Here are some of the best and easiest day trips from Edinburgh using mostly public transport (though a car hire will work as well). Edinburgh is one of my all-time cities and there is so much to do there from eating and 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.
This list of day trips isn’t in any order, and it’s by no means exhaustive, but each short journey is tried and tested by yours truly. I’ve tried to include a decent variety of city, coast, mountains, towns and sights.
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. At edinburgh.org they mention that you should 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!
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!
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, National Geographic has a solid discussion of Cramond Island. This small 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.
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.