Looking for the best day trips from Edinburgh? Edinburgh is a World Heritage City. Its Old and New Towns have been on UNESCO’s list of sites since 1995.
There are many reasons to have a day out in the capital of Scotland. However, Edinburgh’s position gives you access to some stunning days out elsewhere in the country (and beyond, as I’m going to reveal here).
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Lochs, mountains, national parks, and landmarks all appear on my list of top day trips from Edinburgh. Which one are you going to try first?
Before heading out on your day trips from Edinburgh, explore Edinburgh with some local tours on your Edinburgh day out and check out the most instagrammable places in Edinburgh.
Top Day Trips From Edinburgh
Take the A1 out of the city and enjoy a scenic coastal drive across the border into England. You’ll reach the castle in under two hours. Bus and rail options make it possible to complete the trip in around 1¾ to 2½ hours.
The castle was used in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey, so it may feel familiar even on your first visit. From the Gun Terrace to the Inner Bailey, discover 700 years of history and take an optional tour of the State Rooms.
While there, make time to visit the Alnwick Garden, next door to the castle. Time it right and see the cherry blossoms and consider whether to brave a tour of the otherwise-locked Poison Garden…
Tay Forest Park
A two-hour car journey from Edinburgh takes you north on the A9. Just beyond Pitlochry, the gateway to the Highlands, is the Tay Forest Park – one of six such parks in Scotland.
The forest park takes up a stunning chunk of Perthshire. There are eight car parks to choose from, all offering access to waymarked trails. Most are moderate to strenuous, so take your walking boots.
A favourite of mine is the Ring Fort Trail in Allean Forest, from Allean car park. A strenuous 2½ mile trail, it includes a visit to an ancient fort, along with incredible views over Loch Tummel.
Be sure and drop into the Queen’s View Visitor Centre a short distance back along the B8019 road towards Pitlochry. Your car park ticket is valid for there too, and it’s worth the short stop to take in the views over the loch. The viewpoint was made famous by association with Queen Victoria.
If you are visiting the Tay Forrest Park and looking for a place to stay, checkout this list of hotels, cottages and B&Bs in Pitlochry. Pitlochry is an ideal stop over if you want to take your day trip to an overnight trip. On the way home you can stop off at Dunkeld, Aberfeldy or Stirling for a second day trip.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Head onto the M8 out of the city and some 90 minutes later you’ll arrive at Balloch, a town at the southern tip of Loch Lomond. This is the gateway to the Trossachs National Park.
If it’s your first visit, it’s worth popping into the tourist information centre there. The A82 takes you along the western side of Loch Lomond, offering superb sights as you head north to Crianlarich. You could branch off east along the A85 to explore more of the national park before swinging south through Strathyre and Ardchullarie More.
Alternatively, you can tackle one of the many walks available in the park. Most start from an approved car park. You might also enjoy this Loch Lomond, Highlands, and Sterling Castle Tour.
The M90 links these two cities, providing a fast route to Perth in around an hour. Edinburgh Waverley Station connects with Perth Station by train in around 1 hour 20 minutes.
Green spaces aren’t hard to find in the city either. Rodney Gardens offers a landscaped park to wander and relax in. Don’t miss its highlight – an ancient burial ground.
If travelling by car, Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park is to the east of the River Tay. Several waymarked walks range from ½ mile to 5½ miles in length. The Circular Path is best of all and the longest, taking in several of the five hills found in the park.
Take the M90 to the A93 and follow 34 miles of the Snow Roads from Blairgowrie to Braemar. Even if you turn around and head straight home, you’ll have an amazing day out.
From A to B you’ll cover around 93.7 miles in just under 2½ hours. That doesn’t account for the many photographic stops you’ll want to make, though.
Braemar itself is in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Braemar Castle is just beyond the heart of the village, offering glorious and expansive gardens and the 17th century compact castle to explore. The lesser-known Kindrochit Castle is a ruined 14th-century stronghold in the village proper, on Balnellan Road.
Rosslyn Chapel Day Trips From Edinburgh
Looks familiar? The famous chapel was used in the Da Vinci Code. Head south from Edinburgh on the A7/A701 and you’ll be at Roslin in around 30 minutes.
One of the highlights is the Lady Chapel, famous for its ornate decorations. Carved angels and Green Men abound. It’s said the Green Men – small carved faces with foliage coming out of their mouths, all made from stone – number around 100. Wandering around the chapel trying to spot them all is great to keep the kids entertained.
The chapel grounds provide viewpoints of the chapel itself and the many carvings visible outside. You can discover more about the chapel by taking in a free 10-minute talk.
St Andrews Day Trips From Edinburgh
St Andrews is 90 minutes from Edinburgh, yet it feels as if it is in another world. An early start is recommended if you want time to visit two of the most famous ruins in the area – St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral.
More remains of the former than the latter. However, both are captivating and are situated within a five-minute walk of each other. Both look out over the North Sea.
If you’d rather spend the day on the beach, East Sands and St Andrews Beach are close to each other on the southern side of the Kinness Burn.
From one city to another in just over an hour via the M8. Travel by train in under an hour, arriving at Glasgow Queen Street.
Where you go in the city depends on what you fancy doing. However, for something unusual to finish on, I had to mention the Glasgow Necropolis. A necropolis is a large cemetery, and there are few more famous than this one by Glasgow Cathedral.
The cemetery is divided into named sections such as Petra, Eta, Primus, and Epsilon. There is also a monument to John Knox, along with a First World War Heritage Trail.
Day Trips From Edinburgh Conclusion
Many people are surprised how easy it is to reach a range of destinations and delights from Edinburgh – all done in a day. Take these recommendations as the beginning of your journeys from the city to some of the finest parts of Scotland and beyond.
Graham Grieve is a Scottish blogger who spends his time visiting and writing about Scottish towns and villages and all the things to do in them. Being from Glasgow, 1 hour’s drive away from Edinburgh, Graham has built up an extensive knowledge of the local area and advises tourists of day trips from cities in the Central Belt.