Great Edinburgh Day Trips

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While Edinburgh is the most popular Scottish destinations for visitors, there is so much to see and do in the surrounding area – so well worth heading out of the capital for a day out.

We’ve put together a few suggestions for some Edinburgh day trips, all easily accessible by public transport or car.

South Queensferry

The Forth Rail Bridge looking towards South Queensferry. Image by Gary Denham via Flickr Creative Commons

The Forth Rail Bridge looking towards South Queensferry. Image by Gary Denham via Flickr Creative Commons

The town, which was once a Royal Burgh, lies around 10 miles west of Edinburgh right under the famous Forth Bridges.

The Forth Bridge (Rail) became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 (Giving it the same status as the Great Wall of China), and there are plenty of viewing points to take in this spectacular structure.

You could even be lucky enough to spot some minke or killer whales on a boat trip to Incholm Island.

Visit in August and you might catch The Ferry Fair, whose origins date back to the 13th Century, and is now a week-long celebration in the town.

There’s a good selection of cafes, bars and restaurants along the sea front and cobbled High Street of the old town – a conservation area.

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel (c) Andrew Lee

Rosslyn Chapel (c) Andrew Lee

Founded in 1446, and taking more than 40 years to complete, this remarkable chapel has more myths and legends attached to it then can be covered here.

With links to the Knights Templar and a starring role in Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, (the chapel even appears in the film version), this is now one of Scotland’s most visited locations.

The stunning interior, with its intricate and ornate stonework, has been lovingly restored and there are hourly talks in the chapel by the resident experts and plenty of staff on hand to answer questions and point out all the different nooks and crannies to you.

With visitor numbers continuing to increase, there is now a purpose-built visitor centre, with a charming cafe and gift shop attached.

It takes around half an hour to drive from the centre of Edinburgh and about 45 minutes by bus.

Details: Open Mon-Sat: 9.30am to 6pm, Sun: 12pm to 4.45pm
More info: Website

Prestonpans – East Lothian

A crane at Prestongrange Museum (c) East Lothian Council

A crane at Prestongrange Museum (c) East Lothian Council

The village of Prestonpans is situated ten miles east of Edinburgh on the Forth Estuary.

The village is very proud of its industrial heritage which is charted at the free Prestongrange Museum and on the Prestonpans Murals trail.

You can pop into the Grade II listed pub, the Gothenburg (Known as The Goth), on the sea front by the totem pole, for some Fowlers Ale straight from the onsite microbrewery.

If you visit at the end of May and the start of June, you can attend the 3 Harbours Festival, named as one of the UK’s best outdoor arts festivals by the Sunday Observer.

More info: Website and Twitter

Dunbar – East Lothian

Rainbow over Dunbar Harbour - Image credit - Dunbar Harbour Trust

Rainbow over Dunbar Harbour – Image credit – Dunbar Harbour Trust

Dunbar is known locally as “Sunny Dunny” and lies about 30 miles to the east of Edinburgh – and the train will take you there in about 30 minutes.

John Muir’s Birthplace is housed in what was once the home of the famous conservationist, who moved to the US as a boy with his family and depicts Muir’s fascinating life.

John Muir's birthplace (c) Mark Jackson via East Lothian Council

John Muir’s birthplace (c) Mark Jackson via East Lothian Council

There’s a scenic (if somewhat bracing) walk along the coastal path,  part of the John Muir Way, alongside red cliffs with views over to the Bass Rock. The Rocks Restaurant, opposite the War Memorial, is very good.

The Dunbar Harbour Trust has done a lot of work to preserve the historic harbour and put on regattas and other events in the town.

Visit the historic harbour (c) Dunbar Harbour Trust

Visit the historic harbour (c) Dunbar Harbour Trust

The recently refurbished, Dunbar Town House Museum & Gallery, is worth a look. Built in the 16th Century it has Scotland’s oldest functioning Council Chamber.

The East Links Family Park is also a great day out for families and it has just opened an 18 hole crazy golf course. They also have go karts, a small animal farm and toy tractors among the attractions.

More info: Website and Twitter

 

Dunbar harbour and castle (c) Mark Jackson via East Lothian Council

Dunbar harbour and castle (c) Mark Jackson via East Lothian Council

Stirling, Falkirk and the surrounding area

The Falkirk Wheel at night via Scottish Canals

The Falkirk Wheel at night via Scottish Canals

This area has a rich seam of Scottish history running through it it is the scene of many of the major battles against the English, featuring the likes of William (Braveheart) Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

Linlithgow Palace © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

The County Town of West Lothian, Linlithgow sits between Edinburgh and Falkirk and it’s famous palace was the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots.

The ruined Linlithgow Palace, built by the Stewart Kings of Scotland, is housed within exquisite grounds above a loch – and remains an atmospheric place to visit.

Falkirk

Falkirk is about half an hour on the train, or 45 minutes by car, from Edinburgh and sits bang in between the Scottish capital and Glasgow.

While it was once famous for its iron and steel industry, it’s now become a popular tourist spot thanks to the innovative Falkirk Wheel and the equine sculpture, The Kelpies.

Boat trip at the top of the wheel (c) peter sandground via Scottish Canals

Boat trip at the top of the wheel (c) peter sandground via Scottish Canals

The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, was built in 2002 as part of a multi-million project to seamlessly join the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal.

Take the 50 minute journey as the boat you are travelling on is lifted into the air and transported into the Union Canal.

The Kelpies. Image - amateur photography by michel via Flickr Creative Commons

The Kelpies. Image – amateur photography by michel via Flickr Creative Commons

The Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures, at 30m tall and 300 tonnes each, has now become a visual landmark in Falkirk.

These mythical creatures were inspired by Falkirk’s strong links to working horses on the canals and are a monument to this former industry. Take a guided tour round the complex to find our more

Bannockburn Fields and Robert the Bruce. Image by Shadowgate via Flickr Creative Commons

Bannockburn Fields and Robert the Bruce. Image by Shadowgate via Flickr Creative Commons

Bannockburn

Continue past Falkirk and you get to Bannockburn, scene of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where the Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, famously routed the English army led by Edward II.

The battlefield is now a visitors centre and you can learn more about this key part of Scottish history and medieval combat in their virtual 3D experience.

Stirling

Just past Bannockburn, is Stirling, which is around 40 miles from Edinburgh but can be reached in only 40 minutes by rail.

Highlights of a visit include Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument and the Old Town Jail.

The castle can be reached up back walk, starting at Albert Hall. You can explore around the Old Town Cemeteries with its Star Pyramid on the way up.

If you then walk back to the city centre there’s a lovely cafe at the Tolbooth in Broad Street.

Stirling Castle © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

Stirling Castle © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

The Scottish Borders

This beautiful and hilly part of Scotland sits to the south of Edinburgh and is easily reachable by bus or car – taking around two hours and one and a half hours respectively.

If you visit in the summer you can take part in the common “Ridings” in scores of the towns in the area. These ancient equine events, originally to mark the boundaries on horseback, usually last for a couple of weeks and have rideouts, sporting events, food, drink and music festivals.

Hawick

River Teviot in Hawick. Image by Daniel via Flickr Creative Commons

River Teviot in Hawick. Image by Daniel via Flickr Creative Commons

The largest town in the area was settled in the 12th Century and is famous for it’s textile industry and is the “home of cashmere” – you should head here to pick up quality knitwear.

With 107 acres along the banks of the River Teviot, Wilton Lodge Park, is worth visiting as it is not only home to Hawick Museum, but has plenty of outdoor activities to keep the whole family entertained.

Born in the Borders is a cafe, farm shop and micro-brewery near Minto, just outside of Hawick, and sells produce and arts and crafts made in the local area. There “plough to pint” beers include Foxy Blonde and Flower of Scotland.

Hike up nearby Ruberslaw to see magnificent views across the area or visit in the summer for one of the oldest common ridings in Scotland.

Jedburgh

View of Jedburgh from the castle (c) Kirsten Beacock

View of Jedburgh from the castle (c) Kirsten Beacock

This picturesque small town is a historic Royal Burgh and it’s position so close to the English border saw it caught up in border raids and battles for centuries.

Mary Queen of Scots House is a free museum in a fortified house where she stayed in 1566, devoted to telling the romantic and tragic story of this famous Scottish monarch.

You can also learn more about the terrible conditions prisoners would have faced at Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum.

Visit Jedforest Deer Park and see the six different types of deer, including the rare white red deer, along with ponies, peacocks and goats. They also have plenty of nature trails and outdoor play areas for children to enjoy.

Melrose

Famous for it’s Rugby Sevens and being at the foot of the triple peaks of the rangy Eildon Hills, this thriving town dates back to Roman times.

Visit ruined Melrose Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in Scotland, and founded in 1135 by King David I. Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in the abbey.

The main street has scores of independent shops, with food, knitwear and crafts on offer, and you can easily spend a few hours browsing.

Staying there

We’ve got plenty of places to stay in Edinburgh, whether you are there for a short break or a longer holiday.

If you want to spend more time in Stirling and the surrounding areas – try these hotels in Stirling and Dunblane.

Need further inspiration?

weekend-breaks-scotland

We’ve put together a list of 100 things in Edinburgh so you can discover more about Scotland’s capital or why not try our Scottish weekend break suggestions.

We’ve also put together a list of the best Edinburgh festivals should you be visiting in the summer months.

However if you have Hogmanay in mind we’ve got our top 5 hotels to bring in the New Year in Edinburgh.

So next time that you’re in the Scottish capital make time to enjoy at least one of our suggested Edinburgh day trips.

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About Author

Kirsten Beacock

Kirsten is the chief blogger here at lastminute.com. A former newspaper journalist (don’t hold that against her), having taken extensive trips to China, America and Australasia, she is now pouring her passion for travel into writing blogs and features for the lastminute.com website. Arriving in London via exotic Scunthorpe, Kirsten has made it her mission to try out as many pubs and restaurants as she possibly can in the capital.