12 Edinburgh Day Trip Ideas to Explore Scotland

best day trips from edinburgh

The best one day trips from Edinburgh – a full guide to the most awesome castles and places near Edinburgh, Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness tours.

best day trips from edinburgh

What are the most famous Scottish castles? Is it possible to visit the Scottish Highlands? What about a trip to Inverness or Loch Ness? This guide will give you some great day trips ideas to explore Scotland.

What day trips I took

During my vacation in Scotland, I made two one-day trips from Edinburgh by bus and train. As a huge castle fan, I visited Stirling Castle and Linlithgow Palace. You can totally do this in one day.

The other excursion I made was to Rosslyn Chapel by bus. It is a stunningly beautiful chapel, close to the city.

Where to stay in Edinburgh for sightseeing and day trips

Mid-range – The Rutland Hotel – located next to the Prince’s Street Gardens and close to the castle, the hotel is a great base to explore both the New and the Old Town.
9.2/10 Rating – See hotel images and 970+ guest reviews


Luxury option – The Witchery by the Castle – this lavish hotel has one of the best locations in the city, right next to the castle.
9.4/10 Rating – See hotel images and 260+ guest reviews


Apartment – Old Town Chambers – 5-star luxury serviced apartments offering a home-from-home experience.
9.3/10 Rating – See apartment images and 1,420+ guest reviews


If you are still wondering what area to book a hotel, check out where to stay in Edinburgh – Old Town or New Town.

The best one day trips from Edinburgh

Highlands

National Wallace Monument

What are the best Highland tours? Is it worth visiting the Highlands on a one day tour?

Scotland is divided into two regions: Highlands and Lowlands. The Highlands occupy the northern part of the country. Their name comes from Scottish Gaelic and means “the place of the Gaels”.

Scotland is a magical country and the heart of its magic is the Highlands. Endless deep sky and mind-blowing sceneries surround the most beautiful lakes and castles in Scotland.

Highlands are a must see during your vacation in Scotland. Visiting them on your own in a one day tour using the public transport is not possible. Even if you rent a car, it will be a tiring trip if you want to do it for one day.

Luckily, there are some awesome organized day tours to Highlands. This is an amazing way to see some distant parts of Scotland if you are short on time.

Loch Ness, Glencoe and Highlands Tour
This is one of the most popular Highland tours. It is the best of Scotland in one day. On this full day tour, you will discover the beauty of the picturesque Scottish Highlands. You’ll explore Loch Ness, the breathtaking other-worldly Glencoe Valley and Rannoch Moor, one of the last remaining wilderness in Europe.
4.7/5 Rating – See details and 410+ reviews

Loch Ness, Glencoe, Highlands & Whisky Distillery Day Tour
Combine a day of exploring the Highlands with a visit to a working whisky distillery. This bus tour will show you the true beauty of Scotland plus how its iconic drink is made. You’ll visit Deanston Distillery, Loch Ness, Pattack Falls and Pitlochry, a beautiful Victorian resort town.
4.7/5 Rating – See details and 400+ reviews

West Highland Lochs and Castles
There are plenty of castles and lochs all over the Highlands! You can explore some of this tour devoted solely to them. You’ll explore Doune Castle, Inveraray Castle and the colourful towns of Callander and Luss.
4.7/5 Rating – See details and 200+ reviews

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in the history of Scotland because of its strategic place as a gateway to the Highlands. The castle was first mentioned around 1100. It changed hands frequently during the Wars of Independence with England. After Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II at Bannockburn, he destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into enemy hands again.

View from Stirling Castle

From the 15th century, the Stewarts began using Stirling Castle as a royal residence. James V constructed the current building to impress his French wife Mary of Guise. Many Scottish rulers were born, crowned and died here.

You can rent an audio guide or take the guided tour included in the ticket price. The guided tour starts at the well outside the Fort Major’s House on the hour between 10:00 AM and 05:00 PM.

You can use the ticket to Stirling Castle to also visit the Argyll’s Lodging, a gorgeous 17th-century townhouse.

Argyll’s LodgingIf you are not in a hurry, spare some time and see the Church of the Holy Rude. You will pass it on your way to the castle.
Church of the Holy Rude

Stirling Castle & Loch Lomond Full-Day Tour
This tour combines a visit to the castle with the beautiful landscape of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Lomond.
4.8/5 Rating – See details and 180+ reviews

Stirling Castle and Whisky Day-Tour
Explore the Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and visit the famous Glengoyne Distillery on this full day tour.
4.8/5 Rating – See details and 70+ reviews

How to get to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh

By car
1h via M9 (see directions) – Check out and compare car rental prices in Europe.

By train
Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Stirling Station (50 min journey). The castle is 800m from there.

By bus
Catch a bus (MegaBus or Citylink) from Edinburgh Bus Station to Stirling Goosecroft Bus Stn (1:15 hours journey). The castle is 800m from there.

St Andrews and the medieval kingdom of Fife

The Kingdom of Fife is the ancestral home of Scottish monarchs. St Andrews is the oldest university town in Scotland. It’s also famous for its Royal and Ancient golf club. St Andrews is a picturesque village with a huge Norman cathedral, the largest one in Scotland.

St Andrews & Fife’s Fishing Villages
Enjoy a day in the medieval kingdom of Fife and visit its fishing villages and the ancient town of St. Andrews.
4.6/5 Rating – See details and 110+ reviews

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel is a great idea for a day trip from Edinburgh by bus. And they have a black cat, called William the Chapel cat! In fact, I spotted two black cats during my visit and managed to pet both of them.

Sir William St Clair founded the chapel in 1446 to ensure his place in heaven. The chapel has never been completely finished. Rosslyn Chapel is unique and has such amazing stories connected to it. Don’t miss to hear them in the storytelling hoods in the Visitor Centre.

There are audio guides and guided tours included in the ticket price. No photos are allowed inside the chapel, but you can take photos outside the grounds.

Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian’s Wall Day Tour
Combine a visit to the chapel with the Roman Empire at Hadrian’s Wall on a day tour.
4.8/5 Rating – See details and 80+ reviews

Rosslyn Chapel, Scottish Borders & Glenkinchie Distillery
Visit the intriguing Rosslyn Chapel, explore the Melrose Abbey and learn more about the “water of life” at Glenkinchie Distillery.
4.8/5 Rating – See details and 30+ reviews

How to get to Rosslyn Chapel from Edinburgh

By car
30min via A701 (see directions) – Check out and compare car rental prices in Europe.

By bus 
Take bus number 37 to Original Rosslyn Hotel (40-60 min journey). The chapel is a short walk from there.

Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is one of the most magical places in Scotland. Miles of dramatic coastline will take your breath away. Visiting Isle of Skye and the Highlands is a lifetime experience.

Isle of Skye and Highlands 3-Day Tour
Explore the magical island and few charming Highlands lochs in this 3-day tour. See the dramatic scenery of the Isle of Skye, the Five Sisters of Kintail, Loch Ness and visit the iconic Eilean Donan Castle.
4.9/5 Rating – See details and 60+ reviews

Castle day trips from Edinburgh

If you plan to visit more than two castles, buy an Explorer Pass. It gives you a free entry to a whole list of castles and discounts on some audio-guides.

For example, if you visit Stirling Castle (15 GBP), Edinburgh Castle (17 GBP) and Linlithgow Palace (6 GBP) you’ll pay 38 GBP. Using the 3-day pass (31 GBP), you’ll save 7 GBP. Even if you visit only the first two castles, using the pass will save you money. Plus, you’ll skip all the waiting lines.

Find out more in this Historic Scotland Explorer Pass review.

You can easily plan your one-day trip from Edinburgh by train or bus using this online tool.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle is a castle in Edinburgh, but as it is located out of the city centre, I decided to include it on this list. It is a beautiful castle, often skipped by tourists, because it is not so popular as the rest.

Craigmillar Castle is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Scotland. This 15th-century castle played an important role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. She used the castle as a safe haven after the murder of her private secretary Rizzio. The plot of the murder of Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, was hatched here, too.

How to get to Craigmillar Castle from Edinburgh

Take bus number 14 (going towards Greendykes) and get off at Craigmillar Castle Roads. From there is about 800m to the castle.

Lauriston Castle

Lauriston Castle is a stunning tower house from the 16th century. The gardens are free to visit. However, you can explore its remarkable Edwardian interior only in a guided tour.

Don’t miss the views of the Firth of Forth and the beautiful Japanese garden.

How to get to Lauriston Castle from Edinburgh

Take a bus number 29, 16, 27, 37 to Silverknowes or 41 to Davidsons Mains Green.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

I included Linlithgow Palace in my itinerary only because it was on the way to Stirling Castle. However, it was the highlight of my trip.

Linlithgow Palace was a thriving place during the 15th and 16th century. It was a royal residence and its halls were always full of people. Mary Queen of Scots was born here.

In 1746 a fire damaged severely the palace, leaving it in ruins. Today, walking down its gloomy corridors you can only imagine what things were like five centuries ago.

You can explore the palace on your own. During my visit, there were no more than a few people. I had the place all to myself, which was amazing. I love to visit places that lack of tourists. Don’t miss to climb the tower. There are amazing views over the lake from there.

View from the Linlithgow Palace

How to get to Linlithgow Palace from Edinburgh

Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Linlithgow Station (20 min journey). The palace is 300m from there.

How to do Stirling Castle and Linlithgow Palace in one day?

Start your trip from Waverley Station. Buy a train ticket from Edinburgh to Stirling and another one from Stirling to Edinburgh. For the latter inform the ticket seller that you want to make a stop at Linlithgow.

Be at Stirling max at 10:00 AM. The castle is very large, you’ll need about 2-3 hours to see it. On your way back stop at Linlithgow. You’ll need max 1-2 hours to explore the palace.

Stirling castle and Linlithgow palace in one day

Dirleton Castle

Built in the 12th century, Dirleton Castle was a property of several noble families for over 400 years. It was badly damaged during the siege of Cromwell in 1650. Yet, the famous de Vaux Towers survived. Nowadays they are the oldest castle architecture in Scotland. The enchanting gardens of the castle date from the 19th century.

How to get to Dirleton castle from Edinburgh

Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to North Berwick Station (30 min journey). From there you can walk (3km) to the castle or a local bus (number 124) from St Baldred’s Church.

More Edinburgh day trip ideas

Falkirk

Falkirk is a home of the only rotating boat lift in the world. The town is also known for the Kelpies, the largest equine sculptures in the world. They are made of structural steel and each of them weighs about 300 tonnes.

How to get to Falkirk from Edinburgh

Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Falkirk High Station (30 min journey). To reach Falkirk Wheel or the Kelpies you’ll need to catch a local bus.

Dunfermline

Dunfermline was once the capital of Scotland. The 11th century Dunfermline Abbey was the burial place of several Scottish Kings and Queens, including Robert the Bruce. The Abbey was founded by Queen Margaret. The restored 15th century Abbot House also worths a visit.

Scotland Medieval History Tour 
Learn more about the ancient history of Scotland and unlock the secrets of the Da Vinci Code during your visit to Dunfermline, Stirling and Rosslyn Chapel.
4.4/5 Rating – See details and 20+ reviews

How to get to Dunfermline from Edinburgh

Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Dunfermline Queen Margaret (40 min journey).

North Berwick

North Berwick is a charming seaside town in East Lothian. The town is a home to the Scottish Seabird Centre and has the world’s largest northern gannet colony.

How to get to North Berwick from Edinburgh

Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to North Berwick Station (30 min journey).

Glasgow

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland. It deserves at least two days. Yet, if you are short on time you can hop on a bus or train and make a day trip to Glasgow from Edinburgh. Find out how to see best of Glasgow in a short time.

The most famous sites are the University of Glasgow and the Cathedral. The University is truly magical and a must-see for any Harry Potter fan.

University of Glasgow

How to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh

By bus
Take a bus (MegaBus or Citylink) from Edinburgh Bus Station to Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow (1:30 hours journey). The cheapest option is MegaBus.

By train
Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Glasgow Queen Street Station (50 min journey).

Most popular activities in Edinburgh

Take a guided tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience and see the world’s largest collection of whisky.

Find out more about the history of the city by taking a walking tour of Edinburgh. Or explore it at your own pace with a hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Take a ghost tour and reveal the dark side of the city’s history. Learn more about the most haunted places in Edinburgh.

Further reading for your trip

Find self-guided walking tours and historical insights in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Scotland.

If you’re planning a romantic break, check out the most romantic things to do in Edinburgh.

Also, check out this detailed Edinburgh itinerary that covers the most popular attractions.

Visitors often combine Edinburgh with Glasgow. Check out these great affordable hotels in Glasgow City Centre.

If you’re planning to rent a car, compare the car rental prices in Europe.

Have you been on any one-day trips from Edinburgh?
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About the author
Avatar Milena Yordanova
I'm a travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Travelling has always been my passion and I love to discover new places and cultures. I want to show you how easy it is to organize your vacation all by yourself.

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