There’s no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh, but you’ll find plenty of captivating places a short train ride away. From urban adventures, countryside and coastal escapes, family-friendly attractions, whisky distilleries and historic Scotland, there’s an amazing day out for everyone.
Here’s our selection of the best places to visit on day trips from Edinburgh by train.
Less than an hour away from Edinburgh, Glasgow offers a complete contrast and a refreshing edge. Friendly locals, a vibrant arts and music scene, and respect for its industrial heritage, gives Glasgow its unique vitality – making it more like a major international city than Edinburgh.
West End district
Glasgow’s West End district is the bohemian hub of the city and popular with day-trippers, locals and students. Take your pick of things to see and do from galleries, museums, restaurants, bars, shopping and parks.
The charming cobbled and fairy-light-lit alleyway of Ashton Lane has the famous Ubiquitous Chip restaurant and indie picturehouse, the Grosvenor Cinema. While nearby Byers Road sustains the fiercely independent record and comic shops, many other cities have long abandoned.
Oran Mor, a former church and multi-arts venue with awe-inspiring frescos by writer and illustrator Alasdair Grey is home to the lunchtime theatre sensation ‘A Play, a Pie and a Pint.’
Across the river, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is the most impressive and most visited British museum outside of London. The imposing Victorian cultural cathedral brings together an eclectic mix of exhibits. Alongside much else, look out for dinosaur skeletons, Salvador Dalí’s Christ of St John of the Cross and a Spitfire hanging from the rafters.
The West End is around 2-2.5 miles from Glasgow Queen Street and Central stations. To get there by Subway (known locally as the ‘Clockwork Orange’), take the metro from Buchanan Street (next to Glasgow Queen Street) or Enoch Street (next to Glasgow Central) to either Hillhead, Kelvinbridge or Kelvinhall, or alternatively take a bus.
Merchant City district
Merchant City is a cultural quarter using palatial spaces left over from Glasgow’s rich merchant heritage. Warehouses that once stored tobacco and cotton are now home to studios, workshops, cafes, restaurants and bars. On the weekends, Merchant Square holds a craft fair which brings together some of the city’s finest artisans.
City Halls and the Old Fruitmarket are the entertainment venues of Merchant City. City Halls’ traditional shoebox style auditorium produces fine acoustics for concerts. Whereas, the Old Fruitmarket is a versatile space which holds gigs, theatre, club nights and comedy shows.
Both Glasgow Queen Street and Central stations are just a few minutes walk to the Merchant City district.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s distinct style of architecture and design lends the city a unique feel. His signature Art Nouveau buildings in Glasgow include the Daily Record Building, The Lighthouse and Scotland Street School Museum.
His Willow Tea Rooms – where he had complete control over both the interior and exterior design – has re-opened as ‘Mackintosh at the Willow’ after a major renovation. Discover more about his work, all-year-round events and places to visit at The Glasgow Mackintosh.
Note – sadly Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, has been destroyed by fire in June 2018.
Glasgow is family-friendly and has a wealth of things to do no matter what your tastes. Visit People Make Glasgow and find out what’s going on around this lively city.
Edinburgh to Glasgow by train
Trains depart from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street station every 15 mins and take around 50 mins. More frequent services which take longer go between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central station.
Stirling offers ancient castles, historic battlefields and national heroes, alongside a host of family-friendly attractions and the youthful energy of a student town.
Stirling’s often pegged as a mini-Edinburgh, and indeed it has a fair amount in common with ‘Auld Reekie.’ There’s the hilltop castle, an old town with narrow atmospheric lanes, and even a Church of the Holy Rude – not to be confused with Edinburgh’s Holyrood. Of course, there’s more to Stirling than this easy comparison suggests.
The prime reason to visit for many will be the town’s trio of heavyweight historical attractions: Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument and the Bannockburn Visitor Centre.
Stirling Castle, sitting on a 350-million-year-old crag and established around 1110, was once the residence of Stewart monarchs. Today, you can meet costumed characters, take in magnificent sculptures and beautiful gardens, and roam around the Regimental Museum, Great Kitchens and Tapestry Studio.
Battle of Bannockburn
Just outside Stirling lies the site of one of the most significant battles in Scottish history. The Wars of Scottish Independence which erupted in the late 13th century came to a decisive conclusion on the fields of Bannockburn in 1314.
Led by Robert the Bruce, the Battle of Bannockburn is celebrated in Scotland as a historic victory over the English – who outnumbered the Scots forces by at least two to one. Bannockburn was a significant battle as it led the English Crown to fully recognise the Kingdom of Scotland’s independence.
The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre uses immersive 3D technology to recreate the battle in detail. Regular buses (every 5-15 minutes) from Stirling Bus Station (next to the train station) take around 15-20 minutes to get there.
National Wallace Monument
To complete Stirling’s patriotic pilgrimage, you can visit the 67-metre high National Wallace Monument. Erected in 1869, it honours Scotland’s national hero, Sir William Wallace, the 14th-century knight who spearheaded Scottish independence at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
The breathtaking panoramic views from the top stretch from Ben Lomond and the Trossachs to the west, the Forth Valley and city of Stirling, and the Ochil and Pentland Hills to the East. While climbing the 246 step spiral staircase, you’ll pass the Hall of Heroes which shows generations of famous Scots who were inspired by Wallace.
The National Wallace Monument is two miles from Stirling Bus Station with regular buses taking around 10-15 minutes to get there.
More places to visit in Stirling
One mile further on from the National Wallace Monument, Stirling University is home to the Macroberts Art Centre. Throughout the year, the centre hosts over 400 performances including dance, comedy, music, art exhibitions and film.
Closer to Stirling Station (less than a mile away) is the family-friendly building conservation centre the Engine Shed, ruined Cambuskenneth Abbey and Old Stirling Bridge.
Start planning your trip to historic Stirling and find out more about things to do at Visit Stirling.
Edinburgh to Stirling by train
Trains depart from Edinburgh Waverley to Stirling station every 30 mins and take around 50 mins.
The seaside is closer to Edinburgh than you might think and if you only visit one of East Lothian’s many coastal towns, make it North Berwick. Besides having a pair of scenic bays with sandy beaches, it’s a really charming place with a row of pastel-coloured cottages, and a small town filled with local craft shops, family-run fish and chippies, seafood restaurants and quaint tearooms.
A small but thriving arts community – partially populated by Edinburgh exiles – means the town retains its genuine character beyond the touristy vibe often found in seaside resorts. They even have their own festival spin-off each August, Fringe by the Sea.
Scottish Seabird Centre
One of the town’s most popular attractions is undoubtedly the Scottish Seabird Centre. From here you can take a boat cruise across the Firth of Forth out to the Isle of May, which has a significant puffin colony. There are also trips to other islands including BBC nature’s award-winning Bass Rock, which is home to one of the world’s largest gannet colonies.
North Berwick: Attractions out of town
Other attractions worth exploring just a little way outside of North Berwick include the National Museum of Flight, Tantallon Castle and Seacliffe Beach.
The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield showcases a fleet of aircraft from the First World War onwards. Exhibits include the oldest surviving Harrier jump jet and the only Concorde in Scotland, which you can board. The museum is served by the limited 121 bus service which takes 30 minutes, alternatively, take a train to Drem and pick-up the bus from there.
Tantallon Castle, built around 1358, was mooted as the possible inspiration for the legend of King Arthur’s Camelot. The semi-ruined castle certainly captures the imagination with its dramatic setting on a rocky headland overlooking Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth. To reach the castle from North Berwick, take the limited 120 bus service which takes 20 minutes.
A bit further along the coast and you’ll arrive at a hidden gem, the beautiful Seacliff Beach. Golden sand dunes, rockpools teeming with marine life and Britain’s tiniest harbour, makes it a perfect excursion with the family. Seacliff Beach is accessed by paying a small charge (as its private) but don’t let the locals know we told you about it!
Edinburgh to North Berwick by train
Trains from Edinburgh to North Berwick take 33 minutes and depart every hour.
With its stunning Fife coastal location and wealth of prime golfing and royal connections, it’s easy to see why St Andrews continues to draw in tourists. With a journey which crosses the iconic Forth Bridge, it makes an ideal day trip from Edinburgh by train.
‘The Home of Golf’
St Andrews is internationally acclaimed as the ‘home of golf’ with its legendary Old Course considered the oldest in the world. Adjacent to the first tee, sits the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the oldest golf club in the world.
For golf fans, St Andrews is a mecca not to be missed. Today, St Andrews Links offers seven golf courses, including the famous Old Course, all of which are available to play. Rather than traipse around the sights of Edinburgh, why not play a round of golf at St Andrews Links? Sounds very appealing, doesn’t it!
Just yards from the Old Course, the British Golf Museum traces the history of the game from Medieval times to the present day.
Historical St Andrews
St Andrews University is the English-speaking world’s third oldest university so naturally permeates the flavour of the town. Visitor favourites include the sacred heart of the university ‘Sallies Quad’ and the historic St Salvator’s Chapel.
Because of St Andrew’s ancient heritage stretching back over a thousand years, some of the town’s most celebrated sights are little more than photogenic ruins. The 11th-century cathedral was once Scotland’s biggest, today the best surviving portion is the skeletal frame of St Rule’s Tower.
Thought to be the original location of the relics of St Andrew, only the foundations of the Chapel of St Mary on the Rock survives today. Another ruin is Blackfriars Chapel, the 16th-century monastery of Dominican monks which is spectacularly illuminated at night.
West Sands Beach
You may recognise the uninterrupted two-mile golden stretch of West Sands Beach from the sporting biopic film Chariots of Fire. West Sands Beach is a lovely place for a walk and a paddle, and if you’re feeling brave enough a swim!
Discover more about places to see and things to do at St Andrews.
Edinburgh to St Andrews by train via Leuchars
St Andrews is reached from Edinburgh Waverley station by train to Leuchars and a connecting bus. On average, the total daytime journey takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. Save money on rail fares with Loco2 and pay no booking fees or payment card charges.
The Victorian railway boom was the making of Pitlochry, an attractive hillside town enveloped by glens and glorious woodlands which blaze with colour come the autumn. With two distinguished whisky distilleries to visit and a renowned shop, Pitlochry makes a perfect day out for whisky lovers.
The trip to Pitlochry is the most scenic rail journey of our days out from Edinburgh, which is just as well as it takes nearly two hours. On the way, you’ll cross the Forth Bridge before sweeping along the coast, and onto the last stretch and the beautiful scenery from Perth onwards.
Pitlochry’s whisky heritage
Blair Athol Distillery is one-mile from Pitlochry station, founded in 1798 it’s one of Scotland’s oldest working distilleries. The moorland site was chosen because of the constant supply of pure water from the ancient Allt Dour. Their celebrated malt is aged in bourbon barrels which are used famous Bell’s brand blend.
Edradour Distillery is a traditional farmhouse distillery and one of the last to produce single malt whisky by hand. Before the advent of micro-breweries, it was one of the smaller scale suppliers of ‘the water of life’. Getting to Edradour Distillery takes 10 minutes by taxi, around one-hour walking or 40-50 minutes by bus and foot.
Finally, Robertson’s shop in town has an excellent selection of Scotch with whisky and gin tasting sessions too.
Pitlochry resort town attractions
There’s plenty more to do in Pitlochry with its attractive Victorian villas, smart foodie hotels and spas, upmarket outfitters and more high street names than your average Scottish country town.
Just don’t have too many ‘wee swallies’ (alcoholic drinks) before you brave a trip over the wobbly Tummel Suspension Bridge! The lattice and rope bridge is often used by walkers hiking the 79 mile Rob Roy Way.
How many towns can boast of having their very own hydroelectric dam? Well, prepare to be suitably awed by the Pitlochry Dam, with a visitor centre which tells the story of how the water of the River Tummel has been harnessed to power the region. The dam has a ‘fish ladder’ which allows salmon to spawn upstream and you can watch this fascinating natural spectacle from April to late-October.
The cosy place though it is, there’s nothing remotely provincial about Pitlochry’s Festival Theatre which has a reputation for producing a high volume of bold work, giving art lovers another reason to roam here.
Edinburgh to Pitlochry by train
The quickest Edinburgh Waverley to Pitlochry trains takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes with morning departures every hour.
Just a few years ago the industrial central belt town of Falkirk – situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow – might seem an unlikely contender for your day trip itinerary. But in 2014, the Kelpies arrived and put Falkirk firmly on the map.
The Kelpies and Helix Park
The Kelpies are a pair of enormous, beautifully crafted 30-metre high horse sculptures at Helix Park. Fashioned from glittering steel and reflecting the waters underneath, it pays tribute to the horses which drove Scotland’s industrial past. Designed by Andy Scott, the Kelpies are begging to be Instagrammed, and they’ve swiftly become a tourist icon of not just Falkirk but Scotland as a whole.
Helix Park also offers around 500km of connected cycle paths and surrounding parkland to enjoy.
To get to the Kelpies and Helix Park take the train to either Falkirk Grahamston or Falkirk High. From Falkirk Grahamston station, buses leave every 10 minutes from nearby Weir Street and take 30 minutes to get there. From Falkirk High station, buses nearby take around 45 minutes to get there.
The Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel is an engineering marvel and a modern testament to Scotland’s industrial prowess. Standing 35-metres high, the world’s only rotating boat lift connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde Canal. Its design is inspired by the ‘shape of a Celtic double-headed spear, a whale’s ribcage or a Clyde-built ship propeller’, depending on how you look at it! The Falkirk Wheel’s ingenuity is such that it only takes the equivalent energy of eight boiling kettles to power a single turn.
To get to the Falkirk Wheel take the train to either Falkirk High or Falkirk Grahamston. From Falkirk High station, the number 3 bus from nearby Drossie Road departs every 20 minutes and takes 20 minutes to get there. From Falkirk Grahamston station buses nearby leave every 5-10 minutes and take around 25 minutes to get there (bus number 3 from St Andrews Church requires the least amount of walking).
At various locations, around Falkirk, you can see remnants of the Antonine Wall, the second (and less preserved) of the Roman’s great walls in Northern Britain. Snaking its way 37 miles from the River Clyde to the River Forth, the Antonine Wall included a turf wall and a deep ditch.
Callendar House, a stunning French chateau-style mansion with extensive grounds, is another historical landmark worth a visit. Dating from the 14th century, Callendar House has hosted the likes of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria and countless other historical figures. One of its permanent displays is the Antonine Wall, with remnants of it within its grounds.
Visit Falkirk has the lowdown on attractions and things to do in Falkirk.
Edinburgh to Falkirk by train
Trains from Edinburgh Waverley to Falkirk High depart every 15 minutes and take between 25-30 minutes. The quickest trains from Edinburgh Waverley to Falkirk Grahamston depart every 30 minutes and take around 35 minutes.
Edinburgh Days Trips by Train: Travel Extras, Tips and Hacks
Make the most of your trip with The Train Hacker’s travel extras, tips and hacks!
Accommodation: Hotels and the Caledonian Sleeper
Why limit yourself to a day trip from Edinburgh by train? For the ultimate rail travel experience arrive in Edinburgh (or Glasgow) in style on the Caledonian Sleeper service from London.
For the ultimate luxury railway experience, stay in one of Edinburgh’s luxury railway hotels at either The Balmoral Hotel or at the opposite end of Princes Street, the Waldorf Astoria – Caledonian. Or, take your pick from budget to top-end hotels in Edinburgh.
Save money on train tickets
Tours: Edinburgh and Scotland
While in Edinburgh, why not take a tour from an expert travel guide to help you get more out of your trip. They’re also a great idea if you’re pushed for time and want to see as much as you can while you’re there.
And if you want to visit the places mentioned here and a whole lot more (the Scottish Highlands and whisky trails springs to mind!), Edinburgh is the perfect place to explore more of Scotland.
We recommend Get Your Guide for the best tours in Edinburgh and around Scotland.
Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express
Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacular journey through the Scottish Highlands. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, you’ll love travelling one of the world’s most scenic train journeys by steam train. Find out how to ride the Harry Potter train in Scotland which includes multi-day tours from Edinburgh which include the trip.
We hope you enjoyed our round-up of the best day trips from Edinburgh by train!
Written by Jools Stone and Chris P King – last updated 24 August 2018