Edinburgh daytrips: 5 Scottish towns close to the capital - Scotland Magazine
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Edinburgh daytrips: 5 Scottish towns close to the capital

Extend your visit to the Scottish capital with a trip to one of these five Scottish towns, all easily accessible from the city

Extend your visit to the Scottish capital with a trip to one of these five Scottish towns, all easily accessible from the city

North Berwick 

Just over 30 minutes by train from Edinburgh, the coastal town of North Berwick, in East Lothian, is one of the most popular Scottish towns for a weekend jaunt for city dwellers.

Take in the amazing views across the Firth of Forth to Bass Rock, home to a huge gannet colony, or visit the five-star Scottish Seabird Centre to learn about local wildlife. In spring and summer, you can book onto one of the seasonal boat tours for a closer encounter with seabirds, seals and even dolphins.

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A view towards Tantallon Castle, near North Berwick, with the Bass Rock beyond. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

A short taxi ride will bring you to the ruins of Tantallon Castle, once home to the Red Douglas dynasty, and the last great castle to be built in Scotland. Before getting the train back to Edinburgh, either make time for fish and chips at the Lobster Shack or pop into The Puffin Bistro for a sit-down meal.



scottish towns
Melrose Abbey was founded by King David I in 1136, as the first Cistercian monastery in Scotland. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

From Edinburgh, the Borders Railway brings you to Tweedbank in an hour and the town of Melrose is a great base for those wishing to visit either the beloved and beautiful home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford, or the resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart: Melrose Abbey.

The pretty Scottish town has some good restaurants, including convivial Provender, and some charming places to stay, such as The Townhouse or family-run Burts.

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Provender in Melrose. Credit: VisitScotland / PRImaging

If you don’t wish to rely on the local buses, a taxi transfer to the town of Kelso, home to both Kelso Abbey – one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Scotland – and Floors Castle takes just 30 minutes.



Dunfermline Abbey. Credit: Visit Scotland

Just a 35-minute train ride from Edinburgh Waverley brings you to the one of the most historical Scottish towns, once the ancient capital of Scotland and now Scotland’s newest city, Dunfermline.

Dunfermline Abbey and Palace, birthplace of King Charles I and burial place of many famous royals, (including Robert the Bruce), is a huge draw. However, Dunfermline also has bus links to the exceedingly pretty town of Culross, famous for being a filming location for Outlander. Meanwhile, the pretty villages of Fife’s East Neuk beckon to the east. 

Culross. Credit: VisitScotland

Those wishing to linger a little longer should book into Garvock House Hotel – an elegant 200-year-old house overlooking the historic town that offers romantic rooms.



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Rosslyn Chapel. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Just a one-hour bus ride from the city centre, the village of Roslin is where you’ll find the famous Rosslyn Chapel, founded by Sir William St Clair, which has seen visitor numbers surge over the past 21 years since the publication of The Da Vinci Code.

Author Dan Brown, who chose to end his phenomenal first book here, describes Rosslyn as the “most mysterious and magical Chapel on earth”, and its intricate stonemasonry, continues to intrigue visitors today.

Afterwards hop on the bus back to Edinburgh or stay in one of the two Landmark Trust properties nearby: the Clair family’s ancestral home of Rosslyn Castle and the former inn Collegehill House, which has hosted Robert Burns, James Boswell and English painter JMW Turner among its many famous guests.


South Queensferry

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Forth Bridge. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Just north of Edinburgh, before you cross the Firth of Forth, and only 15 minutes by train, ‘The Ferry’ feels less like a day trip destination and more like simply reaching the city’s fringes.

As well as a colourful high street, striking views of the Forth Bridge and some rather good restaurants – Rogue Bros at The Boat House is a case in point – the main reason people visit South Queensferry is to take a boat ride over to Inchcolm Island, home to a 13th-century abbey.

Meanwhile, Outlander fans often use South Queensferry as a launchpad for some of the show’s famous locations, including Hopetoun House.


Read more in the July/August 2024 issue. Available to buy from Friday 14 June here. 

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Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland showcases its stunning landscapes and natural  beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country.
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