Even if you’ve only got a few days in Edinburgh, the atmospheric Scottish capital makes an ideal base for exploring further afield and with many of the country’s highlights within a short distance, there are numerous options for day tours. To give you some ideas, here are our top 5 day trips from Edinburgh.
1. Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness
Discovering the northern wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is top of many travelers’ itineraries and there are a plethora of day trip options from Edinburgh. Pay a visit to the eerie Loch Ness and the lively Highlands’ capital of Inverness; hike around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park; take a drive through the Great Glen or follow the famous Scotch Whisky trail. Plan your visit for the summer months and you could opt for a Scottish Highland Games Day Trip, attending the historic games that include unique traditions like hammer throwing, tug-of-war and caber tossing.
Renowned as Scotland’s most scenic glen, the breathtaking valley of Glencoe makes another popular side trip from Edinburgh, often combined with tours of the Highlands. Take a hike through the famous valley, get a view from the 742-meter summit of the Pap of Glencoe, then drive north past the looming peak of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. Alternatively, pay a visit to nearby Oban, the seafood capital of Scotland, from where you can tour the lochs and castles of the rugged West Highlands.
3. Scottish borders
The dramatic Scottish borders have seen plenty of bloodshed over the years thanks to the long Scottish Wars of Independence against the English and exploring the bucolic region unveils many of the secrets of Scotland’s past. Admire the impressive ruins of the 12th century Melrose Abbey and the 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel, made famous in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code; pay a visit to the UNESCO-listed Hadrian’s Wall, just across the border; or head west to Dumfries, the hometown of Scotland’s National Poet Robert Burns and the gateway to Burns County.
4. St Andrews and Fife
Just one hour from the capital, the Kingdom of Fife makes an easy day trip and even the journey is spectacular, crossing the Firth of Forth by the historic Forth Road Bridge and winding along the dramatic North Sea coast. St Andrews is the principal attraction, famous for its grand cathedral and prestigious university (forever to be remembered as the university where Prince William met future wife, Kate Middleton), as well as the home of international golf.
5. Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond
One of Scotland's most largest castles, Stirling Castle was originally built in the 12th century (though most of the remaining structures were built in the 14th and 15th centuries) and is one of the most important historical sites in the country. It's here that the famous Mary Queen of Scots accepted her crown when she was just a baby. An hour west of the castle, Loch Lomond is a large lake set in Scotland's first national park, the Trossachs National Park. Several small towns and villages ring the lake, which is a popular spot for hiking and fishing.