Lucy Dodsworth is sharing 5 of the best day trips from Edinburgh for those looking to get more out of their Scottish city break!
There’s so much to do in Edinburgh that you can easily spend your whole trip inside the city but if you’ve got a little more time or want to explore a little further, you can see even more with a day trip Edinburgh. Within a day trip’s distance you can get a taste of what else Scotland has to offer, from wildlife-spotting to beach escapes, historic castles to street art tours – and you don’t need a car with one of these great day trips. Here are five great day trip ideas from Edinburgh to get you started, all accessible by public transport.
Next-door neighbours and longtime rivals, Glasgow and Edinburgh couldn’t be more different. Where Edinburgh is the classic beauty, Glasgow is the younger, hipper, more creative little sister.
Glasgow’s only 50 minutes by train so it’s easy to do a day trip from Edinburgh. There’s so much to do in Glasgow though that you could fill a whole trip, so choose a few of the highlights to get you started.
Museum lovers head to Kelvingrove for art and history exhibits in a beautiful red stone building, or the strikingly modern Riverside Museum for everything transport related. Art lovers follow the Mural Trail for the city’s best street art, or visit Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s old haunts with a tour of the Glasgow School of Art and tea and cake at the Willow Tea Rooms. Photographers shouldn’t miss the atmospheric hilltop Necropolis and the view of the Clyde bridges at sunset. And food and drink lovers are spoilt for choice in Finnieston and Merchant City.
Read more: Check out Monica’s 48 hour guide to Glasgow for more ideas and suggestions.
2. Inchcolm Island
Edinburgh’s probably not somewhere you’d think of for wildlife-spotting, but you can be out with the seals and porpoises in less than an hour from the city centre with this easy day trip from Edinburhg. Inchcolm Island is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems – a tiny island in the middle of the Firth of Forth. To get there you take a three-hour boat trip from South Queensferry, sailing underneath the iconic Forth Bridges along the way.
The island’s packed with interesting stories – it was a quarantine island during the plague and a First World War garrison. Now it’s a peaceful place to explore, with hoards of seabirds, an ancient abbey and great views back to Edinburgh on a sunny day. While you’re in South Queensferry, visit the grand Hopetoun country house and try some tasty Scottish mussels at the Boat House restaurant too.
Travel Hack tip: Boat trips leave from Hawes Pier in South Queensferry – take the train from Edinburgh to Dalmeny Station in about 15 mins or it’s 35 minutes on the no 43 bus from St Andrew Square.
If you love myths and legends – or Hollywood film locations – then don’t miss Roslin, a little village eight miles south of Edinburgh (a 50-minute journey on the no 37 bus). Roslin is home to the 15th century Rosslyn Chapel, a stone church full of intricate carvings. But is it the secret home of the Holy Grail? Dan Brown thought so when he was writing The Da Vinci Code. The chapel appears in the book, and Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou came to Rosslyn to film in the chapel crypt or the film version.
Keep an eye out for William, the chapel’s resident cat, who’s usually found snoozing on a sunny bench. Then head out into Roslin Glen, a green oasis just a few minutes walk from the chapel. It’s an ancient woodland in a gorge along the North Esk river with a ruined castle tucked among the trees. Pack a picnic on a sunny day or head to the cosy Original Rosslyn Inn for lunch.
4. St Andrews
St Andrews is a small city on the coast of Fife that’s full of history. It’s got medieval churches, a ruined castle and the oldest university in Scotland (aka the place where Prince William met Kate). You can climb up the old castle tower to look out over the city, wander around the university buildings or take a walk along one of the three beaches. The big student population means there are plenty of cafés and pubs to hang out in too, and St Andrews is also the home of the fab Eden Mill gin distillery where you can do a tour and tasting.
St Andrews is famous as the home of golf, and if you’ve got a good-enough handicap you can tee off on the Old Course in the footsteps of Open winners. But even if you don’t know your nine iron from your putter, you can still have your photo taken on the famous Swilcan Bridge and call in for a drink in the Jigger Inn – the course’s unofficial 19th hole.
Travel Hack tip: There’s no train station in St Andrews, but you can catch the train to nearby Leuchars (just over an hour from Edinburgh), then it’s 10 minutes by bus or taxi into St Andrews.
5. North Berwick
Fancy a day on the beach? North Berwick is just half an hour by train outside Edinburgh, and when the sun’s shining onto its golden sand and blue sea it’s easy to forget you’re in Scotland. This pretty seaside town is full of cafés (the hipster Steampunk Coffee is a favourite), art galleries and quirky gift shops to explore. Visit the harbour for a freshly caught lunch from the Lobster Shack, where their speciality is a half-lobster and chips.
North Berwick is also another seabird hotspot. You can watch them on cameras at the Sea Bird Centre or get up close on a boat trip out to Bass Rock. The Rock is an extinct volcano that’s now a haven for gannets, razorbills and guillemots (there are so many that their droppings have turned the rock from grey to white, so you might not want to breathe in too deeply!). And for your own bird’s eye view, climb up to the top of North Berwick Law for a stunning view along the coast.
Where’s your favourite place for a day trip from Edinburgh? Let us know in the comments below!
Lucy is a travel blogger On the Luce, exploring the UK, Europe and beyond from her home base in the Cotswolds. Her blog combines inspirational stories and beautiful photos with all the useful details you need to make the trip a reality – from weekend break ideas to rail adventures, reviews of quirky accommodation to unusual angles on your favourite destinations. Lucy’s never far from her camera, loves a good glass of Prosecco, devours a book a week and is always on the hunt for luxury on budget.
Read more Edinburgh travel guides from The Travel Hack:
If you’d like more ideas for a getaway, check out our 52 weekend away ideas.