There are Loads of Great Day Trips From Edinburgh!
In the off chance that you’re sick and tired of the magical Scottish city (yeah right), you may be looking for day trips from Edinburgh. Even some half day trips from Edinburgh are a nice way to see the local area (like Portobello Beach or the Pentlands) while not venturing too far from your base in the city. This post, however, is about day trips from Edinburgh – and boy are there many!
Admittedly, travelling outside of Edinburgh can be super easy if you have a car or the option of renting a vehicle. In that case, you might consider some of the areas we suggest below but do them as day trips from Edinburgh by car. For those travellers that have flown in or took the train, there are MANY trips you can take on regular public transit (bus or train) or on guided tours.
You can explore castles, ruins, the lochs, local whisky distilleries – you name it! There are even scenic train trips from Edinburgh that you can hop on!
You might be impressed to know that this post is Part 7 in the Ultimate Edinburgh Travel Series! So, if you need more Edinburgh information, check out the other parts to the Edinburgh guide below! All our posts are downloadable as a PDF if you’re really keen to explore the city!
Part 1: Best Restaurants in Edinburgh – All Meals Covered
Part 2: Edinburgh’s Top Spots for Gorgeous Photos
Part 3: Bars and Pubs in Edinburgh
Part 4: Things to Do in Edinburgh: Free & Paid Activities
Part 5: Have One Day in Edinburgh? Here’s a One Day Guide
Part 6: Finding a Place to Stay in Edinburgh – All Budgets
Part 8: Amazing Coffee Shops and Cafes in Edinburgh
So, if you’re ready to get exploring outside of the Scottish capital – let us walk you through a few of the best day trips from Edinburgh!
Renting a Car in Scotland
As you will see below, we gave all the options for getting to each of the attractions or destinations. The bus or train are great options that we like because they save you the hassle of logistics and can be cheap. However, a car allows for more freedom and can be a good choice if you are a group of people and want to travel to off-the-beaten-path locations not easily reachable by public transportation.
That said, there are a few things to consider if you want to rent a car in Edinburgh. Driving in the United Kingdom is done so on the left. Also, many cars will be manual transmission. If you need to rent an automatic car, be sure to specify that on the rental before you agree to it and pay. You can compare rental car prices across different companies here.
Driving into the Highlands can be a new experience if you’ve never driven there before. The highways can be quite windy with sharp curves. Often times, the road is very narrow and doesn’t allow for passing room or room on the shoulder. Because of this, stopping to take photographs while to the side of the road can be very dangerous. If you need to stop, find the nearest car park and walk (carefully) to what you are interesting in seeing.
The Highlands – Glencoe, Inverness, Loch Ness
We seriously considered putting this one at the bottom of the post – but then decided to just give the people what they want! You might be considering a trip to the Scottish Highlands. If you are, you’re not alone and you’re in luck! The Highlands are a vast region primarily comprised of rolling hills, charming lakes, rocky cliffs, castles, and windy islands up in the North of Scotland. There’s a reason we put the Highlands and Scottish castles on our experiences of a lifetime list!
There are many lochs (Gaelic for lake), the most famous of which is probably Loch Ness. It’s here where you’ll find the famed mythical creature Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Admittedly, Eric is convinced she exists and would be hesitant to swim in the Loch (wouldn’t want to be eaten). You should go for the beautiful scenery that you’ll find up there!
There are lots of other smaller towns and villages like Inverness. Inverness is considered “the capital of the Highland Region” and has been consistently named as one of the happiest places to live in Scotland. If you’re up in the Highlands, you’ll have the opportunity to see Glencoe, a small town in the west of Scotland.
It is known for its waterfalls and system of hiking trails that weave in and out of rolling valleys and peaks such as Buachaille Etive Mor. If you’re near Glencoe, you might even go a tad farther into the small hamlet of Glenfinnan to see the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct – that beautiful curved train bridge made famous by the Harry Potter movies!
How to Get to Inverness from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: You just have to hop on the A9 and head north. Do note that the highway can be quite busy in the summertime and a tad slippery in the winter months. The drive will be beautiful and will take you about 3.5 hours if you’re unfamiliar with the way. Alternatively, taking the train to Inverness is simple.
If you’re flying: Probably don’t. From Edinburgh you’ll end up taking KLM and connecting through Amsterdam or British Airways and connecting through London Heathrow. These journeys will take over 6/7 hours when it can be done in 3.5 for a fraction of the cost. Not to mention the ground route is far prettier!
If you’re taking the train: Just hop on a train from Waverley Station in the city centre of Edinburgh. You might have to chance in Perth or Stirling, depending on the route you take. You can check the rail times on Scot Rail’s website but trips are fairly frequent and they average around 4 hours in length. The train is also a great option if you want to stretch your legs, but it can be pricier.
If you’re travelling by bus: Travelling by bus is an affordable way and the difference from taking the train is only about an hour longer via the bus. You can check out the bus schedules and buy tickets at the City Link website.
Pia’s Highlands Tip: If you’re looking for day trips to the Scottish Highlands, check out this day trip that explores Loch Ness on a cruise, Glencoe, and Urquhart Castle!
Checking out another city is also a good idea for a day trip from Edinburgh. Perhaps you should check out Aberdeen? The “Granite City”, as it’s known for its stunning grey stone architecture, is located in the northeast of Scotland right along the coast.
The city is built between the mouths of both the River Don and the River Dee as they reach the North Sea. The Aberdeen shoreline is made up of long sandy beaches and the city enjoys a maritime climate – meaning the summer isn’t crazy hot and the winter is mild.
There are lots of great things to see and do in Aberdeen. The area is rich with history – some of it is actually prehistoric. Villages that are over 8,000 years old have been found in the area.
There are many cathedrals, monuments, galleries, shops on Union Street, beaches, the famous Maritime Museum, Dunnotar Castle, and much, much more! Check out the Visit Scotland website for more information about Aberdeen!
How to Get to Aberdeen from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Like with most places north of Edinburgh, take the M90 to the A90 and actually stay on that the entire way there for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Alternatively, and even more scenic, the A93 splits from the A90 at Perth and takes closer to 4 hours but you’ll pass through Cairngorms National Park!
If you’re taking the train: This is probably the easiest way and the cheapest. From Edinburgh Waverley, it’s about a 2.5 hour train ride and prices for a one-way ticket start at around £20.00. Not bad to explore another great city and have an easy train ride up there. As usual, here’s that trusty Scot Rail website.
If you’re taking the bus: The bus ride will take about 5 hours and if you’re taking National Express it’ll cost you about £60 and upward. Here’s the website for National Express.
Stirling and Stirling Castle
Stirling, the small town in central Scotland, is surrounded by farmland – but don’t let that fool you. The town itself is full of history from medieval battles to old towns and castles!
Many visitors to Stirling do so for the Castle. High atop a volcanic rock in the centre of town, the views from up there amazing. Inside the castle, you’ll get to visit the armoury as well as special exhibitions that are on at the time. You can visit the Stirling Castle website for opening hours and prices.
Stirling is known for another iconic thing that stands proudly above the treetops. The Wallace Monument stands on the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
For the non-history buffs: This monument commemorates Sir William Wallace (yes, like Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart) on his greatest victory over the English. You can climb the steps of the tower and experience great views of the Trossachs, the Forth valley, and the Pentland Hills, among other things.
In the Old Town of Stirling that is near the Castle, you’ll find one of the best collections of medieval-era buildings in Scotland. You can visit the city’s old jail – Tolbooth – which is now a centre for live music and the arts.
There’s an art gallery and a museum and Stirling has lots of authentic Scottish pubs to have a pint and a bite to eat. Overall, Stirling is a great day trip from Edinburgh that packs a punch of history, adventure, and authentic Scotland.
How to Get to Stirling from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Leave Edinburgh by either the A90 or the M8 and then take the M9 all the way to Stirling. It’ll take about an hour or less to drive – but with traffic it may take more!
If you’re taking the train: The train trip takes about 50 minutes. You’ll leave from Edinburgh Waverley and head to Stirling. It’ll only set you back £10.00 or so for a “single, anytime” day ticket. You can get it here on the Scot Rail website.
If you’re taking the bus: The bus takes about an hour and 25 minutes downtown Edinburgh to Stirling’s centre and will cost about £8.70 for a single adult ticket one-way! Here’s the City Link website again to grab a ticket.
Pia’s Stirling Tip: Absolutely Go and See Stirling Castle + Add on Loch Lomond With a Day Trip!
The Scottish Borders – Hadrian’s Wall and Rosslyn Chapel
The Scottish Borders is an area to the south and to the east of Edinburgh. The area is exactly like it sounds – it’s a geographical area that runs right up to the border with England. It’s an area rich with things to do and see from chapels to castles.
We’ve divided the best things into two distinct “day trips”. The one in this section covers seeing Rosslyn Chapel and working your way down to Hadrian’s Wall. The other day trip from Edinburgh is down below further where you’ll venture into England for a few other sights.
As for this itinerary, Rosslyn Chapel is located in the village of Roslin, Scotland. It’s actually not that far outside of the Edinburgh city centre. Originally called “Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew”, this beautifully carved chapel built in 1446 gained popularity in recent years with The Da Vinci Code featuring the chapel as an integral part of the story. For more information about the chapel, check out the Rosslyn Chapel website.
Hadrian’s Wall is sure to please the history buffs in the group. The wall was built beginning in 122 AD. THAT’S OLD. It was originally set up as a defensive fortification for the Roman province of Britannia.
The wall stretches from sea to sea over 73 miles of interesting English terrain to build a wall across. Fittingly, the wall earns its name from the reign of the emperor at the time, Hadrian. To learn more about this historical wonder, check out the website for Hadrian’s Wall.
How to Get to Rosslyn Chapel from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Take the A701. You’ll follow signs to Newington or Liberton, and then continue along the A701, towards Penicuik. It’ll take about 45 minutes if the traffic is light.
If you’re taking the train: You’ll need to take the train and bus. From Edinburgh Waverley, you’ll take the train to Eskbank Station which will take about 18 minutes. Then you’ll travel from Eskbank to Tweedbank which takes about 37 minutes. You’ll then hop on the Service 40 bus (runs basically every 30 minutes) from the Tesco store that’s nearby to the town of Roslin. Sound like fun? Get your train ticket to Tweedbank on the Scot Rail website and it’ll set you back about £10.00 a way.
If you’re taking the bus: Since it’s so close to Edinburgh, you can opt to take public transit buses through Lothian Buses. Take the 37 and make sure it says “Penicuik/Deanburn” on the front. The trip will take about 45-60 minutes and it’ll be cheap – only £1.60 for adults. Remember to have exact change!
How to Get to Hadrian’s Wall from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: You’ll be heading for Brampton, England. The drive is about 2.5 hours and you can take the A702 from the city centre Edinburgh to the A74 through/around the Scottish Borders. The A69 runs between Newcastle and Carlisle which is basically parallel to the wall once you’re down there.
If you’re taking the train: The trip will take 3.5 hours from Edinburgh Waverley and you’ll have a few changes to get there. You’ll book on East Coast Virgin Trains heading for Carlisle. The train ticket will cost you between £13.00 – £30.00 a way, depending on how far in advance you book. You’ll have to hop on a bus (the 685 from Carlisle is just one example) and once on a bus you’ll need to make a change in/near Brampton to end up at the wall. The bus portion will take about 30 minutes.
If you’re taking the bus: This is a different approach to the above route. If you can get to Newcastle, you can catch the AD122 bus route which runs along the wall. You can find out more information here.
Penguin’s Tip: Make Hadrian’s easy on yourself and Hop on a Tour to Learn the History of Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian’s Wall.
St. Andrews Day Trip and The Kingdom of Fife
St. Andrews itself is a small town on Scotland’s east coast, northeast of Edinburgh. Home to the oldest university in Scotland (The University of St. Andrews) founded in 1413, St. Andrews has a younger and lively feel because of the student population that lives there.
St. Andrews is also the home of golf. With 7 courses, it is the largest golf complex in Europe. Golf fanatics can have their photo opportunity at the famous “Swilcan Bridge” on the Old Course’s 18th hole and visit the British Golf Museum.
There are many sights like the ruins and museum of St. Andrews Cathedral (shown above), St Rule’s Tower which is located within the ruins, and a seaside walking path where you can appreciate the sea air and the fishing culture. There are lots of great places to eat and grab a drink in St. Andrews so be sure to take your time and enjoy the town!
Technically, St. Andrews is located in Fife. The Council Area known today as Fife used to be referred to as “The Kingdom of Fife” in ancient Scotland. As such, there’s a rich history to the area that includes St. Andrews and smaller coastal villages like Crail and Kingsbarn.
There’s a distillery in Kingsbarn – Eric went on a tour there in 2015. Fun Fact: Their first barrel of whisky will be ready for tasting in March of 2018 – which is like weeks away from when we are writing this post! You can check out the Kingsbarn Distillery at their website. It is a great way to see classic Scotch Whisky made right!
How to Get to St. Andrews from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Head out of Edinburgh and across to North Queensferry on the A90 and take the A92 to the A91.
If you’re taking the train/bus combination: Again, just hop on a train from Waverley Station in the city centre Edinburgh. There are lots of trains heading in the direction of Dundee that are what you’re looking for. If you’re heading to St. Andrews, get off at LEUCHARS Station. It’ll cost you about £15.00 for an “any time, single” ticket. It’s going to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere when you get off – because you will be. Don’t panic.
From the station, you have to take the 99C or 99D or 94A bus (most of the buses from there go to the city) to the St. Andrews Bus Station which is in the centre of the city. Keep in mind after the train you’ll have to pay for the bus ticket into town but it isn’t very expensive – a few pounds. Overall, this journey from Waverley to city centre St. Andrews takes about 90 minutes. You can check the rail times on Scot Rail’s website.
If you’re travelling only by bus: Travelling by bus from Edinburgh to St. Andrews is simple. Head to Stage Coach Bus and you’ll find the timetables for a number of buses that start with “X”. These buses take about 2 hours to St. Andrews and tickets start from £10.00.
Penguin’s Tour Tip: Book a Small Group Tour to Explore St. Andrew’s and Fife
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
If you’re looking for true nature and good hiking on a day trip from Edinburgh, then you might consider a trek out to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Established in 2002 by the Scottish Parliament as one of two of the first recognized National Parks in Scotland, the Park is centered around the beautiful Loch Lomond.
The rolling hills are known as the Trossachs, and they make up a great deal of the West Highland Way – a very long footpath/long distance hiking trail measuring 154.5 km in length. The West Highlands, in general, are a particularity stunning part of the Highland region on Scotland. For more information about the Park, check out the official website.
If you’re in the area, we might even suggest heading to Falkirk for a quick stop in to see The Kelspies, which are the largest equine statues in the world! Check out more information on the Kelpies here.
How to Get to Loch Lomond from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: From Edinburgh, take the M8 through Glasgow, then you’ll get on the M898 to the Erskine Bridge, and finally take the A82 into the National Park. The drive will take about 90 minutes.
If you’re taking the train: You’ll basically go through Glasgow and from there are direct trains into the Park. You’ll have two options from Glasgow: Glasgow – Balloch takes about 50 minutes and runs every 2 hours. Glasgow – Oban/Fort William is one of the most scenic routes in the entire country (through the West Highlands) and has stops that are in or very close to the National Park (Helensburgh, Garelochhead, Arrochar & Tarbet, Ardlui, Crianlarich and Tyndrum). You can get all your tickets and price estimates here on the Scot Rail website.
If you’re taking the bus: National Express buses travel through the National Park and have stops at Crianlarich and Tyndrum. It’ll cost you about £27.00 and most of the routes have one change.
Pia’s Top Explorer Tip: A Jam-Packed Tour: Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, and Stirling Castle!
Holy Island, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Yes, heading into England should be a consideration if you’re in Edinburgh. We mentioned up above that we would recommend a trip! While the border with England is a ways south of Edinburgh, there’s one area in particular that’s worth your time.
Located to the south east of Edinburgh along the coastline just after you’ve crossed into England, you’ll find Northumberland National Park, Alnwick Castle, and Holy Island to the north of Alnwick.
Northumberland National Park is geographically England’s northernmost park that boasts “the cleanest rivers and cleanest air” – which makes sense given how rural and north it is from the other city centres! There are plenty of trails and you’re also close enough to check out Hadrian’s Wall if you’re keen to see it on this itinerary.
As for Alnwick Castle, well fans of Harry Potter or Downton Abbey – this is for you. The Castle itself was built in 1096 and has served as a royal home and seat to the Duke of Northumberland.
Perhaps most importantly for you, it’s one of the filming sites for movies and television shows like Harry Potter and Downton Abbey! That’s why each year, Alnwick Castle receives almost a million visitors. You can check out more about Alnwick Castle here.
Continuing up the coastline, you’ll reach Holy Island. Technically referred to as Holy Island of Lindisfarne, this castle is also a village that gets separated from the mainland twice daily because of the rising tides!
Visitors are welcomed but if you’re heading there by foot you must check with the crossing times or else there’s a chance you’ll be caught when the water is rising between the Island and the mainland. There’s also a bus that runs between them if you’re not keen on walking.
You can learn all about the rich history as the castle was built back in the 6th century and remains to this day a place of pilgrimage. To learn more, check out the Northumberland website for Holy Island.
How to Get to Alnwick Castle and Holy Island from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Take the A1 from Edinburgh all the way there. You’ll end up driving along the coast which will offer you amazing views along the way. The journey should take just under 2 hours and you’ll have the car to head up to Holy Island on your own.
If you’re taking the train: There are direct trains to the town of Alnwick (it’s actually Alnmouth Station) and then you’ll have to take the bus to the main town of Alnwick. From there you can just walk to the Castle, or call for a taxi to the Castle from the train station. Check out the Scot Rail website for train times – the trip should take just over 2 hours and will cost about £6.00 one way in advance if you know the day and the train you’re taking. This is the best course of action: book in advance. Otherwise, it can be upwards of £25.00 for a “single, anytime” ticket closer to the date of travel.
From Alnwick, it would be possible to work your way up the coast by bus or train to see Holy Island. Booking a bus would likely be on a Borders Bus. Either way, you’ll make your way to Berwick-upon-Tweed and you’ll need to take the 477 to the Island- check it out here.
If you’re taking the bus: Fares to Alnwick from Edinburgh will be about £18 one way depending on when you buy it with National Express and the trip is about 2 hours. Again, from there it would be possible to work your way up the coast by bus or train to see Holy Island. See the instructions above from Berwick-upon-Tweed on the 477 route to the Island.
Pia’s Explorer Tip: Discover Northumbria- Holy Island and Alnwick Castle on this Full Day Trip!
Of course, we had to include Glasgow on a list of Edinburgh day trips because it just is so close and it is a bigger city than Edinburgh. Glasgow has a little bit of everything – from numerous free galleries and museums like The Kelvingrove to the “best shopping outside of London” on Buchanan Street and Princes Square!
The modern buildings mix with the history of Glasgow – from Glasgow Cathedral to the Necropolis (a welcoming graveyard where people watch the sunset).
As a cultural hub, there’s never a dull moment. You can go out in Merchant City – the main district to grab food and drinks. There’s even a large music scene with over 130 weekly musical events in the evenings.
But don’t worry about missing out because you’re so close to Edinburgh that you can confidently stay later in Glasgow and still make it home to your base in Edinburgh! To learn more about what makes Glasgow great, you can check out the Visit Scotland website.
How to Get to Glasgow from Edinburgh
If you’re driving: Take the M8 between the two centres. Caution: you’ll hit commuter traffic in the morning and in the evening!
If you’re taking the train: The train trip takes about 50 minutes. You’ll leave from Edinburgh Waverley and head right into downtown Glasgow. It’ll set you back £12.90 for an “off-peak single” ticket and £14.40 for an “anytime, single” ticket. You can get it here on the Scot Rail website.
If you’re taking the bus: It’s pretty cheap to get to Glasgow on the bus. You can take the Megabus with lots of times throughout the day for around £3.75 if you book in advance. The trip with Megabus can take as little as 1 hour and 7 minutes. With City Link, there are also lots of time throughout the day. Here’s that website again for City Link!
And there you have it – some of the best day trips from Edinburgh! These are just a few of the places you can discover in one day – there are obviously so many small towns and other sights that we haven’t included. If you like our list – be sure to check some of them out and let us know what you think in the comments below!
As always, Happy Scottish Waddlin’!