There is no shortage of things to do and see in Edinburgh, however, perhaps you’re looking for an escape from the city and are interested in some short day trip outings. There are many blogs that recommend day trips to the Highlands from the capital and although possible, we personally feel that you won’t be doing this beautiful part of Scotland justice and will end up spending in excess of 6 hours in the car. You can, of course, join an organised tour where you’ll at least be able to take in the stunning surroundings from the comfort of your seat.
>> If you’re travelling with kids, make sure you check out our guide to FAMILY day trips from Edinburgh! <<
Our Edinburgh day trip guide covers outings that take between 30 minutes to 1hr 20mins – a very comfortable and easy round day trip. So read on if you’d like some inspiration for day trips from Edinburgh by car and public transport. Nature, wildlife, history, art – we’ve got you covered!
We’ve created a table of contents so you can jump straight to the day trip that interests you and we’ve also provided detailed information on how to get to the various places by car and public transport.
Map of Day trips from Edinburgh
We’ve pinpointed all the suggested day outings on the map below. Hopefully this will help you plan your Edinburgh day trips!
The Kelpies & The Helix Park (from 45 minutes)
These two large sculptures are amazing! You can see them from the motorway (yes, slightly distracting when you’re driving along at full speed) and we strongly recommend that you take the time to look at them more closely. We recently ticked them off our own Scottish Bucket List and were blown away by these majestic sculptures.
The Kelpies, located at the Helix Park, stand at around 30 meters in height and weigh over 300 tonnes. They’re inspired by the mythological water spirit that is said to inhabit the Scottish lochs. You can join a 30 minute guided tour and get *inside* these impressive sculptures! There are plenty of other activities available at the Helix Park including an Adventure Zone play park and Splash Play area.
→ The Kelpies & the Helix Park website
How to get to the Kelpies from Edinburgh:
- The easiest way to reach the Kelpies is by car! It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions. There are two car parks (Helix car park and Kelpies car park), however, parking spaces do fill up quickly and it is therefore recommended to either arrive early or alternatively, park at Falkirk stadium and walk through the Helix Park to reach the Kelpies.
- We recommend that you catch the train to Falkirk High Street (you can buy tickets online here) and then pick up an uber or a taxi (this is by far the easiest option!). The train journey only takes around 25 minutes and it’s then a short car journey away. Otherwise, you will need to pick up the First bus number 2 (check the First bus route planner here) at Slammanan Road (2 min walk from the train station) heading for Bo’ness. Get off the bus at Falkirk Road opposite Falkirk Stadium (keep an eye out for the pink bus stop) and you can then enter the Helix Park side entrance and enjoy a leisurely 20 minute walk to the Kelpies.
- Another option is to pick up the First bus number 28 to Falkirk/Alloa from the same bus stop as above and get off at Glensburgh Road before Kerse Bridge, Grangemouth. It will then take you approximately 10 minutes to walk along the canal to reach the Kelpies.
- This is by far the longest journey option… Catch the First bus no X9, 38 or 38A to Falkirk Bus Station – the journey takes approx 1hr 25mins. Next catch the bus to Grangemouth and get off at Dalgrain Road. You will then have a 10 minute walk the Kelpies. Total journey time is approximately 2hrs. Check the first bus journey planner here.
The Falkirk Wheel (from 45 minutes)
Located approximately 23 miles from Edinburgh, the Falkirk Wheel is an impressive piece of engineering that connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde Canal. This rotating boat lift was launched back in 2002 and perfectly demonstrates the Archimedes principle! You can book onto a boat tour and experience the boat lift first hand or stay on dry land to enjoy the many activities available onsite including peddle boats, waterzorbing, canoeing, Segway safaris, stand-up paddle boarding and more. You could easily combine a visit to the Kelpies with a trip to the Falkirk Wheel as it’s just a short 10 minute drive away.
How to get to the Falkirk Wheel from Edinburgh:
- Falkirk Wheel is approximately 60 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh – click here for driving instructions. There is a car park at the Wheel which costs £3.50.
- It’s an easy 25 minute train journey from Edinburgh to Falkirk. Catch the train at either Waverley train station or Haymarket (in the West end) and get off at Falkirk High train station – you can buy tickets online here. Once you’ve reached Falkirk, you can either jump in a taxi or catch the bus 6/6a/6b. If you’re feeling energetic, you can even join the John Muir Way and walk 2.5 miles from Falkirk High to the Wheel.
- You can reach Falkirk Wheel by bus, however, it’s a long 2 hour journey and you might therefore prefer to opt for the train + local bus combo. Catch the First Scotland East bus number X38 (heading towards Stirling) and get off at St Andrews Church on Upper Newmarket Street in Falkirk. Next, catch the First Scotland East bus no 6 to Falkirk Wheel. Check the journey planner here .
Aberdour (from 30 minutes)
Aberdour is a quaint little village across the water in Fife, a short scenic half hour train ride from Edinburgh Waverley train station. It has shot to fame since featuring in the famous series Outlander. So for any Claire and Jamie fans out there, be sure to include a trip to Aberdour Castle on your itinerary. The Castle featured as Sainte Anne de Beaupré monastery in the series. We also highly recommend a trip to Aberdour Beach and you can even join Fife coastal trail from there.
→ Aberdour Castle & Gardens Website
How to get to Aberdour from Edinburgh:
- Aberdour can be reached by car in 40 minutes. Click here for driving instructions.
- It’s an easy 30 minute train ride from Edinburgh and our favourite option for reaching the pretty coastal town of Aberdour. Catch the train at either Waverley train station or Haymarket (in the West end) – you can buy tickets online here.
- Catch the bus number X57 from Edinburgh bus station. The bus takes around 1hr 15 mins to reach Aberdour train station. Check the journey planner here.
South Queensferry (from 30 minutes)
For the trainspotters amongst you, head to the pretty coastal town of South Queensferry. You can’t a better view of the iconic Forth Railway Bridge! This famous red metallic structure towers above the South Queensferry skyline. The Forth Bridge, built over 125 years ago, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an incredible feat of engineering.
This small town to the West of Edinburgh will charm you with its small lanes, cafés restaurants, shops and friendly locals – it’s the perfect destination for a day trip from Edinburgh. If you’re looking for history and wildlife, then jump aboard the Maid of the Forth or Forth Boats for a great outing to nearby Inchcolm Island.
How to get to South Queensferry from Edinburgh:
- South Queensferry is approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions.
- It’s an easy 15 minute train journey from Edinburgh to Dalmeny. Catch the train at either Waverley train station or Haymarket (in the West end) – you can buy tickets online here. Once you’ve reached Dalmeny train station, it’s then a pleasant 15 minute walk to South Queensferry.
- Catch a Lothian Country bus no 43 from Edinburgh (click here to check the various stops ) and get off at The Loan. The journey takes around 40 minutes.
Inchcolm Island & Abbey (from 30 minutes)
Imagine a peaceful picturesque tiny island with an incredible history and an ancient abbey, just a short trip from the centre of Edinburgh. This is Inchcolm Island, this is ‘Iona of the East’. Oh and it’s even mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth!
Take a leisurely boat trip from South Queensferry to reach the island and enjoy an afternoon visiting the 12th century Abbey. Construction of the historic Inchcolm Abbey was started under the orders of King David I.
In more recent times the island has also played its part in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Due to its location in the Firth of Forth it was ideally placed as a defensive HQ. At this time, many war ships were anchored between the Forth Rail Bridge and Inchcolm Island. Wartime constructions include anti-submarine booms, secret tunnels, heavy gun emplacements and an engine house used to generate electricity.
Getting there: catch the Maid of the Forth or Forth Boats from Hawes Pier in South Queensferry. See above on how to reach South Queensferry.
Glasgow (from 45 minutes)
Visitors often overlook Glasgow in favour of Scotland’s capital, however, this hip, vibrant city is definitely worth a visit and is an easy day trip from Edinburgh (a short 45 minute train ride). Known as the world’s friendliest city, Glasgow is famous for its welcoming locals, its stunning architecture, world-class visitor attractions, shopping and lively nightlife.
>> Are you travelling to Glasgow with kids? Head here for my top 10 things to do with kids in Glasgow! <<
It’s home to many fantastic museums and art galleries including the Riverside Museum, the Science Museum, the People’s Palace, the Burrell Collection not to mention Glasgow’s flagship museum, Kelvingrove in the West End. The museum houses famous works of art including Dali’s iconic Christ of St John of the Cross.
How to get from Edinburgh to Glasgow:
- Glasgow is approximately 60 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions.
- The journey can take as little as 45 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street station (there are 2 train stations in Glasgow – Central & Queen Street). You can catch the train either at either Waverley train station or Haymarket (in the West end) – you can buy tickets online here.
- You can catch the Megabus (book ahead for some great prices) which leaves from Edinburgh bus station or the Citylink 900 which runs every 15 minutes 24 hours a day. Citylink bus makes several stops within Edinburgh (Edinburgh North St David Street, the bus station, Haymarket train station, Edinburgh zoo) and you can even pick it up at Edinburgh airport if you’ve landed in the capital and are heading onwards to Glasgow. The journey takes around 1hr 20 minutes by bus depending on the time of day.
Jupiter Artland (from 30 minutes)
Jupiter Artland is located on the outskirts of Edinburgh (technically in West Lothian), however, it’s well worth the detour if you have the time and transport. It’s a contemporary park showcasing art installations, a woodland art trail, grass sculptures and more. There’s also a lovely teashop if you need to refuel at any point. If you’re on a budget, head there on a Monday for ‘‘pay what you want Mondays’ and note that it’s only open from May to September.
How to get from Edinburgh to Jupiter Artland:
- Jupiter Artland is approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions.
- Catch the 20 minute train to Kirknewton – you can buy tickets online here. Then you can either hop in a taxi or walk half an hour to reach the park.
- Catch the X27 Lothian Country bus heading towards Whitburn and get off at Coxydene. The bus journey takes around 40 minutes. You’ll then have a short 2 minute walk to the park. Check the Lothian bus app for times and to locate a suitable bus stop in Edinburgh.
Roslynn Chapel in Roslin (from 30 minutes)
Most people are aware of the existence of this famous chapel, following its starring role in the movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’. However, it’s much more impressive away from the silver screen, where you can touch and feel the history. The first foundation stones were cut in 15th century on a small hill in the village of Roslin, 10 miles from Edinburgh.
Make no mistake this a building that stirs the soul. Over the years many people have tried to unlock the mysteries of the symbolism within. There are some that believe that this beautiful ornate chapel has connections with the Knights of the Templar and even that the Holy Grail is hidden here. While others believe that the chapel is a stargate to another world, perhaps one way of explaining its unearthly beauty.
The exterior is impressive, but you can see why there is so much passion for this place when you step inside. It’s hard to comprehend the amount of time and skill that was required to create the carving of the ‘Apprentice Pillar’ let alone the fantastic geometric ceiling patterns. Legend has it that the apprentice stone mason made such a good job of the pillar, that the chief mason became jealous enough to kill him!
Whether you believe in aliens or the Holy Grail, visiting this stunning chapel should not be missed… the experience is nothing short of jaw dropping!
How to get to Rosslyn Chapel from Edinburgh:
- Rosslyn Chapel is approximately a 30 minute drive south from Edinburgh city centre. Click here for driving instructions. There is free parking at the chapel. Driving to the chapel is the easiest and quickest way to get there.
- Catch the train from Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket train station to Eskbank (journey takes approx. 18 mins). Then either pick up a taxi or catch the East Coast Bus no 140 which runs approximately every half hour from the main road, near the Tesco store. The bus journey to Roslin will take around 30 minutes. Check here for times and tickets.
- Catch the Edinburgh Lothian bus no 37 (direction Pennycuick/Deanburn) from Princes Street (other stops available, download the Lothian bus app to check times and bus stops). The journey will take around 50 mins. Get off the bus at the Original Rosslyn hotel and enjoy the short 2 minute walk to the chapel.
Linlithgow Palace (from 20 minutes)
Now in ruins, this incredible 15th Century palace was once Scotland’s answer to Buckingham Palace. King James I, III, V, VI called it home and Mary Queen of Scots was born here. While officially the last resident moved out in 1648, watch out for the ghost of Mary of Guise (Mary Queen of Scots’ mother).
To get some idea of just how bling this building was in its heyday, check out the ornate orders of chivalry above the arch at the gate house You won’t be disappointed by the intricate nature of the carvings, lavishly coated with gold, royal blue and deep red.
A visit to what remains of the great hall sets the scene of what life must have been like for those within these Royal walls. Given the scale of the room, it’s easy to imagine the sumptuous banquets that must have taken place here. It is perhaps no coincidence that Karl Lagerfeld chose this location for Chanel’s 10th Metiers d’art show in 2012.
All this makes it hard to believe that once Scotland’s monarchs moved to England in 1603, the buildings were rarely used and were eventually destroyed by fire 1746. Beautiful parkland surrounds the Palace complete with a large lake. It is here that the music festival ‘Party at the Palace’ has taken place in more recent years, but it’s also perfect for a picnic.
The palace ruins and grounds are now maintained by Historic Scotland and it’s open to the public all year round.
How to get to Linlithgow Palace from Edinburgh:
- Linlithgow Palace is approximately 40 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh and there is sufficient car parking space next to the Palace.
- It’s an easy 18 minute train journey from Edinburgh. Catch the train at either Waverley train station or Haymarket (in the West end) – you can buy tickets online here. Once you’ve reached Linlithgow train station, it’s then a short 5 minute walk to the Palace. This is the easiest and quickest option if you’re travelling by public transport.
- Catch the First bus number 38 or X2 from Princes Street and get off in Linlithgow’s High Street (this bus takes between 1h and 1h20). Check the journey planner here. You will then have a short walk to reach the Palace.
Stirling Castle [from 60 mins]
From one Palace to another… presenting you with Stirling Castle, home to the likes of Mary Queen of Scots, King James V, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce. It’s one of Scotland’s largest castles and was home to many of Scotland’s monarchy over the course of 1000 years. Highlights include the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, the Stirling Heads and the Chapel Royal and is a serious contender to Edinburgh Castle!
Located on Castle Hill, it can easily be reached on foot from the town centre (warning – steep climb!) or by car. Check our post on visiting Stirling Castle for full details. Read below to find out how to make this easy day trip from Edinburgh to Stirling Castle.
How to get to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh:
- Stirling Castle is approximately 60 minutes drive from Edinburgh and there is a car park on the Castle Esplanade, however, it does fill up quickly. Click here for driving directions from Edinburgh to Stirling Castle.
- Catch the train from either Waverley (centre) or Haymarket train station (west end) – you can buy tickets online here. The train journey takes around 40-45 minutes. It’s then a 15 minute walk up to the castle – the last part is pretty steep! You can of course, also jump in a taxi for the last stretch.
- Catch the Scottish City Link bus from Edinburgh bus station or Haymarket train station (or even opposite Edinburgh zoo or the airport). The journey takes around 1hr 25mins – check the online timetable here. You will then need to walk from the bus station to the castle – this takes an additional 15 minutes – or take a taxi. Click here for directions.
- Catch the Megabus from Edinburgh bus station. The company operates up to 6 services per day and the journey takes around 1hr 20mins. Click here for timetables and tickets. You will then need to walk from the bus station to the castle – this takes around 15 minutes – or take a taxi. Click here for directions.
North Berwick (from 30 – 40 minutes)
The exclusive Royal of Burgh of North Berwick is a quaint little seaside town 25 miles from Edinburgh and is a great day trip option from the Scottish capital. It can easily be reached by train in about half an hour or by car 40 minutes.
In the centre, there is an eclectic mix of sprawling Victorian villas (many are now B&Bs) and traditional fisherman’s cottages. There is always plenty of activity in the 12th century harbour, although most of the fishing boats have been replaced by pleasure craft these days.
Find your perfect spot on one of the two lovely sandy beaches, grab an ice cream from the amazing award winning Alandas Gelateria and get blown away by the view, hopefully not the wind. From the beach, there is a great vista of the coastline including the dramatic island of Bass Rock.
There is also great choice of small independent shops for gifts, together with excellent cafes and restaurants. One of our favourite places to sample the local seafood is the Lobster Shack take away at the harbour.
How to get to North Berwick from Edinburgh:
- You can reach North Berwick by car in about 45 minutes from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions.
- Getting to North Berwick by train is by far the best option. It’s a very pleasant half hour train journey from Waverley train station. Click here for tickets and timetable. The train station is just a short walk from the town centre and the beach.
- Catch either the X5 or 124 East Coast bus from Princes Street (other Edinburgh stops available – check here). The bus journey takes between 1hr and 1hr 25mins. Get off at St Baldred’s church and then walk a further 800 meters to reach the town centre.
East Lothian beaches (from 50 minutes)
If you fancy blowing away the cobwebs and getting a good dose of sea air then jump in the car and head out towards the beaches in East Lothian! This is one of our favourite day trips from Edinburgh. We’ve already mentioned the fabulous beach at North Berwick but why not check out a few more in the area. Our favourites are Gullane Bents, Yellowcraigs, Seacliff and Aberlady beach. The easiest way to reach the beaches is by car and you could easily cover a few in the same day. Click here for more information on things to visit in East Lothian.
St Andrews (from 1hr 20 mins)
St Andrews – the home of golf – is an attractive seaside town on the Fife coast of Scotland. There is of course more to this town than its famous Old Course golf course! The place is steeped in history – the University for a start is the oldest university in Scotland and was founded before America was even discovered. It’s also where Prince William met Kate and it’s rumoured that 1 in 10 students meet their future spouse there.
The scenic castle is worth a visit with its infamous bottle dungeon and counter-mine defense system. Don’t miss the Cathedral and if you’re feeling particularly energetic, climb the many steps up St Rule’s Tower to get a great panoramic view of the town and the surrounding landscape.
>> Check our full guide here of things to do in St Andrews! <<
You’ll mostly bump into golfers and students – after all students make up one third of the population during term time! There are two main beaches to choose from – the large expansive sands at West Sands and the smaller, bay-like beach at East Sands. And if you decide that a day is not enough, then check out our St Andrews accommodation guide out.
How to get to St Andrews from Edinburgh:
- You can reach St Andrews by car in about 1hr 20 mins from Edinburgh. Click here for driving instructions.
- If you prefer to travel by train, you will need to catch the train to Leuchars (journey is 1hr) and then a short 12 minute bus or taxi ride to the town as there is no train station in St Andrews. Check the scotrail website for times and tickets.
- Catch the X59 from Edinburgh bus station, click here for timetable. The bus journey takes approximately 2 hours.
The Pentland Hills (from 35 mins)
Whether you’re a walker, a runner, a hiker or a mountain biker, the Pentland Hills are the perfect destination for you. A world away from the crowds of the Royal Mile, this range of hills to the west of the city makes for the perfect day trip from Edinburgh. There are around 100km of marked trails with walking circuits starting from as little as 3.5kms. You’ll also be rewarded with some stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh and the Lothians.
There are a number of entry points, however, our favourite is Flotterston as it’s easy to park there and you can round off your day with a refreshment at the Flotterstom Inn!
Getting there: We recommend you click on the Pentland Hills’ website to decide which trail you’re going to do and then either drive there or jump on a bus. Download this very useful guide to find out which bus to catch to the various entry points. It also provides you with the names of the various walks.
Glenkinchie Distillery (from 35 minutes)
If you are visiting Edinburgh and fancy a wee dram, then what better place than a real-life working distillery. Founded in 1837, Glenkinchie features in the prestigious ‘Classic Malts Selection’ and has won best lowland single malt back in 2013, so you are in good hands.
The distillery is conveniently located only 15 miles from the city in beautiful East Lothian, so no Highland road trip required. To make it even easier to sample some of the amber nectar at source, there is a small luxury shuttle bus run by the distillery. It will pick you up in the centre of town twice a day, 7 days a week.
Okay, so you have arrived in whisky heaven, what next? Well, you will be presented with a choice of 4 tours which increase with price, plus there is a brilliant exhibition which features a model distillery.
There is something for everyone. The basic tour comes in at around £10, while the range topping ‘Managers Tour’ will set you back £150. But this option does take 2 hours and gives you chance to taste all 6 whiskys that this small distillery produces.
The good news is that even the basic tour gives you a chance to sample your very own ‘angels share’ (aged 12 years), in the form of a complimentary glass of what you came for.
→ Glenkinchie Distillery Website
Getting there: you can either drive there in approximately 35 minutes or alternatively – a much better option – is to book a seat on the distillery’s very own shuttle bus which will pick you up from Edinburgh city centre. You will need to buy a combined transport + entrance ticket by calling ahead (tel: 01875 342 012) to book onto this service.
Best Day Trips from Edinburgh by Train
Personally, I absolutely love travelling by train so I thought I’d highlight some of the top places that you can reach from Edinburgh by train. They’re all short train journeys away – between 20 and 45 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley train station. You’ll find all the information you need about the destinations and how to get there above.
- North Berwick
- South Queensferry (Dalmeny)
We hope you enjoyed our round up of suggested day trips out of Edinburgh! If you’re travelling with children then be sure to check out our guide on day trips from Edinburgh with kids. We’ve made that post more specific to families and have showcased the best family-friendly outings including more beaches, parks and child-friendly activities.
Leave a Reply