Discover the best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus, all reachable in three hours or less!

While Edinburgh is an amazing city (one of my favourites!) with so much to see and do, it’s also perfectly placed to explore some of Scotland’s unmissable destinations.

Better still? You can reach them by public transport – no car necessary. It’s more eco-friendly too!

Taking a day trip from Edinburgh is relatively easy as the city has well-connected transport links to its surrounding regions. Plus, not driving gives you more opportunities to relax and enjoy the view. 

To put this guide together, I’ve enlisted the help of other travellers and local experts to share their favourite day trips.

From coastal villages to epic castles, gorgeous beach hikes and city escapes, here are the best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus! 

Editor’s tip: I’ve made sure to keep these day trips from Edinburgh under three hours to make them achievable. I’ve also a few day tours if you want to go even further. 

The best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus at a glance 

  • North Berwick
  • St. Andrews 
  • Falkirk 
  • Dundee
  • Stonehaven 
  • St. Abbs 
  • Stirling 
  • Aberdeen 
  • Inchcolm Abbey 
  • Glasgow
  • Dunnottar Castle 
  • Linlithgow
  • Roslin 

Map of the best Edinburgh day trips

This map was made with Wanderlog, for itineraries on iOS and Android

1. North Berwick

By Hannah Henderson from Lifestyle Travel

Town by the coast at sunset with a person walking a dog on the beach. North Berwick is one of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus.
The beachside town of North Berwick

Highlights: beaches | Tantallon Castle | seabirds | Bass Rock | North Berwick town 

North Berwick is a gorgeous little beachside town, only 30 minutes by train from Edinburgh.  Located in East Lothian, it offers a long white sand beach, and many things to do on a day trip.

The long beach is perfect for a picnic on a sunny day, or a beach walk on a blustery one.  At the west end of the beach, there is a tidal swimming pool, perfect for the little ones to paddle. 

Beyond, is the Scottish Seabird Centre – where you can learn about the birds that make their home along this coastline, and on the nearby Bass Rock.

The town centre of North Berwick is just a few streets, but they are packed with craft and gift stores, old-fashioned sweet shops, traditional Scottish pubs, and the prerequisite fish and chip shop. 

North Berwick is great for golf lovers, with two golf clubs near town.

For history buffs, a short 20-minute bus ride will take you to Tantallon Castle ruins, with its magnificent vantage point on the hilltop above the wild East Lothian coastline.

Top tip: Don’t miss a boat trip out to Bass Rock to see the impressive Gannet colony.  You can enquire about tours at the Scottish Seabird Centre. 

Getting there: Take the regular ScotRail train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to North Berwick. Enjoy coastal views from the train.  

Recommended North Berwick day trip: Experience East Lothian and North Berwick on a gin and whisky tasting tour departing from Edinburgh. This small group eco-certified tour takes you to NB Distillery before stopping at North Berwick for lunch and a wander. Then it’s Glenkinchie Distillery for whisky!

2. St. Andrews 

By Stefanie from Open Road Odysseys 

View of St Andrews in Scotland from above. The cathedral and red roofed houses with hills behind.
St. Andrews Cathedral has some of the best views

Highlights: St. Andrews University | birthplace of golf | medieval town | St. Andrews Cathedral 

St. Andrews is a wonderful destination to explore whether you are taking a day trip from Edinburgh or a road trip through Scotland.

While it may be famous for being the birthplace of golf, there is so much more to this medieval town.

History buffs will enjoy exploring St. Andrews Cathedral. Take your time wandering the grounds and museum, and don’t forget to ascend St Rule’s Tower for an amazing view of the town and sea.

While not as structurally impressive as the cathedral, St. Andrews Castle holds a ton of history and unique features, including the siege mine and “bottle dungeon.”

The views out to the ocean and along the beach are also quite lovely.

If you are a fan of the British royal family, take a stroll through St. Andrews University, which is where Prince William and Kate met.

And for all the golf lovers, there’s the British Golf Museum and 10 golf courses for every budget and experience.

The Old Course, the most iconic and oldest in the world, is open to the public and is a must for any golfer.

Top tip: St. Andrews is very compact and once you arrive, you can easily get anywhere you’d like on foot.

Getting there: St. Andrews is two hours away from Edinburgh by bus. Take the X59 from Princes Street to the town.

Recommended one-day tours from Edinburgh: Want to keep things simple? One of the best day trips from Edinburgh to St Andrews you can do is a day tour. This small group day tour takes you to St Andrews & the Fishing Villages of Fife, including the Forth Bridge and Falkland Palace! 

3. Falkirk 

By Mark Randall

Two silver horses heads - the Kelpies in Scotland's Falkirk, one of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus.
The famous Falkirk Kelpies

Highlights: The Kelpies | The Falkirk Wheel 

Falkirk is a town that’s easy to bypass if you’re travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but if you get off the train, you’ll find a rather pleasant town with two modern architectural masterpieces.

The Falkirk Wheel (take the 6/6A/7/8) was opened in 2002 to re-link two canals (Forth & Clyde, and Union) and replace a 24-metre flight of canal locks that had been missing for 70 years.

The result is the world’s only rotational Boat Lift but is so precisely balanced that it only takes the power of four kettles to move it!

Helix Park is an area of reclaimed land that’s now a Country Park containing walks, canals and The Kelpies, a pair of 30-metre-high metal horses’ heads that erupt from the ground by the M9 – amazing by day, spectacular when illuminated at night.

The iconic Kelpies are one of the best places to visit less than one hour from Edinburgh! 

Getting there: Take one of the regular trains from Edinburgh Waverley (about 30 minutes): Falkirk Grahamston is nearer to the town centre than Falkirk High, but both stations are served by the same buses you need (Routes 6/6A/7/8/F14 – FirstBus provides a helpful Area map, so remember to add PlusBus to your rail ticket).

Recommended day tour: Tick off several day trips from Edinburgh at once on this affordable small-group tour. You’ll visit the Kelpies, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, then it’s onwards to Stirling Castle! This eco-certified tour is very popular and tends to sell out fast. 

4. Dundee

By Steven Neish from Finding A Neish 

Image of the Discovery sailing ship and museum behind on the dock at Dundee.
The Discovery sailing ship in Dundee

Highlights: V&A Dundee | Heather Street Food | Dundee Contemporary Arts Gallery | Sidlaw Hills 

Worth it for the bridge crossings alone, train travel from Edinburgh to Dundee takes as little as seventy minutes and spans two of Scotland’s most spectacular rivers: the Forth and the Tay. 

With visitors alighting straight into the city’s billion-pound waterfront development, star attraction V&A Dundee, old favourite RRS Discovery and new installation Tay Whale are all visible from the station. 

Foodies can commence their culinary tour immediately at Heather Street Food on the esplanade before working their way up Perth Road. 

Culture vultures can meet comic strip icons, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie en route to McManus Galleries and Dundee Contemporary Arts. 

More active travellers can scale the Law for panoramic views of the city, estuary and Sidlaw Hills or hire a bike from the Cycle Hub and pedal into Angus, Perthshire or back over the Tay to Fife. 

Scotland’s sunniest city, Dundee is also one of its most illuminating – with many discoveries to be made.

Top Tip: Travel one stop further to Broughty Ferry, Dundee’s historic seaside suburb complete with a beach, castle and local nature reserve. Grab an ice cream from Visocchi’s, browse the boutiques and perhaps even spot a dolphin from the shore.

Getting there: The quickest way to get there is the ScotRail train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Dundee. 

5. Stonehaven 

By Sarah Moir from Sarah’s Sojourns 

Castle ruins on a hill with the sea behind at Stonehaven in Scotland.
The magical-looking Dunnottar Castle

Highlights: Dunnottar Castle | harbour boardwalk | Tolbooth Museum | The Bay Fish and Chips | birthplace of the deep-fried Mars bar

Famous for its Hogmanay Fireball celebration, the small Scottish town of Stonehaven has lots to offer visitors the whole year round.

. There are hourly trains from Edinburgh and it takes two hours to get there, making it one of the best day trips from Edinburgh without a car.

The must-see attraction for Stonehaven is Dunnottar Castle, which can be reached by a beautiful walk from the harbour. The route is signposted and offers stunning views of the cliffs and passes the War Memorial. 

Another highly recommended walk is along the boardwalk at the harbour to see the collection of metal sculptures by a mystery artist whose identity was only revealed in 2020.

The Tolbooth Museum showcases the history of Stonehaven and is completely free to enter.

For foodies, The Bay Fish and Chips is an award-winning takeaway and cannot be missed, which can then be followed up by a visit to Aunt Betty’s next door for their brilliant ice cream.

In the centre of town is The Carron which is famous for being the birthplace of the Deep Fried Mars Bar.

During the summer months, there is a heated open-air swimming pool, located next to a playpark, making it a great day trip from Edinburgh by public transport for families.

Top tip: Order online for The Bay to avoid huge queues!

Getting there: Take the ScotRail train from Edinburgh Waverley Station two hours up the east coast to Stonehaven. 

Editor’s tip: The easiest way to travel around Scotland without a car is with small group tours. Check out this guide to the best eco-certified tours ranging from one day to a week.

6. St. Abbs 

By Mohana from Two Together 

The village of St Abbs at sunset with cliffs in the background. One of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train or bus.
Check out St. Abbs Head National Nature Reserve

Highlights: Coastal views and sea life | National Nature Reserve | cliff walks

St. Abbs in the Scottish Borders is known for its dramatic coastal cliffs, seabird colonies, and charming fishing village. 

Start your visit with a 4-mile walk around St. Abbs Head National Nature Reserve that takes you up around the cliffs, the lighthouse, and Mire Loch. 

In spring and summer, the landscape is dotted with wildflowers and you can bring a hamper for a picnic on the windy cliffs! 

St. Abbs is a great spot for wildlife enthusiasts: Over 50,000 seabirds including guillemots and puffins call these cliffs home. You can spot seal pups in the coves during the breeding season. 

The spot is a hit with divers too who are drawn to the rich marine life and fantastic underwater scenery. 

Post walk, explore the village and harbour. Stop by Jill Watson’s memorial to the fishermen who lost their lives off the coast of Berwickshire in a storm in 1881.

End the trip with hot chocolate and crab sandwiches at Ebb Carr’s cafe.

Top tip: Wear good walking shoes as the walking trails can get muddy after a rain shower. You can also continue along the Berwickshire Coastal Path, south to Eyemouth or north to Cockburnspath.

Getting there: From Edinburgh, ride the train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, then the Borders bus 235 to St. Abbs, and you will be there in two hours!

Read More: 12 BEST Day Hikes In Scotland You Need To Experience

7. Stirling 

By Lucy from Lucy Lives Here

Stirling Castle on a hill in Scotland surrounded by trees.
The formidable Stirling Castle

Highlights: Stirling Castle | The Wallace Monument | historic old town 

If you love Scottish history then you’ll love Stirling.  

Sometimes described as a ‘little Edinburgh’, Stirling has cobbled streets, a castle, historic monuments, and genuinely more Scottish history than you can shake a stick at.  

If you’re visiting for the day then your first stop has to be Stirling Castle.

It was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and has so many points of interest inside – the royal palace, kitchens, chapel royal, and humongous great hall, the biggest in Scotland. 

The Wallace Monument is a short bus ride away – climb the 246 steps and see William Wallace’s real-life sword before emerging at the top. The views are unreal!

Continuing the history theme, the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre is also located nearby. 

Top tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes. Stirling is a compact city and you can pretty much walk everywhere.

But it does have some steep hills – particularly in the historic old town near the castle. If you’re travelling from Edinburgh you’ll be well versed in that already!

Getting there: How do you get to Stirling from Edinburgh? A return ticket on the train to Stirling costs around £10.80 and takes 45 minutes.

The bus takes around an hour and a half and will cost roughly £11.20. Both the train station and bus station are right in the centre of town.

Recommended day tour: If you want to see as much of Scotland as possible in a day, this small group tour takes you to Stirling Castle, Ben Nevis, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor, Perthshire and includes lunch at Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness. It’s an action-packed eco-certified tour and again, it’s likely to sell out.  

8. Aberdeen 

By Mary King from Bucket List Places 

A square in Aberdeen with a monument in the middle and surrounding buildings.
Explore the port city of Aberdeen

Highlights: Beach and city | dolphins | fresh seafood | Aberdeen Maritime Museum | Union Terrace Gardens 

Aberdeen is a port city in the Scottish Highlands, notable for its unique granite architecture, fascinating museums, and charming historical districts.

Aberdeen is one of the best day trips from Edinburgh because visitors can enjoy the bustling harbour (home to urban dolphins!) and taste the freshest seafood.

From the Aberdeen Train Station, it is a short walk to many of the city’s highlights. History lovers will love learning about the city’s development at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, or head to the Tolbooth Museum which focuses on local history and is hosted in a 17th-century jail. 

One of the best things to see is the Union Terrace Gardens, a park dating to Victorian times.

Discover the many varieties of flowers, statues, and trees, and see if you can catch one of the events or outdoor concerts commonly held there. 

Even more outdoor fun can be found at Aberdeen Beach, covered in golden sand. Though swimming is not for the faint of heart, you can rent a wetsuit to paddleboard or surf in the summer.

Getting there: Many daily trains depart from Edinburgh Waverley Station and arrive in Aberdeen within about 2.5 hours. An insider tip is to take the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on a Friday, when trains are least crowded, and avoid the busiest day, Sunday.

9. Inchcolm Abbey 

By Nat Took from Natpacker 

Partial ruins of an abbey on a small island and next to a beach. Edinburgh in the distance. Inchcolm Abbey is one of the best day trips from Edinburgh by ferry.
Take a ferry to Inchcolm Abbey

Highlights: 12th-century monasteries | Scottish island | wildlife and WWII defences | views towards Edinburgh 

Inchcolm Abbey is a ruin found on an island of the same name, in the Firth of Forth. These stunning ruins are easily accessible from Edinburgh and make a great day trip.

To reach these ruins, take a boat from Hawes Pier, South Queensferry, two companies offer this service.

Both companies do a cruise around the Firth of Forth, going under the three bridges with a commentary about the area. Stopping off at the island is an additional extra to the cruise, but well worth it. Passengers get 1.5 hours on the island to explore.

Founded by King David I, the Inchcolm Abbey dates back to the 12th century, and is the best-preserved group of monasteries in Scotland. 

The island not only has the ruins, but also a wealth of birdlife, seals, World War II defences, and incredible views towards Edinburgh. 

The dramatic location and history make this an incredible place to visit. It’s even possible to get married here! Once on the island, explore the ruins and head out to at least one of the ends of the island, both of which offer great views. 

Heading out to the west side of the island, the path goes through a tunnel and other remains from WW2.

Top Tip: Climb to the top of the tower at the ruins for views across the island.

Getting there: To get to Hawes Pier, simply take the train from Waverly to Dalmeny (which runs regularly) and takes just 15 minutes. From Dalmeny station, it is a short walk (under 10 mins) to the pier.

10. Glasgow

By Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road

Terracota coloured museum in Glasgow, Scotland on a sunny day.
Visit Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Highlights: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum | Glasgow Cathedral | Necropolis | Glasgow Mural Trail 

Located on the River Clyde, Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and one of the best day-trip options from Edinburgh. 

Known as the cultural capital of Scotland, there are lots of historical and cultural things to do in Glasgow. 

The city offers many free tourist attractions, world-class museums, stunning architecture, vibrant street arts and a buzzing music scene. From history aficionados to culinary experts – Glasgow has something for everyone.

One of the main tourist attractions in Glasgow is the iconic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

You will find an extensive collection of 8000 objects within its 22 galleries – from famous Renaissance art to a remarkable collection of natural history artefacts. 

Next, visit the historic Glasgow Cathedral – the oldest building in the city.

It is dedicated to Saint Mungo – the patron saint of Glasgow. Take a stroll to the adjacent Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery offering a beautiful panoramic view of the city skyline. 

Top Tip: Glasgow is famous for its many colourful street art murals by local artists around the city centre. Follow the Glasgow mural trail to admire these impressive artworks.

Getting there: Glasgow is very well-connected with Edinburgh by train and bus services. It takes nearly an hour by train and an hour and a half by bus.

11. Dunnottar Castle 

By Ashleigh from Ashleigh’s Atlas

Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland sitting on the rocks by the sea.
Dunnottar Castle from another angle

Highlights: Dunnottar Castle | coastal views and hiking 

If you’re looking for the best day trips from Edinburgh, make sure you go to Dunnottar Castle.

Dunnottar Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. The castle is only a ruin, but the surrounding landscape is so beautiful.

The castle sits on a small island in the sea, with dramatic cliffs surrounding it. It also inspired the castle in the Disney film Brave. There are no other castles like it in Scotland.

It’s reasonably popular, but not as busy or touristy as Edinburgh Castle.

Most of the castle is in ruins but there are some buildings to explore. The best part is just appreciating the beautiful location. It’s best for castle lovers, history lovers and nature lovers.

Getting there: To get there by train: Take the train from Edinburgh to Stonehaven (2 hours). Then walk along the beautiful cliff walk from Stonehaven to the castle (40 minutes). 

If you don’t want to do the walk, take a train from Edinburgh to Montrose (1 hour 45 mins), then swap to the bus to the Dunnottar Junction (40 mins).

To get there by bus: The bus is slower than the train. Take the bus from Edinburgh to Dundee (1 and a half hours), then swap to the bus from Dundee to Dunnottar Junction (2 hours).

Travel Must: Whatever you do, make sure you have travel insurance before your trip to Scotland. Take it from me, you’re better safe than sorry! I use Battleface. It offers good coverage at an affordable rate!

12. Linlithgow 

By Clazz from An Orcadian Abroad

Tops of Linlithgow Castle surrounded by trees. View from across the loch.
Don’t miss out on Linlithgow Palace

Highlights: Linlithgow Palace | loch walks | historic town 

Just twenty minutes by train from the centre of Edinburgh sits the small, relatively unassuming town of Linlithgow. 

Although it’s on the main rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Linlithgow is often overlooked as a day trip from Edinburgh, in favour of nearby Falkirk or Stirling.

The town is most famous for its landmark attraction, Linlithgow Palace, most notable for being the birthplace of Mary Queen Of Scots.

As well as being able to explore the ruins of the palace, one of the best things to do is view it from the outside with a leisurely walk around the loch it sits on. 

A peaceful way to while away any sunny day, the loop around the loch is exceptionally pretty, with an abundance of birds on the water, as well as small fishing boats floating through the loch.

The quaint town centre itself offers a strip of fantastic local shops, cafés and pubs, as well as some interesting local history (look out for the statue of the dog), providing everything you need for a great day out from Edinburgh.

Whether it’s history or nature that you’re interested in, Linlithgow offers the perfect mix of both.

Getting there: Linlithgow is just a short 17-minute train ride away from Edinburgh Waverley!

13. Roslin

By Jonny from In Faraway Lands

View of Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, one of the best day trips from edinbugh by train or bus.
Walk in the footsteps of legends at Rosslyn Chapel

Highlights: Rosslyn Chapel | Roslin Castle | Scottish village | nature walks | excellent tea room 

Roslin is one of the easiest day trips from Edinburgh without a car and is also one of the best as it’s only around a one-hour bus journey from the centre of Edinburgh to reach it.

It is a quaint Scottish village filled with history and a gorgeous glen to explore and it is best suited for those who love history as it’s a very historical place with its main claim to fame being Rosslyn Chapel. 

The chapel dates back to 1446 and is an excellent example of Gothic architecture in Scotland.

There have been many rumours based around the chapel connecting it to the Holy Grail although none of it has been proven. Still, it makes for some mystery while there!

Nearby is the Roslin Castle which is partially in ruins but still makes for one of the best castles in Scotland to visit. It also dates to the same period as the chapel.

Although Roslin is known for its history, one top tip is to go to the Roslin Glen where you can meander through a thick forest filled with brooks babbling away that makes a good escape from city life.

Roslin itself is a lovely little Scottish village to have a wander around and for a good lunch break in between everything head to Dolly’s Tea Room where you can have a tea/coffee break along with sandwiches and cakes.

Top tip: Tickets for Rosslyn Chapel need to be booked online in advance. These cost £9.50 for a 90-minute slot so make sure you get there for the time that you booked as they cannot be refunded or exchanged for another time slot. Some time slots include a talk with a guide.

Check the website for more information. 

Getting there: Roslin is just under an hour outside of Edinburgh. The easiest way to get there is the number 37 bus from Princes Street (stop PJ) to the Original Rosslyn Hotel. 

Recommended day tour from Edinburgh: Explore further south of Edinburgh with this top-rated eco-certified tour of Rosslyn Chapel, the village of Melrose in the Scottish Borders with its Border Abbey that houses the heart of Robert the Bruce. It’s another popular tour! 

Final thoughts on the best day trips from Edinburgh without a car

With so many easy day trips from Edinburgh by bus or train, you definitely won’t be missing out if you don’t have your own car. 

There are plenty of amazing places to see, castles to explore, epic views and Scottish culture all under three hours from the capital. 

The best thing is no matter which day trip you choose, you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience and learn something new along the way. 

Planning a trip to Scotland? Check out these articles!

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