Here are some of the best and easiest day trips from Edinburgh using public transport only – no hiring cars and sitting in traffic involved! Edinburgh is one of my all-time cities and there is SO much to do there from eating/drinking, to history and culture, to exploring specific parts of town like Dean Village/Stockbridge or the beautiful hidden gems like Circus Lane. But it’s also a perfect city base for getting out and about on day trips to see even more of Scotland.
For this post, I’ve teamed up with some travel blogging friends to bring you a quick selection of day trips from Edinburgh that we’ve all tried and tested. This list isn’t in any order or anything, and it’s by no means exhaustive. But it’s a good place to start if you’re looking into what you can easily get to via public transport from Edinburgh. I’ve tried to include a decent variety of city, coast, mountains, towns and sights. Let me know in the comments if you have your own tip for a public-transport day out from Edinburgh too.
Time to get the kettle on (it would be rude not to also have a shortbread to get into the Scottish mood) and get planning…
1. North Berwick
Day trips from Edinburgh: North Berwick
North Berwick is my personal favourite day trip from Edinburgh. It only takes 30 minutes from the city centre on the train but feels a world away. It’s a little seaside town, full of independent shops, beautiful beaches and amazing wildlife.
North Berwick’s coastline is stunning, with a pretty harbour and two beaches. The famous view from the coast is off Bass Rock, an old volcanic rock that is now home to all sorts of seabirds. You can learn more about them and watch them on webcams at North Berwick’s lovely Scottish Seabird Centre. That’s also a great thing to do on a wet afternoon.
If you’re feeling energetic, walk up The Law, North Berwick’s answer to Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat. It’s a volcanic rock towering over the town, offering panoramic views across the coastline and to Edinburgh and the Forth Road Bridge.
The town of North Berwick itself has loads of brilliant places to eat, drink and shop. I won’t go into my favourites, but you can find out more about eating/drinking/shopping and things to do in North Berwick in my full post on it.
2. The Kingdom of Fife
With thanks to Gemma from the fabulous travel blog Two Scots Abroad.
Day trips from Edinburgh: the Kingdom of Fife
The Kingdom of Fife is a region crammed with history, cute villages and good food.
Starting in West Fife, Scotland fans will love the ancient capital, Dunfermline, the resting place of King Robert the Bruce. Visitors can pay homage to his tomb at Dunfermline Abbey then grab lunch at the impressive Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries which overlooks the Church, Abbey and Palace. Dunfermline has two train stations with trains running daily from Edinburgh.
Hop on a bus to the cute village of Culross to see a few of the Outlander filming locations including the beautiful orange Culross Palace. Aberdour Castle and Falkland are also popular Outlander locations in Fife.
Head up to the East Neuk of Fife (by bus, you’ll only get as far as Leuchars by train), to try award-winning fish and chips and walk off some of the calories on the Fife Coastal Path!
With thanks to Kathi from the fabulous travel blog Watch Me See.
Day trips from Edinburgh: Glasgow
Glasgow is Edinburgh’s big brother – the largest city in Scotland and perfect for a day trip from the medieval capital. Hop on a train or bus and make your way across the Central Belt to Glasgow, which was once known as the second city of the British Empire. Back then, the city was industrial and overcrowded and after the crash of the ship building and heavy industries in the city during the 1950s and 60s, not many people held high hopes for the city.
But like a phoenix, Glasgow has risen from the ashes and transformed itself into a bustling city with a thriving music scene, lots of art on the streets and in museums and tons of things to do for free or little money.
First calling point should be the (free) Lighthouse museum for architecture and design. The viewing tower offers a bird’s eye view of the city – but beware of the winding staircase up! Next up, follow the City Centre Mural Trail and snap photos of famous works of art by Rogue One, Smug and Co. Then make your way to the West End of Glasgow and visit Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. Head to Ashton Lane for lunch and pretend you’re Harry Potter at the main building of the University of Glasgow. Explore the artist studios and craft shops at the Hidden Lane and end your day in Glasgow at one of the many trendy restaurants and bars in the Finnieston neighbourhood!
4. The Pentland Hills
With thanks to Beata from the fabulous travel blog Stunning Outdoors.
Day trips from Edinburgh: the Pentland Hills
Are you planning a trip to Edinburgh? Make sure not to miss a hike in nearby Pentland Hills. The Regional Park encompasses a beautiful range of medium-sized hills and valleys (Scottish: glens), which run at Edinburgh’s doorstep. The park is easily accessible by public transport from the city centre, with many buses taking hikers to numerous starting points.
Pentland Hills provide a taste of Scottish hills without going to the Highlands. There are two waterfalls, mountain streams, several hills steep enough to make you sweaty, beautiful views over Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. The Pentlands offer wide range of walks for a half or full day adventure and are fantastic place to unwind and take a break from city’s hustle and bustle. If you are lucky, you can also spot Highland cattle during your visit in Pentland Hills – visit Swanston Farm, nestled at the foot of Caerketton Hill, and their 300 acres of hill land.
Having lived in Edinburgh for over a decade, I visited Pentland Hills countless times. They’re my favourite short trip away from the city, just a perfect place to relax or, if in the mood, raise your heartbeat!
5. Cramond Island
With thanks to Crystal from the fabulous travel blog Wandering Crystal.
Day trips from Edinburgh: Cramond Island
Cramond Island is a small isle located just off the coast of Cramond village in Edinburgh. The perfect day trip from the capital, the island is only a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre.
As it’s a tidal island, Cramond Island is only accessible twice a day when the tide is low enough to cross over the paved causeway. The Isle offers beautiful views of the Firth of Forth and, depending on the weather, it’s the perfect place to have an afternoon picnic, a relaxed walk or just a bit of an explore.
If you’re into a bit of history, Cramond Island will win you over with its ruins that were once a holiday home referred to as the Duck House. The island is also home to the now graffiti-plastered decrepit abandoned military buildings that haven’t been used since WWII.
During high tide, the causeway disappears beneath the water’s surface and holds the island in isolation. Be sure to check the tidal times for the day you plan to visit. It’s essential so you don’t miss your chance to see the island — and so you don’t get stranded there when the tide rises.
With thanks to Nicola from the fabulous travel blog FunkyEllas Travel.
Day trips from Edinburgh: Falkirk
The town of Falkirk is only 25 minutes from Waverley Train Station on the Edinburgh to Glasgow line.
What you’ll find when you get there is the huge steel masterpieces, The Kelpies. These two mythical horse sculptures are over 30 metres tall and were designed by Andy Scott. You can take a tour and learn about the history of Kelpies and the construction process or you can take a stroll around the Helix, with 26km of pathways to explore.
The town of Falkirk is also home to the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, which connects the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. Both the Kelpies and the Wheel have fantastic visitor centres.
The 14th century Callander House is a grand mansion with various exhibits, including one about the Antonine Wall. You can also find a section of the wall in the grounds. Afternoon tea is pretty special too.
The town centre has an excellent range of shops and cafes. The bus station, which is within walking distance of the main shopping area, has regular buses taking you to all of the attractions I’ve mentioned. If you can squeeze it in, you won’t regret a wee visit to the Dunmore Pineapple.
With thanks to Fiona from the fabulous travel blog London Unattached.
Day trips from Edinburgh: Arbroath
Take the train from Edinburgh to Arbroath and in an hour and a half, you’ll be in a quaint fishing town that time seems to have forgotten.
Home of the Arbroath Smokie, arrive hungry and make your way to Stuarts. Here you can buy fresh smokies. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see them being made – hung out over a wood smoker to cure, then served warm with a butter bap. They are a traditional Scottish dish with their own PGI status. Wander down to the harbour and watch the world go by.
What else is there to do in Arbroath besides eat the famous smokies? Well, there’s a museum in the signal tower and you can take a look at the Bell Rock Lighthouse, Britain’s oldest surviving offshore lighthouse. Or take a ride on the miniature railway. Not to miss is Arbroath Abbey, founded in 1178 and home to the Declaration of Arbroath made in 1320. An Apologia or formal written defence, it has UNESCO ‘Memory of the World Status’ and sets out Scotland’s case as an independent sovereign kingdom.
A few extra tips for planning day trips from Edinburgh by public transport
- It may be wildly obvious and patronising of me to even say this, but check the weather forecast before heading out. Somewhere like North Berwick or Glasgow has plenty of indoor stuff to do. The Pentland Hills might not be so comfortable. Having said that, you can always wrap up and go for it regardless.
- You can always buy train tickets online from Trainline or Scotrail etc. The same often goes for bus tickets (through National Express or a local bus company’s website). But sometimes with buses, you do need to buy a ticket in person. In those circumstances, it’s usually best to have the right cash on you.
- There are two train stations in Edinburgh: Waverley and Haymarket. Make sure you’ve planned the right one!
- Bus and train services might not be that frequent, depending on where you’re off to for your day trip. Check, check and check again. Know what time you need to be back at the bus stop or train station. Burn this information into your brain. Set a reminder on your phone if you have to. It’s no fun being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal (and no Uber service!). And in the rain, most likely…
- If you’d rather not do any planning yourself, there are organised tours. If you don’t speak much English or you need assistance in general, this might be a decent option. You can find loads on Get Your Guide, which is one of the most reputable tour operators.
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