.
A visit to the York Minister should be on top of your York travel itinerary. This Gothic masterpiece was founded in the 7th century and has been a centre for Christianity.
A short walk from the Minister will bring you to The Shambles. This cobbled street is one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. Also, like Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Shambles is believed to be one of the inspirations behind Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series.
York is a walled city. You can walk the 2 miles circular route of the city wall to discover this city’s past.
Later, pop inside Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms for an opulent afternoon tea experience.
How to Reach: LNER and CrossCountry run frequent train services for York from Edinburgh. It is advisable to book your tickets well in advance.
20. Cairngorms National Park
Cairngorms is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. It is heaven for outdoor lovers.
A day trip to the Cairngorms from Edinburgh is certainly doable, especially on long summer days. Although the journey time is long, the train route is very scenic. If you are travelling by car, don’t miss a visit to the pretty village of Braemar.
From Edinburgh Waverley, take a train to Aviemore, the main town of the Cairngorms. There are plenty of cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops here. Also, the historic Strathspey Steam Railway leaves from here.
You can catch a local bus service to visit Loch Morlich, a beautiful freshwater loch with a sandy beach. Loch Morlich is a great place to enjoy various water sports. Also, you can admire the stunning backdrop of the majestic Cairngorms mountains.
Cairngorm Reindeer Herd Centre is within walking distance from Loch Morlich. You can take a guided walk to visit UK’s only wild reindeer herd.
Next, take a funicular train ride by Cairngorm Mountain Railway to get a breathtaking panoramic view from 1,097m above sea level.
How to Reach: Trains from Edinburgh Waverley take around two hours and fifty minutes to reach Aviemore train station. Local bus services are operated by Stagecoach.
Map of the Best Day Trips from Edinburgh
Here is a map of all the amazing day trip choices mentioned in this article. Click on the link to save the Google map on your phone. Moreover, you can use the map offline.
We hope this guide to the best places to visit on a day trip from Edinburgh has inspired you!
From picturesque fishing villages to buzzing cities – there is everything for all travellers. So, definitely add a few of them to your next adventure in Edinburgh.