Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital and is the seat of the Scottish government and the Scottish Supreme Courts. The city attracts almost two million visitors annually, making it the second most popular tourist destination in the UK and its second-largest financial center. The history of Edinburgh has origins dating back to the Middle Ages, but the earliest habitation evidence goes back to 8500BC. The city is still steeped in history, and many of the attractions in Edinburgh celebrate Scottish heritage.
Several festivals happen in Edinburgh throughout the year, and there are dozens of historic and modern attractions to see while there, including The Edinburgh Dungeon, Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Distillery, Edinburgh Zoo, many historic homes, museums, and monuments. Most people also make sure to see some of the many royal attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Yacht Britannia, and Palace of Holyroodhouse. If you wish to leave the bustling and vibrant city, there are many places close enough to Edinburgh for day trips.
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Burntisland is a Fife coastal parish found in the Firth of Fife on the northern shore. The earliest known records of Burntisland as a town were from the 12th century when the Dunfermline Abbey monks controlled the harbor and surrounding area. The parish later developed as a fishing village that provided fish to Rossend castle. Burntisland is less than one hour from Edinburgh.
The annual Highland Games takes place in Burntisland every July and the town is also home to one of the oldest golf clubs on earth. These two attractions have made Burntisland famous and attract visitors from around the world; however, there are several other attractions and activities to enjoy. Burntisland provides access to the Fife Coastal Path and beach where there are a leisure center and a carnival in the summer. Guided walking tours of the town are also available in the summertime, and the Burntisland Library & Museum offer regular free events for kids and exhibits on Scottish and Burntisland history. Visitors can also go boating in the Burntisland Harbour.
Crail is found in East Neuk of Fife and began as a settlement with origins dating back to the 800s. Robert the Bruce deemed Crail a royal burgh in 1310, and the town has thrived since, despite a population of fewer than 2,000 people. Visitors to the beach can also find fossilized trees that date back to the Carboniferous period.
People who love fresh seafood and world-renowned food should visit Crail during the annual Food Festival that happens in the charming seaside harbor town. The Lobster Hut is a top-rated restaurant attraction that serves cooked-to-order crab and lobster, and Nosebag offers traditional Scottish cuisine that is sourced from local farmers. There are also many historical attractions to explore and see, including a 17th-century tollbooth tower, the Isle of May, which is a natural reserve, and the Crail Museum.
Elie is a charming seaside resort town in East Neuk of Fife that sits on golden sand beaches and has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Yachts, large boats, and sailboats are often seen in the harbor, and windsurfing, swimming, and sunbathing are popular in the surrounding bay. The population of Elie is only around 1,000, but during the summer when the wealthy residents of Glasglow and Edinburgh retreat to their summer homes in Elie, the population can triple. Visitors can get to Elie by car, bus, or ScotRail in 1 ½ -2 ½ hours depending on mode of travel.
Other popular attractions include the two golf courses and many historic buildings and homes in the area, including a summer house constructed for Lady Janet Anstruther, daughter of a wealthy Scottish merchant, and known for her incredible beauty and skills of flirtation, in 1760. Elie is also home to great restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques, some of which are shared with the Earlsferry.
Just 23 miles from Edinburgh in the Forth Valley is Falkirk, a medium-sized town with a populous surrounding area in the Falkirk Council Area. The city was once center of the iron and steel industries, but now relies more on retail and tourism, and was once voted as Scotland’s most beautiful town. Historically, Falkirk is known for being the town where William Wallace was defeated by Kind Edward I of England.
Falkirk is home to the largest equine statues in the world, The Kelpies, as well as the only rotating boat lift anywhere on earth. Blackness Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Falkirk. The 15th-century castle was constructed to resemble a ship and sits on the promontory, jutting out into the Firth of Forth. Visitors to Falkirk often spend the day boating on the canals where they can use the boat lift or cycling on the National Cycle Network Routes and hiking the woodland trails. You can also take private tours of the Outlander television show filming locations, castles, and Highlands with professional guides.
5.Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is made of several paths along the coast of Fife that connect towns from Kincardine to Newburgh, divided into eight distinct sections. Kincardine to Limekilns is an eleven-mile section that includes a nature preserve and iconic bridges. The next section continues seventeen miles to Burntisland and features HM Naval Base, Rosyth Castle and Church, a railway bridge, 14th-century castles and gardens in Aberdour, and Port Laing Beach. Continue the path onward fourteen miles to Buckhaven and see monument to Alexander III, Lava flows along the coastline, Seafield Tower, Dysart Harbour, Wemyss Castle, and what remains of Macduff Castle—said to once have been the home of the Thane of Fife who murders Macbeth. The next route connects Buckhaven to Elie and is outlined by thirteen miles of scenic beaches, an abandoned railway, and the Dumbarnie Wildlife Preserve. The next sixteen miles take hikers to Cambo Sands and is a rougher path with geological interest that crosses several small fishing villages and the ruins of Ardross as well as Fife Ness. From Cambo Sands to Leuchars, travel fourteen miles of path that should be reserved for experienced or advanced hikers and passes through St. Andrew’s, Babbet Ness, and the Eden Estuary. The next sixteen miles to Wormit Bay skirt the military base and offers sites such as the 12th-century Romanesque church and the Tentsmuir Forest Forestry Commission National Nature Reserve. The last section of the Fife Coastal Path connects to Newburgh and is another fifteen miles of challenging terrain that passes through fields, forest, and offers river views and a stop at Balmerino Abbey.
Glasglow is a large city that grew from being a small agricultural settlement along River Clyde to the largest seaport in the country and a major center of the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the population continued to grow; the city is now a trendy attraction for people all around the world.
Glasgow is the perfect city for a day trip or weekend away from Edinburgh. The largest city in Scotland offers plenty to do and many attractions to see, including world-renowned museums, art galleries, historic sites, parks, retailers, bars and pubs, and restaurants. There are also sightseeing walking or bus tours that will take visitors to all the best and most popular sites around Glasgow. The city is also a UNESCO City of Music with an average of 130 musical events each week, and it is also the home of the largest winter music festival in the world, Celtic Connections.
Venture into the Wild Land of Glencoe to experience Scottish culture and history in a town where time has slowed down, and the natural world remains unspoiled. Myth and legend surround the Glencoe and Loch Leven region, where movies such as Braveheart, Highlander, and Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban were filmed. The village sits at the foot of the Glencoe Mountains along the River Coe and Loch Leven. Visitors can spend time at the Glencoe and North Lorn Museum to learn about the infamous Glencoe Massacre, and many walks are available that take people past iconic sites. Glencoe is also popular for golf in the summer and snow sports in the winter.
Glentress Forest serves as Tweed Valley Forest Park gateway and is just an hour's drive from Edinburgh. Glentress has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails that span more than fifty miles. There are also trails designated for horseback riding. The park also has modern amenities, including the Glentress Peel Café, a bike rental station, toilet and changing facilities that are clean and well maintained, and a Wild Watch Center. The Glenforest Peel Center is also where most of the trails start, and additional parking is also available. Trails sometimes close due to weather conditions, and visitors are encouraged to check the forestry and land website before hiking.
9.House of Bruar
The House of Bruar is more than just a Scottish country clothing store. This retail shop in Perthshire is open seven days per week, excluding Christmas and New Year’s Day and is home to The House of Bruar Art Gallery, House of Bruar Restaurant, The Food Hall, and a retail shop with sporting equipment, clothing, country gifts and more are sold. The Food Hall is further broken down into The Butchery, The Delicatessen, The Drinks Cabinet, Confectionery, Hampers & Gift Boxes, Smoked Fish & Meat, Preserves & Condiments, The Bakers, and Tea & Coffee. All foods are traditional Scottish cuisine, and online delivery is also available. Visitors can easily spend an entire afternoon shopping and dining at House of Bruar.
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Inverness is known around the world as the home of Loch Ness and is a beautiful gem in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. There are many more great attractions in the area like the Victorian Market, which has been a place to find dozens of local, independent retailers since 1890. There are also lots of outdoor activities to enjoy, including hiking the mini-isles of Ness Islands, and kayaking or boating on the Caledonian Canal. The most popular attraction of Inverness is the Inverness Castle overlooking River Ness and the Highland hills. Visitors also get free entry into the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery at Castle Wynd. Guided tours of Inverness on foot or bus are available, and most tours include the locations that are linked to Outlander, which takes place in Inverness, though it was filmed in Falkland.
Linlithgow Palace is found in Kirkgate, Linlithgow, West Lothian, and is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The palace was built and remodeled several times over two centuries and was a distinguished Renaissance Residence while it was in use. The Palace towers overlook the loch, which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to dozens of species of wildfowl. A jousting tournament takes place at Linlithgow Palace every summer, and the palace gives insight into the domestic life of palace residents. The ornate fountain is in operation every Sunday in July and August. Most of the 15th-century palace is roofless and in ruins today.
12.Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
Loch Lomond, The Trossachs, Stirling, and Forth Valley cover central Scotland from coast to coast and highlights diverse landscapes of mountains, glens, countryside, hills, and historic cities. The Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond offer amazing outdoor adventure opportunities for the entire family, including boat trips, kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and more. Other sites in the area include Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument, Doune Castle, Antonine Wall, Falkirk, and Dumbarton Castle. There are also many charming villages in central Scotland where festivals and special events happen throughout the year.
Located just minutes from Inverness, Loch Ness is one of the most legendary places in the United Kingdom as it is said to be home of the Loch Ness Monster. The stories of Nessie date back to the 1930s and more than 1,000 people claim to have seen the myth with their own eyes. This loch is the largest in the United Kingdom and has more water than all the bodies of water in the United Kingdom combined. Visitors to Loch Ness can take boat trips on the loch and cruise from Inverness to Drumnadrochit. There are several lighthouses, ancient castles, and other attractions nearby. Visitors can also walk, run, or cycle the 80-mile long 360 trail that surrounds Loch Ness.
North Berwick is just twenty miles from Edinburgh on the south shores of the Firth of Forth in East Lothian, Scotland. The holiday resort town has golf courses and sandy beaches on the East and West bays. The Islands of the Forth are also easily accessible from North Berwick, and boat trips to the islands are available. Visitors can also visit the Scottish Seabird Centre, which is dog-friendly, hike the East Lothian Coastal Path, visit the ruins of Tantallon Castle, or enjoy the day at the East Lothian Yacht Club. The town is also home to retail boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and the Spa and Leisure Club at Macdonald Marine Hotel.
Perth sits on the shores of River Tay and is the newest city in Scotland offering visitors modern entertainment and attractions, dozens of boutique shops, award-winning restaurants, a thriving live music scene, and is host to many special events and festivals. The city is surrounded by hills and mountains, making it the perfect destination for outdoor recreation.
Perth is also home to many historical sites as well, including the Balhousie Castle, which dates back to at least 1631, with some historians believing the date closer to the 1300s. The Clan Murray ancestral home, Blair Castle is located 34 miles from the center of Perth, and eight other ancient castles are in the region.
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The Pitlochry VisitScotland Information Center in Highland Perthshire provides all the information you need to know while visiting the area. There are many different attractions to visit while in the Highland Perthshire, including the Scottish Crannog Center, the Dunfallandy Stone, Dunkeld Cathedral, and Blair Castle are among some of the historical sites to see.
There are also many outdoor activities to enjoy in Highland Perthshire such as sailing in Loch Tay, white water rafting on the Tay River system, river bugging, canyoning, rock climbing, paintballing, and even sphering where you bounce down a hill inside a giant, clear ball. There are also opportunities for golfing, fishing, walking and cycling, and lots of shopping and dining throughout the Highlands.
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Known as one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel is a 15th-century chapel that is still in use today. The chapel has belonged to the Earl and Countess of Rosslyn’s family since it was constructed and is open all year round, although hours vary.
Special events are often held at Rosslyn Chapel, including October Holiday Fun, Friday Fun, Concerts, Candlelight and wine tours, Christmas Candlelit Concert, special musical events, and more. The chapel is also a stop on the Guided Walk in Roslin Glen Tour. Rosslyn Castle and Collegehill house are both close by and are available to rent for private events, although they are not open to the public.
18.Scottish Owl Centre
Visitors to Edinburgh who love owls, raptors, and other large birds should visit The Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Country Park in West Lothian. The owl sanctuary is home to the most extensive owl collection on earth and features more than 100 owls from all over the world, including the Rainforest, The Boreal Forest, North Pole, and native British owls. Visitors to the center can watch daily all-weather flying displays, participate in hands-on education features, and even hold an owl for a photo opportunity. Children love to play on the adventure playground, while families have lunch in the picnic area, and then peruse the Gift Shop.
Scottish Owl Centre, Polkemmet Country Park, Whitburn, West Lothian, Scotland
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St. Abbs is a seaside town on the Scottish border that is a thriving fishing harbor as well as the filming location for New Asgard from Avenger’s Endgame movie. After taking a walking tour of St. Abbs, head over to the Head National Nature Preserve to hike trails on the cliffs formed by volcanic activity. More than 50,000 seabirds call the preserve home along with rare butterflies. One of the best ways to visit St. Abbs is via the St. Abbs Head walk, part of the Walk Highlands Route. The walk is four miles long and has harbor cafes along the way that serve fantastic crab sandwiches.
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St. Andrews lies on the East Coast of Scotland just thirty miles north of Edinburgh is St. Andrew’s. The town was established in 1140 on the ruined site of St. Andrew’s Castle by Bishop Robert. The historic town is home to several historical attractions including University of St. Andrew’s—the third oldest university in the Western World, St. Andrew’s Castle and Cathedral, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s, the Botanic Garden, St. Andrew’s Museum, and Aquarium. The St. Andrew’s Cathedral was once an important center for Christian pilgrimages in medieval times who wanted to be blessed at St. Andrew’s shrine. The town can be explored on foot via the Lade Braes Walk that starts near Madras College and continues west 1.5 miles to Law Mill.
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Stirling was created as the royal residence for Alexander I in 1110 and became a Royal Burgh two decades later and continued as the royal residence until 1286 when the Wars of Independence reduced Stirling Castle destroyed the castle. The heirs of Robert the Bruce House of Stewart raised the castle again; however, it continued to have a bloody history full of backstabbing and murder under James II. Mary Stuart was crowned at Stirling Castle, and the heir of James VI, Henry, was raised there.
Along with Stirling Castle, other notable attractions include the 12th century Church of the Holy Rude, Battle of Bannockburn Experience, Blair Drummond Safari Park, The National Wallace Monument, Old town Jail, and the Smith Art Gallery & Museum.
The Highlands is the most historic area of Scotland and is the northwest coast and islands between the Great Glen, the Grampian Mountains, and the Highland Boundary Fault. The Highlands remain unspoiled and sparsely populated and is ecologically important as it is the only place in the British Isles to have a taiga biome. Traditionally, people in the Highlands spoke Gaelic, but today Scottish English is the official language. The Highlands is full of historical attractions, including ancient castles and battlefields, several National Parks, more than two dozen Lochs, the Inveraray Jail, endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, and much more.
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The picturesque hills called The Lammermuirs form a natural barrier between the Borders and Lothian in Southern Scotland. The hills span the Selkirk, East Lothian, and Berich counties from St. Abb’s Head to Gala Water. The rolling hills are often full of grazing sheep, but visitors can explore White Castle, which was one a hill fort of the Iron Age for the Votadini tribe and Crystal Rig Wind Farm. Woodland walks are available through Pressmennan Wood, and the Dye Water and River Ryne both have marked riverwalk paths. There are also Heritage Paths through East Lothian that seek to preserve ancient Roman carriage paths, pilgrimage routes, and other paths of historical significance.
Wemyss Bay is a port where ferries cross the bay to the Isle of Bute. The history of the small village goes back to the 15th century; however, the town didn’t start growing until the late 19th century after the railroad was railroad connected the Bay to Glasgow. The Wemyss Bay Station is considered one of the best railway stations in Scotland and retains its historic look and ambiance. While you can drive to Wemyss Bay, there are very few places to park, so arriving by train or ferry is recommended. The town has a small selection of boutique shops and restaurants that most visitors explore on foot.
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The Lake District is home to Lake Windemere, the largest natural lake in England, just over the border from Scotland. The resort town of Windermere Village is located on the lake which is surrounded by mountains. Bowness-on-Windermere is another resort town found on the lake, and both offer boutiques, cafes, boats for hire, and lake cruises. The World of Beatrix Potter is also located in Bowness, and visitors can meet Peter Rabbit at the theme park along with other characters from the beloved book series.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Edinburgh
- Burntisland, Photo: Armin Lehnhoff/stock.adobe.com
- Crail, Photo: mountaintreks/stock.adobe.com
- Elie, Photo: jimmyeao/stock.adobe.com
- Falkirk, Photo: creativenaturemedia/stock.adobe.com
- Fife Coastal Path, Photo: Afunbags/stock.adobe.com
- Glasgow, Photo: ArTo/stock.adobe.com
- Glencoe, Photo: chromoprisme/stock.adobe.com
- Glentress Forest, Photo: Prostock-studio/stock.adobe.com
- House of Bruar, Photo: Nobilior/stock.adobe.com
- Inverness, Photo: Guillaume/stock.adobe.com
- Linlithgow Palace, Photo: TreasureGalore/stock.adobe.com
- Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Photo: ARIJEET/stock.adobe.com
- Loch Ness, Photo: Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com
- North Berwick, Photo: t0m15/stock.adobe.com
- Perth, Photo: godam07/stock.adobe.com
- Pitlochry, Photo: Birgit Puck/stock.adobe.com
- Rosslyn Chapel, Photo: ChristianFroberg/stock.adobe.com
- Scottish Owl Centre, Photo: William/stock.adobe.com
- St Abbs, Photo: creativenature.nl/stock.adobe.com
- St Andrews, Photo: Jiri Patava/stock.adobe.com
- Stirling, Photo: Uwalthie Pic Project/stock.adobe.com
- The Highlands, Photo: e55evu/stock.adobe.com
- The Lammermuirs, Photo: photomic/stock.adobe.com
- Wemyss Bay, Photo: James/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Windermere, Photo: elenarostunova/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: cornfield/stock.adobe.com