Scotland is full of historic sights and enchanting landscapes, and the Scottish capital makes an excellent base from which to explore this relatively compact country, with everything from centuries-old castles and abbeys to scenic lochs and valleys within easy reach. Here are our top picks for day trips from Edinburgh.
Fife and St. Andrews — 35 miles (56 km) and 55 miles (88 km) from Edinburgh
An easy day trip from Edinburgh, the Kingdom of Fife packs in some big attractions. Visit Dunfermline, Scotland’s ancient capital; the 19th-century Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and engineering marvel; and the town of St. Andrews, known as the “Home of Golf.” St. Andrews features several notable attractions, including its cathedral and the university where Prince William met Kate Middleton.
The Highlands — 130 miles (209 km) from Edinburgh
With their glassy lochs, towering peaks, and brooding, windswept landscapes, the Scottish Highlands are a top priority for most travelers to Scotland. Organized day tours from Edinburgh go to Loch Ness, the home of the mysterious Loch Ness monster; the scenic valley of Glencoe in the West Highlands; and the looming peak of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain. Some tours make stops at whiskey distilleries en route.
Scottish Borders — 45 miles (72 km) from Edinburgh
The dramatic Scottish borders have seen plenty of bloodshed over the years thanks to the long Scottish Wars of Independence against the English. 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 Country.
Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond — 40 miles (64 km) and 80 miles (129 km) from Edinburgh
Originally built in the 12th century, Stirling Castle sits on the boundary between the lowlands and the highlands and is one of the most important historical structures in Scotland. Just an hour’s drive west of the castle is the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, where visitors can embark on scenic hikes, bike rides, and loch cruises.