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17 Best Day Trips From Edinburgh to Add to Your Itinerary

In today’s post, 17 travel bloggers share their top recommendations for day trips from Edinburgh. Whether you’re interested in small Scottish towns, beautiful scenery or a spot of whiskey tasting, these Edinburgh day trip suggestions have got you covered!

Pentland Hills - Edinburgh Day Trip

Pentland Hills

Recommended by Maria from Maptrekking

Travelling in the UK would not be complete without visiting Edinburgh; there is so much to see nearby so it makes for a great place to base yourself.

If you love hiking and stunning views, the Pentland Hills provide a wonderful day away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Edinburgh.

Though it is only a 30-minute drive or 1-hour bus journey from the city centre, the Pentland Hills can make you feel like you have been transported to the Scottish highlands.

Along with bleating sheep and adorable highland cows, you will be met with views of the city and Arthur’s seat, water reservoirs, small waterfalls, and gorgeous rolling hills.

Most visitors tend to hike in the hills but there are other activities offered based on the season, like horse riding, skiing, mountain biking, etc. The hills are great for both a fun day trip with friends or a peaceful, solo hiking excursion. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to be prepared!

There are remote areas and weather conditions can change rapidly. Though the hills are a short distance from Edinburgh and there are small towns nearby, it is a good idea to bring extra food, hiking supplies, and a proper navigational tool.

Even in the summer, make sure to bring a good quality waterproof raincoat and hiking boots.

Loch Lomond

Recommended by Sophie and Adam from We Dream of Travel

Loch Lomond, nestled in the heart of the Trossachs National Park, is a popular spot on a Scottish road trip.  However, it also makes for a great day trip from Edinburgh.

Easily accessible from Edinburgh by car in under 2 hours, Loch Lomond offers a beautiful escape to the spectacular Scottish countryside.

Covering over 71km² and a shoreline of over 153km, Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Britain.  Therefore, you’ll discover plenty of things to see and do. 

Here you’ll discover numerous walks through impressive scenery, from a gentle loch-side stroll to longer, more vigorous hikes.  

The loch also provides the perfect opportunity to try a number of water sports, including kayaking, water skiing, stand-up paddleboarding and even water trampolining!

For a gentler on-the-water experience, you can explore some of the 30 small islands on the loch by cruise, ferry or hiring your own boat.

For those looking for some retail therapy, you can’t find a more picturesque location for it than Loch Lomond Shores, situated at the southern end of the lake.

Here you’ll find a mix of boutique stores and national favourites, so you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for!

Whether you’ve spent the day out exploring nature or shopping til you drop, you’ll likely have worked up an appetite!

Don’t leave without stopping by one of the many waterfront restaurants for some mouth-watering local food.  

Stirling

Stirling

Recommended by Sheree of Winging the World

Former Scottish capital Stirling lies just an hour from Edinburgh by car and makes for a great day trip. This historically important city has played a pivotal role in Scotland’s history and has a number of outstanding attractions.

Perhaps the best thing to do once you arrive in the city is to get your bearings on a Stirling walking tour. Numerous companies offer these kinds of tours, however, if you are short on time, a DIY option is ideal for getting stuck in. 

After you tour the main sights of the city which include the Mercat Cross and Old Town Cemetery, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Stirling Castle.

The royal connection and colourful history of the castle’s former inhabitants make this a fascinating place to explore. Free castle tours run regularly throughout summer. 

While you’re in Stirling, make sure you head over the other side of town to climb the National Wallace Monument.

If you’ve seen Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart, you’ll already be more than familiar with William Wallace. This monument was built to honour Scotland’s most famous hero and the structure even houses Wallace’s sword.

The views from the top are outstanding but be warned, you’ll have to trudge up 246 steps to get there!

Dundee Tay Rail Bridge

Dundee

Recommended by Elina from Empnefsys & Travel

Dundee is one of Scotland’s largest cities and makes a great day trip from Edinburgh that combines culture, history and architecture.

To get there, take a direct train from Edinburgh Waverly or Haymarket station. Once you reach Dundee, you can move around on foot as the main sights of the city are near the train station.

There are various things to do in Dundee, such as visiting the city’s museums. V&A Dundee is the newest addition to the museum collections of the city.

The V&A is a sister museum to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the first design museum in Scotland. It is most known for the impressive architecture of its building that resembles a boat.

Inside the museum, you will find the Scottish Design Galleries featuring art and design from around the world, as well as numerous temporary exhibitions.

Other museums you can visit in Dundee are the Discovery Point and RRS Discovery, the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre and the McManus Art Gallery & Museum.

The Tay Rail Bridge is another important sight in Dundee. The bridge connects the two sides of the River Tay and was built in the 1870s. Unfortunately, a few months after it was opened for train use, the bridge collapsed while a train was crossing.

Since then, a replacement bridge was constructed using sturdier materials. You can find the bridge, by walking towards the west of the city along the riverside footpath.

Ayrshire from Edinburgh

Ayrshire

Recommended by Nichola of Globalmouse Travels

Ayrshire is an easy day trip from Edinburgh, accessible by road or train in around two hours. From the Victorian seaside town of Ayr to the historic buildings of the surrounding areas there’s plenty to keep you occupied for at least a day.

There are some fantastic castles and stately homes in this area from Kelburn Castle to Dumfries House. If you’re looking for family holidays in Scotland then don’t miss Culzean Castle with its amazing playground.

Robert Burns House and Museum is a brilliant place to explore this Scottish icon’s past and you can also take a trip back in time at the Scottish Maritime Museum with its reconstructed tenement building.

This area has some absolutely beautiful beaches including Toon, Seamill and Culzean Bay. The views across to the Isle of Arran are gorgeous.

Ayr has a really growing foodie scene so it’s a good place to stop in for supper and a steaming bowl of sticky toffee pudding. As night starts to fall then head to The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, around 30 minutes from Ayr.

This is one of the best places in the UK to stargaze from and they have fantastic sessions to use the telescopes and hear talks about exactly what you’re able to see.

Loch Ness Day Trip

Loch Ness

Recommended by Angela of Where Angie Wanders

There a so many fabulous day trips from Edinburgh but one of the most fun is to go monster hunting on Loch Ness!

Fort Augustus is the town where Loch Ness is located and will take around 3.5 hours to reach from Edinburgh. But don’t be alarmed because the route there will take you through the most beautiful Scottish Highland scenery and with plenty of places to stop en route to make the day trip even more enjoyable.

Once at Loch Ness jump aboard one of the boat trips that line the canal. A scenic cruise will sail down the loch to Urquhart Castle and then back again. Hear all about Nessie, the Loch Ness monster and decide for yourself whether she is fact or fiction!

If you love speed, then choose the rib boat ride and before you know it you will be crashing across the loch and discovering hidden stories about the highlights of this iconic Scottish destination.

Back on shore, check out the craft shops, visitor centre and of course one of the many cafes or pubs dotted around the town. If you are feeling peckish then order haggis with neeps and tatties, a traditional Scottish dish or maybe sample a dram of Scotch whisky in the “Loch Inn” situated on the banks of the Caledonian canal.

 Whatever you choose to do Loch Ness will be a day out to remember. For ease, you can book a pre-arranged loch ness tour from Edinburgh:

Glasgow

Recommended by Ucman from BrownBoyTravels

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland and just under an hour away from Edinburgh by train but it’s poles apart from the Scottish capital when it comes to culture, life and people. There is a lively rivalry between the two cities but both have their own strengths.

Gone are the days of Glasgow being a dangerous city, it has become a friendly, safe city to enjoy a great day here. Glaswegians are famous for being friendly and very warm and their hospitality is world-renowned.

The heart of Glasgow is the city centre which is made up of three main streets: Buchanan Street, St Vincent Street and Sauchiehall Street. All three streets are located within a few minutes of walk from Glasgow central station and an easy 5-10 mins walk from the main bus station.

From these streets, you can explore many places including museums, art galleries and shopping centres.

Make sure the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art is on your itinerary and look out for the iconic Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. You can’t miss it as the Duke has an orange traffic cone placed over his head! The city has tried to remove it on a number of occasions but without success. It just keeps coming back.

If you want to enjoy the city in style head to Blythswood Square for a great choice of afternoon tea. If that’s not your cup of tea, there is no shortage of bars and clubs in the city. Glasgow is known for the best nightlife in the north of UK due to its large student population including a number of LGBTQ+ bars and clubs.

No matter what your taste and interests are, Glasgow has something to offer everyone and this one day trip from Edinburgh will definitely be worth your while. However, one thing you should definitely know in advance is that Glasgow has a lot of steep rises and falls so you should come prepared with sturdy shoes!

Melrose

Melrose

Recommended by Heather from Conversant Traveller

Just an hour away from Edinburgh, the small Borders town of Melrose sits beside the famous triple peaks of the Eildon Hills. Don’t miss visiting the spectacular ruins of Melrose Abbey in the heart of town – it dates from 1136 and according to legend is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.

Next to the abbey, the rustic walled garden of Priorwood is also worth a visit, with dozens of varieties of apple trees and a herb garden to admire. For sweeping views across the hills and back towards the abbey, head over to Harmony Garden, which is especially impressive during the blooms of summer.  

One of the best places to visit in the Scottish Borders is Abbotsford House, which lays on the banks of the River Tweed around 3 miles from Melrose. This romantic manor house was once home to novelist Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, and is a must for all fans of Scottish literature.

Visitors can explore the beautifully restored ground floor state rooms, including the library and writing room where many of Scott’s books where penned. An audio guide takes you back in time to discover what it must have been like living here.

Outside there’s a picturesque walled garden and several woodland trails to explore, so you could easily spend several hours here. The onsite café offers lunch and afternoon tea, and there’s plenty of parking if you come by car.

North Berwick

North Berwick

Recommended by Chelsea from The Portable Wife

Situated just 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh by train, North Berwick is a charming seaside town and popular summer holiday spot with Scottish locals.

While you could spend your entire Edinburgh day trip relaxing on the beaches that overlook the Firth of Forth, there are plenty more things to do in North Berwick regardless of the season.

The town’s most popular attraction is Tantallon Castle, a stunning half-ruin on a seaside cliff. While the castle was mostly destroyed by the 1600s, several walls and towers remain. Visitors can explore the grounds and climb up the remaining ruins for incredible views over the sea and countryside.

Just a short walk from Tantallon, you’ll find the unique Drift cafe. This converted shipping container with glass walls overlooking the sea serves fantastic coffee, sandwiches, and pastries.

If you’re visiting North Berwick with kids (or you’re a nature enthusiast yourself), check out the Scottish Seabird Centre. The Centre houses hands-on cameras to zoom in on local wildlife, including seals and puffins.

Depending on the time of year, you might see newborn seal pups on Bass Rock or a flock of Gannet seabirds. They also offer boat tours of the nearby islands for up-close views of Scottish wildlife.

Linlithgow

Linlithgow

Recommended by Sam from Travels With My Boys

Linlithgow is a historical town in West Lothian, which is approximately 20 miles from Edinburgh. It has a lot to offer which is why it makes a great day out from Edinburgh. Here you’ll find the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots.

As well as the Palace, you can find St Michaels Parish Church nearby, which was constructed in the 15th Century and is one of Scotland’s largest medieval churches. It is a beautiful building with its exterior statues and stunning stain-glassed windows – not one to miss!

After enjoying some of the incredible food that the town has to offer in its many cafes, pubs and restaurants you could take a leisurely walk around the 2.3-mile circular walk around Linlithgow Loch.

Be warned, it can get muddy if it has been raining! If a walk does not take your fancy, then take a stroll along the high street with its many shops where you can find handmade arts and crafts among other delights.

Linlithgow is easily accessible by train from Edinburgh city centre which makes it a great day out if you are staying in Edinburgh and do not have a car. You will not be disappointed!

St Andrews day trip

St Andrews

Recommended by Nicholas from Rambling Feet

A day trip from Edinburgh to St Andrews is perfect on a breezy sunny day. Most of the seaside town’s major sights are within walking distance from one another in the old centre and a stroll is even better with a tasty cone of gelato from either Jannettas or Luvians in hand.

Take your pick from one of the many flavours available! These ice-cream parlours are among the better-kept secrets about St Andrews, along with the Tailend shop that still fries their fish and chips in beef fat. It’s fantastic if you’re on a budget and not so health-conscious.

The things that St Andrews is most famous for include its University, where William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met. The buildings are scattered across the city centre but you’d want to see some of the oldest parts like St Mary’s Quad and St Salvator’s Quad.

St Andrews is also considered the home of golf and you can visit and walk around the Old Course, where the Open Championship is held. You can walk the fairways on Sundays if you want to avoid getting hit by stray balls, or learn about the history of the sport in the little British Golf Museum. As for playing there, there’s a very, very long waiting list.

The seaside town’s most iconic landmark, however, is not a patch of grass, but the ruins of its ancient cathedral and castle.

St Andrews Cathedral was ransacked during the Scottish Reformation and subsequently fell into disrepair. Today, only the eastern and western faces, some tombs and St Rule’s tower remain standing. You can climb one hundred and sixty-eight steps up the latter tower for a commanding view of the town to end a day trip here. 

It takes roughly two hours to get to St Andrews from Edinburgh via public transport, and an hour and twenty minutes by car. Stagecoach service X60 is a direct bus service but if you prefer trains, they go from Waverley station to nearby Leuchars and Dundee, where you can catch a bus to complete the journey

Forth Bridge
“Forth Bridge Blues” by Christopher Combe Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Forth Bridge

Recommended by Kelly from The Girl With the Passport

An iconic UNESCO world heritage site, the Forth Bridge is a symbol of Scottish ingenuity and just one of many famous landmarks in and around Edinburgh. It is also a short thirty-minute train ride away from the city, easily making it one of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train. 

To get here, simply get on the train at Edinburgh Waverley Station, stay on board for three stops, and then get off at Dalmeny Station in South Queensferry.

Upon arrival, ample signage will direct you towards the charming town of Queensferry and the Forth Bridge itself – an enormous, red, trussed railway bridge that was first built in 1890 and that spans an impressive, 641 meters to connect Fife with Edinburgh.

For the most impressive views of the Forth Bridge, head to Hawes Pier in South Queensferry and board the Maid of the Forth – a lovely little sightseeing cruise that will take you past the Forth Bridge and to nearby Inchcolm Island and Inchcolm Abbey.

You can opt for either an hour and a half sightseeing cruise where you remain on the boat, or a three-hour Inchcolm landing trip where you can get off the boat and spend an hour and a half exploring Inchcolm Island and the Abbey there.

When you finally find yourself back on dry land, take some time to explore the picturesque town of Queensferry itself, which is home to a wealth of lovely shops, restaurants, bakeries, and even the Queensferry Museum. 

Although, if you’re looking for a real sit down meal, head over towards the Hawes Inn at Newhalls Road for some traditional Scottish fare. Otherwise, you can always enjoy a bit of tea at Stables Tearoom. This lovely establishment sits inside the historic, Hopetoun House, a historic home that was first built in 1699.

Glengoyne Distillery

Recommended by Chris from Explore Now or Never

One of the best day trips from Edinburgh is a visit to Glengoyne Distillery with Heart of Scotland tours. It’s approximately 90 minutes away from Edinburgh, tour groups are small and the guides are friendly and entertaining.

After touring the distillery itself, you can choose from a 45-minute tasting experience (£18) which includes two drams or an hour-long tasting of three drams (£25). Both tastings feature the distillery’s incredible 18-year-old single malt whiskey. Some patrons actually purchase a cask of whiskey and then visit it over the years to taste it as it ages!

After the tasting, there’s plenty of time to explore all the incredible things to do in Perthshire afterwards. This Glengoyne tour includes a stop at beautiful Stirling Castle and a short hike at a nearby loch.

You can take a stroll up to the waterfall and hidden glen to enjoy a tranquil moment before heading back to Edinburgh.

If group tours from Edinburgh aren’t for you and you’d prefer to visit Glengoyne Distillery independently then that’s an option too. In fact, you can even do an online whiskey tour from home!

You can combine a trip to the distillery with a drive through the beautiful Scottish scenery north of Edinburgh or head west towards Loch Lomond.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick

Recommended by Shobha by Epic England Travel

If you are a fan of Harry Potter and giant brooding Northumberland castles, Alnwick Castle is a must-visit destination.

Alnwick Castle has been the family home of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, for over a thousand years. Alnwick was an important fortification on the border with Scotland during the time there were endless border skirmishes between the two countries.

Alnwick Castle has been used for many movies but the most famous is as the setting of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Children can participate in a broomstick riding class on the grand lawn, which is lots of fun. Visitors will also discover that movie magic made Hagrid’s forest seem more vast than it was!

RELATED: A Guide to Harry Potter Filming Locations in Oxford

There’s also a lot of parkland to explore, including a garden done by the preeminent landscape designer to the stately homes, Capability Brown.

Another interesting aspect is the Poison Garden where the current Duchess has created a walled garden of dangerous and medicinal species of plants. You need to have time entry to the Poison Garden and you are lead around by a guide who explains the different plants and their properties. 

Although you may spend most of your time at Alnwick Castle, if you have time, check out Barter Books, the charming used book store in the former train station for Alnwick. It’s a mishmash of cafe and posters and old and rare books which makes it feel like a treasure trove.

Edinburgh to Alnwick Castle is a distance of 88 miles and will take less than 2 hours by car or bus. When the Percys are not in residence at Alnwick, they can be found at their other home in Scotland.

Durham

Durham 

Recommended by Kenny from Knycx Journeying 

Durham is about 220 kilometres away from Edinburgh and merely 30 kilometres away from Newcastle upon Tyne. The historic Romanesque town in England may not be known to many tourists, however, its cosy size is perfect for a day trip from Edinburgh.

To get there from Edinburgh, hop on a train in the Waverley Station and the train departs every hour to Durham in less than 2 hours. 

As the train approaches Durham, a striking and enormous Norman cathedral comes into view, standing in the centre of the cluster – the Durham Cathedral. Dating back from 1093, it was originally a monastic Cathedral and remained so for over one thousand years.  

Visitors are welcome to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site for free, and it is also the venue of various ceremonies and events, including the congregation of the nearby Durham University through the year.

Do not forget to walk through the cloisters in the cathedral, they were featured in the first two Harry Potter movies as the courtyard of Hogwarts. 

Aside from Durham Cathedral, you can take a tour of the Durham Castle Museum, which is part of the oldest college in Durham University. Then explore the hilly and cobbled streets in the historic town centre, and take a pleasant walk along the wooded riverbanks of River Wear.

On this walk you can admire the many stone bridges including the Framwellgate Bridge, Prebends Bridge, Elvet Bridge, and Kingsgate footbridge.  

Seahouses Harbour
“Seahouses Harbour” by Matthew_Hartley is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

North Northumberland

Recommended by Polly Taylor from Let’s Travel UK

One of the highlights of living or staying in Edinburgh has to be the fantastic options for day trips you can take from the Scottish capital. One of these involves leaving Scotland altogether – albeit briefly. Heading over the border into England is highly recommended, to explore the beautiful coastal county of Northumberland.

It takes around 90 minutes to drive from Edinburgh to Seahouses, a village on the North Northumberland coast just over 12 miles from Alnwick. In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, boat trips can be taken to the nearby Farne Islands.

These boat tours are very popular, especially among birdwatchers and nature lovers. Grey seals and puffins are among the fauna you can expect to see.

En route to Seahouses, don’t miss a pitstop at Bamburgh Castle. This fortress occupies the most dramatic cliff-top position above the rolling waves of the North Sea. Golden sands stretch out for miles below, so take a walk along the beach if you can.

If you don’t have sea legs or castles are more your forte, then you could visit a trio of castles instead of taking that boat trip. Alnwick Castle is famous as the setting for various Harry Potter film scenes, while the ruins of nearby Warkworth Castle featured in Shakespeare’s plays.

Newcastle

Newcastle

Recommended by Ella from Many More Maps

Although there’s enough to see in Edinburgh to keep you occupied for days, hopping over the border to the English city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a fabulous idea for a day trip from Edinburgh.

Newcastle is a hugely underrated city, and at just 1 hour and 33 minutes by train from Edinburgh, it’d be crazy not to visit for a day trip!

Depending on when you visit, one of the highlights of a day trip to Newcastle is catching the metro to the charming suburb of Tynemouth, which is right on the beach! You can sunbathe, eat fish and chips, and even go surfing if you’re brave enough. 

In winter, there are plenty of things to do in Newcastle that don’t involve the beach. Exploring the old-fashioned quayside and ancient Newcastle castle are great all-weather activities, and Newcastle also has a whole host of museums such as the Life Science centre and the Great North museum. To warm up, you absolutely HAVE to visit Fat Hippo for some incredible BBQ food!

Obviously, a trip to Newcastle would not be complete without stopping by one of its many pubs to sample a pint of its iconic Newcastle Brown Ale. Some people love it, some people hate it, but you’ll have to try it to make your own mind up!

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Booking.com

If you liked this post, check out these:
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Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh
Harry Potter Graveyard in Edinburgh
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A Literary Tour of Edinburgh

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