The stylish city of Edinburgh welcomes its visitors with an imposing castle perched on top of an extinct volcano. You could spend days wandering happily around the Scottish capital, listening to the sound of bagpipes being played, sampling the local cuisine and enjoying the cosmopolitan nature of this buzzing city.
Yet, it also works perfectly as a base for exploring the rest of Scotland and even the North of England. If you are looking for the best day trips from Edinburgh, then the following ideas are certain to entice you away from Auld Reekie for a few hours.
1 – The Lammermuirs
These gentle hills provide one of the simplest day tours from Edinburgh. Sheep grazing sites, an Iron Age fort, a reservoir and a wind farm are among the features to look out for in this peaceful, idyllic setting that feels incredibly remote despite its close proximity to the capital.
It is the ideal spot for hiking or cycling away from the bustle of the big city. The Lammermuirs are super easy to reach on day trips from Edinburgh. With just one major road crossing the Lammermuirs, you can feel a million miles away from it all for a few hours.
2 – Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s national treasures, sitting proudly on a hilltop. This historically important castle can be easily visited on day trips from Edinburgh, as it lies further up the River Forth.
The town of Stirling is delightful, but it is the giant, sprawling castle that is the main attraction here. The sumptuous Royal Palace, the enormous Great Hall and the wonderful Stirling Tapestries are among the delights to look out for.
3 – Loch Ness & The Highlands
The vast, open spaces of the untamed Highlands make it a hugely attractive option for adventurous travellers. You could easily spend weeks exploring the lochs, mountains and wildlife of this majestic region.
If your time is more limited, then the smartest move may be an excursion from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and the nearby city of Inverness. Known as the capital of the highlands, Inverness is a growing city by the banks of the River Ness. The biggest attraction in this part of Scotland is undoubtedly the scenic Loch Ness. Who hasn’t heard tales of the mysterious monster that is said to lurk in the deep, murky waters here?
4 – Wemyss Bay
A more extended trip across to the opposite side of the country leads you to this picturesque village on the River Clyde, with a train from Glasgow taking you directly here. There are some nearby beaches worth visiting and the lush countryside is never far away.
The main reason for visiting Wemyss Bay is to take the ferry across to the pleasant town of Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute.
5 – Harry Potter Filming Locations
There is no doubt that part of the appeal of the Harry Potter films was the spectacular Scottish scenery. Parts of the movies were filmed in remote spots in the Highlands. For example, the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct is the bridge that his train crosses on the way to Hogwarts. Nearby, is the scenic Loch Shiel.
Dramatic, eerie Glencoe is a secret spot that was the scene of Scotland’s most infamous clan massacre. It has appeared in several Harry Potter films, as well in other movies.
6 – Falkirk
Conveniently located between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the town of Falkirk has a lot going for it. The Kelpies are gigantic horse sculptures that welcome you here. After that, the Falkirk Wheel is a spectacular, rotating boat lift that is used to connect two canals.
Callendar House is an opulent mansion set in the sprawling park of the same name. You can tour this 14th-century building, where the echoes of famous residents and guests make it a memorable experience.
7 – North Berwick
North Berwick is just a short day trip from Edinburgh. This town by the coast has golf courses, sandy bays and a pretty selection of interesting shops to explore. There are also plenty of events to catch around the year, including the North Berwick Highland Games.
The Scottish Seabird Centre and Tantallon Castle are outstanding attractions around here. However, many visitors take the chance to simply unwind by the water with fish and chips or ice cream.
8 – Isle of Skye
The Isle of Sky offers the most impressive landscape of the north of Scotland. It is located Northwest of the mainland. The island is composed by a series of peninsulas, and its coastline is irregular, creating stunning views over the ocean and hidden beaches.
The island is wild and famous for its nature: mountains and waterfalls abound. The Isle of Skye can be visited on a multi-day tour from Edinburgh, which covers other famous sights of the North of Scotland, such as Lochness and Loch Lomond.
9 – Rosslyn Chapel
This tiny village, Roslin or Rosslyn, 7 miles (11 km) from Edinburgh, has some unique claims to fame. Roslin Castle, Rosslyn Chapel and Roslin Glen have been attracting visitors here for centuries. More recently, Dolly, the cloned sheep was born at the Roslin Institute.
The castle is now partially ruined but is still a beautiful sight to behold. With relatively few visitors, it can feel like taking a step back in time when you discover the remnants of the thick stone walls standing alone. Day trips from Edinburgh to Roslin are like a ticket back in time.
10 – Perth
To the north of the capital, the city of Perth was once arguably the most important in the country. These days, it is a magnificent place to discover whisky distilleries, castles and great hospitality.
Nature is all around you here on the banks of the River Tay. Notable features around Perth include the world’s longest hedge, the colourful Branklyn Garden and a churchyard tree that is among Europe’s oldest living objects.
11 – Windermere
Crossing over into England is an option for those visitors keen on longer excursions from Edinburgh. Windermere, in the breath-taking Lake District, is the biggest natural lake in England.
It is an ideal spot to go on a gentle boat trip, carry out some water sports or just relax with afternoon tea by the water. The massive popularity of this region means that there is a huge selection of places to stay, eat or do some shopping.
12 – Outlander Filming Locations
Outlander fans can discover a number of the show’s glorious locations on day trips from Edinburgh. For example, the formidable Linlithgow Palace stands in as Wentworth Prison on the screen.
You will also recognise Aberdour Castle. This ancient building is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and parts of it were filmed for Outlander. Lovely Culross is on the banks of the River Forth, but you may know it as Cranesmuir from the TV series. The historic buildings in Culross are well worth exploring even if you have never seen Outlander.
13 – Elie
This seaside resort in Fife can be reached on a short excursion from Edinburgh. It is a magnet for golfers, as it is home to a couple of excellent golf courses. The town itself is filled with some attractive buildings from past centuries. The Lady’s Tower is probably the stand-out architectural attraction.
Elie is built around a curved, sandy bay that lends a natural charm to the town. The water is often filled with surfers, yachts and other craft.
14 – The Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders is a vast, picturesque region on the border with England. It includes towns such as Selkirk, Pebbles, Duns and Jedburgh. The strategic location means that it is peppered with castle, abbeys and stately homes. Day trips from Edinburgh to the Scottish Boarders are your chance to admire some of the historical highlights of Scotland.
This is an ideal spot for enjoying rolling hills, rugged cliffs and rural delights. Having said that, the Scottish Borders has also been gaining a reputation as a hot-spot for adventure sports like quad biking, surfing and archery.
15 – Glasgow
Scotland’s largest city lies just 47 miles (75 km) away from Edinburgh. Yet these cities are so vastly different that visiting both of them provides a fascinating contrast. Glasgow has traditionally been known for possessing a gritty, working-class nature compared to Edinburgh’s elegance. However, in recent times, it has been transformed into a modern, fascinating travel destination.
Glasgow is famous for pubs, football, shopping, its architecture and the humour of its residents. Among the attractions not to be missed here are Glasgow Cathedral, The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Glasgow Science Centre.
16 – St. Andrews
World-renowned as the home of golf, St Andrews is a must-see destination for golf fans. They will find the British Golf Museum here, as well as some of the very best courses on the planet.
The ruined 12th century St Andrews Cathedral was once Scotland’s most prominent church and is well worth a visit. St Andrew’s Castle is now in ruins, but its bloody history and impressive facade mean that it is still a spine-tingling spot.
17 – Dundee
The City of Discovery was once known as being the home of jam, jute and journalism. These days, it has been re-invigorated as a bright, modern tourism destination.
Located by the River Tay, Dundee offers treats such as the Broughty Castle Museum, jute industry museum and the V&A design museum. Regarded as some as being a little-known gem, Dundee has been gaining well-deserved popularity among travellers lately.
18 – Burntisland
Over on the opposite side of the River Forth sits the town of Burntisland. Famous for hosting the world’s second-oldest Highland Games in summer, this is an excellent destination if you want to cross the legendary Forth Road Bridge.
There is a lovely sandy beach here, as well as historic Rossend Castle and a working harbour. In the summer months, it can get bustling, while it tends to be a lot quieter during the rest of the year.
19 – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
This is the sort of place that looks just too perfect to be real. Loch Lomond is a large, gorgeous lake that is surrounded by outstanding natural beauty in all directions. Easily accessible from Edinburgh by road, you will soon be immersed in a world of woodlands, villages and incredible views.
The region is home to red deer and also has a world-class golf course. Visitors come here to hike, to cycle, to camp and to soak up the unique views.
20 – Cairngorms National Park
The North-East of the country is home to this sprawling National Park, which is the biggest in the UK. Close to 2 million visitors come here each year, enticed by the dramatically snow-topped mountains and rolling hills.
You can climb a mountain, sample whisky in a distillery or go ice climbing. The varied local wildlife includes squirrels, shaggy Highland cows and even reindeer.
21 – Scottish Seabird Centre
A highlight of trips to North Berwick, the Scottish Seabird Centre is a must for wildlife fans. Among the top attractions are the interactive live cameras that beam in images of the giant colonies on birds on nearby islands.
This is a short and sweet day trip from Edinburgh, as it is around 27 miles (43 km) away by road. There are some fun activities for kids and also the chance to get a bite to eat while enjoying a glorious view.
22 – St Abbs
This quaint fishing village on the Berwickshire coast shot to fame after appearing the Avengers: Endgame movie. Nearby, you can find a sandy beach that attracts surfers. This area also provides a great way to get close to nature, with bird-watching opportunities and tremendous views.
It is a fantastic spot for scuba diving, with the wonderfully clear water letting you fully appreciate the fantastic underwater scenery at the UK’s first-ever Voluntary Marine Reserve.
23 – Dunbar
This town on the North Sea coast is an attractive option for a short excursion from Edinburgh. John Muir Country Park is a beautiful place to get close to nature, with bird-watching an especially popular activity here.
Dunbar Castle contains the remains of a once-proud, destroyed fortress on the harbour. It was once one of the sturdiest strongholds in the country. You can’t enter the castle, but it makes a stunning backdrop for photos.
24 – Kellie Castle
Near to the village of Arncroach in Fife, you will find this ancient castle with extensive gardens that are filled with exotic plants. It has a fascinating history, with enthralling tales of famous characters and dramatic moments.
Don’t miss the famous mirrors in the castle’s largest room. They will trick your eyes into thinking that your reflection doesn’t change in size even when you are walking away from them.
25 – Glamis Castle
For many visitors on a day trip from Edinburgh, it is Glamis Castle that they long to see. Glamis Castle is the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and beloved home of the Queen Mother.
It is worth taking the time to listen to the guide’s explanation of the history of this thrilling site. It holds many secrets and there are great tales from the past for you to find out about.
Now that you have seen some of the tremendous day trips from Edinburgh, nothing should stop you from visiting this thrilling, richly historic and hugely enjoyable part of the UK soon.