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.
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.
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
The village of Prestonpans is situated ten miles east of Edinburgh on the Forth Estuary.
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.
Dunbar – East Lothian
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.
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.
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.
Stirling, Falkirk and the surrounding area
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.
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 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.
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, 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
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.
Just past Bannockburn, is Stirling, which is around 40 miles from Edinburgh but can be reached in only 40 minutes by rail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.