15 Best Day Trips from Edinburgh

Written by Alex Bird
Updated on
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Though Edinburgh itself can feel like an escape from big city life, with its cobbled streets and tranquil views – there is in fact an abundance of truly beautiful places on its doorstep that’ll make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a different world.

From irresistibly picturesque coastlines to fairytale castles and all manner of highland dreamscapes, the regions surrounding Edinburgh are ideal for hikers and nature lovers alike.

For some inspiration and information on the best places that can be reached from Edinburgh in the space of a day, read on.

1. Loch Ness and the Highlands

Loch NessSource: Botond Horvath / shutterstock
Loch Ness

Steeped in mystery and beauty alike, Loch Ness is one of the most popular day trips from Edinburgh and for good reason.

Spend the day hunting for the elusive yet much loved Loch Ness Monster and gaze upon the impossibly serene glassy waters of Glencoe whose sunsets rival those of any tropical beach.

A mere coach trip from Edinburgh, the Highlands can be wandered for an entire day without seeing everything there is to see, not to mention the majestic Urquhart Castle where you can learn some of the region’s history.

2. The Lammermuirs

The LammermuirsSource: alljengi / Flickr
The Lammermuirs

Forming a natural boundary between Lothian and the Borders, The Lammermuirs are a series of gracefully rolling hills that are a world away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh city.

A veritable dream for landscape photographers, the Lammermuir Hills offer remote, heather covered expanses of nature that are perfect for road trips.

The long straight roads give uninterrupted sweeping views of the beautiful and undulating Scottish landscape that will leave you enchanted.

Though its an ideal spot for a picnic, you can also find the small village of Gifford hiding amongst the hills where you can grab a pub lunch.

3. Stirling

Stirling, SchotlandSource: cornfield / shutterstock
Stirling Castle

If you liked Edinburgh Castle then you can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the monstrously large and majestic Stirling Castle that has stood tall since Medieval times and successfully withstood a number of Viking attacks.

Surrounded by forest and panoramic views of the hills and mountains of Stirling, the castle is worth a visit but you can also spend the day exploring the vast expanses of highland.

Known as the gateway to the Highlands, Stirling is alive with folkloric tales and history alike, with enough to keep nature lovers and history buffs entertained for an entire day.

4. Borders Train

Borders RailwaySource: Walter Baxter / Wikimedia
Borders Railway

The train to the Scottish Borders leaves from Edinburgh Waverly and will have you feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time with its gloriously classic steam locomotives that are a sight to behold and even more intriguing to actually ride on.

Soak up the cinematic Scottish landscapes of The Borders and stop at any number of the enchanting spots along the way like Galashiels or Tweedbank.

A true trip to the Scottish heartland, this is one train journey you’re not likely to forget.

5. St Andrews

St Andrews, ScotlandSource: STLJB / shutterstock
St Andrews

Home to the oldest University in Scotland and a host of other intriguing attractions, St Andrews is a perfect day-long getaway to a quaint town filled with quaint things.

If the charming array of pubs and local shops don’t keep you busy, then head down to West Sands Beach for a stroll along the iconic coastline where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

You’ll also find an abundance of fine dining in St Andrews so make sure you arrive hungry to enjoy some world-class food in one of the many reputable restaurants.

6. Wemyss Bay

Wemyss Bay, ScotlandSource: David Falconer / shutterstock
Wemyss Bay

Wemyss Bay is a charmingly tradition village that hails back to Victorian times and it’s easy to see why.

The railway station is the perfect epitome of 19th Century architecture and is in fact one of the most attractive and well preserved railway stations in the country.

With no shortage of sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, the West Central Lowlands village is a perfect escape.

For the finishing touch, jump aboard the ferry to the Isle of Bute and explore the port of Rothesay.

7. St Abbs

St. Abbs, ScotlandSource: Julietphotography / shutterstock
St. Abbs

The tiny fishing village of St Abbs is about as good as day trips from Edinburgh get, providing you with the ultimate tranquil getaway that is home to some of the most gorgeous coastal views Scotland has to offer.

The heather covered cliffs and headlands are perfect vantage points for some truly spectacular photography too.

Once you’re in St Abbs, you can either go surfing on some word-class waves (but remember to bring a wetsuit!) or simply take in the sea views, sea air and seabirds, all of which are in glorious abundance.

8. Falkirk

Falkirk, ScotlandSource: Nadezda Murmakova / shutterstock

Positively dripping in history that shaped the fate of Scotland, Falkirk is the place that saw the defeat of William Wallace in 1298. Most well known for this event, it attracts history buffs and proud countrymen and women alike.

Marvel at the Falkirk Wheel, the only rotary connector in the entire world and one that links the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal.

Aside from this, allow yourself to be amazed by the biggest equine sculptures on the planet at The Kelpies, or simply enjoy the enviable shopping locations Falkirk has to offer.

9. North Berwick

North Berwick, ScotlandSource: Tom Gowanlock / shutterstock
North Berwick

An unbelievably short 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train is the beautifully picturesque seaside town of North Berwick.

Complete with everything you could want from a canonically Scottish seaside town, revel in walks along the beach enjoying ice-creams, or get in the sea with a paddle board to play in the waves.

As well as the beach, you can visit the iconic bird settlement known as Bass Rock, or for more aviary antics you can drop by the Sea Bird Center too.

As well as all this, North Berwick has got a plethora of coffee spots and excellent eats spread around town.

10. Roslin

Roslin, ScotlandSource: Anton_Ivanov / shutterstock

Home to the iconic and beautiful Rosslyn Chapel, one of the most famous holy sites in Scotland, Roslin is a perfect getaway for those looking to explore an intriguing small town on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

The 15th Century settlement is surrounded by an enchanting glen and has its very own collection of traditional Scottish pubs.

Between the peaceful natural surroundings and mysterious history, Roslin is a worthwhile day trip from Edinburgh that’s easy to get to.

11. Perth

Perth, ScotlandSource: Stephen McCluskey / shutterstock

Nestled on the banks of the serene River Tay, the longest river in the country, the town of Perth at one time was the Scottish capital.

Having lost none of its former glory, Perth now boasts sights such as the Scone Palace and the Stone of Destiny, both popular attractions to most visitors.

You’ll also get the chance to explore the breathtakingly intriguing Perth Museum and Art Gallery, hosting artefacts from meteorites to mummies all within the walls of the ornate building complete with pillars and glass ceilings.

For the foodies amongst you, Perth also has the enviable status of being a foodie haven, so make sure you arrive hungry!

12. Windermere

Windermere, EnglandSource: Mr Nai / shutterstock

In less than 3 hours you can be in one of the most stunningly gorgeous places in the United Kingdom.

Thanks to Edinburgh’s extraordinarily close proximity to the border of England, it doesn’t take an unreasonably long time to get to Windermere, a town in the beautiful Lake District.

Here you can gaze upon the tranquil expanses of water that fill the largest lake in England, Lake Windermere.

With valleys and vantage points to soak up the panoramic views literally everywhere, you’ll want to spend longer than a day exploring the green and blue dreamscape of Windermere.

13. Burntisland

Burntisland, ScotlandSource: Andrejs Ekerts / shutterstock

For a much closer destination that loses none of the charm of somewhere like the Lake District, jump on a train from Edinburgh and in a mere 35 minutes you’ll be on the beaches of Burntisland.

A coastal town with charming pebble beaches and forested coastline, it’s the ideal place to spend the whole day or even just an afternoon given how close it is to the capital.

Full of restaurants and activities like scuba diving, it’s the perfect family destination.

14. Glasgow

Glasgow, SchotlandSource: CappaPhoto / shutterstock

Though you’ll be escaping one city for another, there’s absolutely no denying that if you’re spending some time in Edinburgh it’s worth a visit to Scotland’s second most iconic city.

Just over an hour away, the city famous for being the inspiration for the seminal film Trainspotting is home to an irresistibly quirky West End district.

Offering hipster places to eat and a forward thinking fashion and music scene, Glasgow is an exciting place to be.

Boasting impressively large Botanical Gardens and the quiet beauty of Kelvingrove Park, there’s a little something for everyone in the city of Glasgow.

15. Elie

Elie, ScotlandSource: Justin Black / shutterstock
Elie Lighthouse

Close to the iconic St Andrews is the even more beautiful tiny coastal town of Elie, adored by visitors, residents and locals alike for its aesthetic charms.

Its golden sand beaches and perfectly preserved 16th Century harbour attract all manner of photographers to catch Elie’s seaside charms.

Another popular attraction is the Elie Lighthouse that simply put, has some of the most captivating views in the country, not to mention that the lighthouse itself is enchanting.

If the mesmerising surroundings on land aren’t enough for you then have a scenic tour on one of the many yachts in the harbour.

The golfing enthusiasts among you will be pleased to know that Elie sports two reputable golf courses and a rich history of golfing action.

15 Best Day Trips from Edinburgh:

  • Loch Ness and the Highlands
  • The Lammermuirs
  • Stirling
  • Borders Train
  • St Andrews
  • Wemyss Bay
  • St Abbs
  • Falkirk
  • North Berwick
  • Roslin
  • Perth
  • Windermere
  • Burntisland
  • Glasgow
  • Elie