11 of the best day-trips by train from Edinburgh

Abbotsford House in Tweedbank is easily reached by train from Edinburgh. (Picture: Shutterstock)
Abbotsford House in Tweedbank is easily reached by train from Edinburgh. (Picture: Shutterstock)
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Whether you head north, south, east or west, there are plenty of great places to visit within a short train journey from Edinburgh.

Here are 11 destinations you can reach by train in two hours or less from Scotland’s capital.

Stirling

Journey duration: 50 minutes

Located in central Scotland and known as the gateway to the Highlands, Stirling is the perfect old town to explore Scotland’s rich history. The town is relatively compact and easy to walk around and there are some key attractions you can easily visit on a day-trip from Edinburgh.

A must-see is the striking Stirling Castle, steeped in medieval history and surrounded by breathtaking scenery. And don’t miss the National Wallace Monument, which commemorates 13th-century hero William Wallace. From the top you can see the site of the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace famously defeated the English Army.

If you want to know more, you can visit the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, a 3D immersive experience designed to bring Scottish history to life.

To access Stirling’s key attractions in one day, it might be worth purchasing a Stirling City Pass, available from The Old Town Jail - an attraction in itself (£25 for adults and £14.95 for a child aged 5 to 16).

Loch Lomond

Journey duration: 2 hours (with a change at Glasgow Queen Street)

People often assume you need a car to visit Loch Lomond - the largest body of fresh water in Great Britain - but you can get the train to Balloch in just two hours from Edinburgh.

From the station, it's a short walk to catch a cruise on the loch or wander through Balloch Castle Country Park, where you can admire Balloch Castle, dating back to 1238. There’s also a nearby aquarium and a cafe with views over the loch.

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park features plenty of lochs, beautiful hills, forests and stunning views for walkers. Routes range from moderate strolls to long-distance hikes.

From Balloch there are also plenty of bus connections to The Trossachs, known as ‘Rob Roy Country’ for their connection with the famous outlaw.

Dundee

Journey duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Located along the north bank of the Firth of Tay, Dundee has in recent years become a cultural and commercial hub.

Arriving by train you’ll get to see one of the city’s most impressive attractions, the Tay Rail Bridge. The original one famously collapsed in 1879 causing the death of 75 passengers, but it was rebuilt in 1887 and today is one of the country’s most impressive railway journeys.

Scotland’s sunniest city is a UNESCO City of Design and last year became home to the V&A Museum - the world’s only V&A outside of London. On a day-trip to Dundee, make sure to check out the museum and its regularly changing design exhibitions.

There’s also plenty to see around the Old Town, such as St. Paul's Cathedral and the Caird Hall, and if you fancy some fresh air, take a walk up the 572-ft Dundee Law and take in fantastic views of the city.

Pitlochry

Journey duration: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Located on the River Tummel in Highland Perthshire, this pretty little town is easily accessible by train from Edinburgh and punches above its weight in terms of things to do and see.

Take a look around Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre, which explains the rich history of hydro-electricity in the north of Scotland. You can also watch salmon travelling upstream on the fish ladder during breeding season.

From the train station you can easily walk to Blair Athol Distillery, one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland. Enjoy a leisurely tour around the premises and a dram of Blair Athol 12-Year-Old whisky.

If you want to explore the surrounding countryside, venture into Faskally Wood in Tay Forest Park, which is home to a variety of tree species. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along Loch Dunmore or follow any of the signposted paths.

For a more strenuous hike, head to Ben Vrackie, which peaks at 841m and offers stunning views of the surrounding hills.

Aberdour and Fife Coastal Trail

Journey duration: 33 minutes

Just over a 30-minute train ride from Edinburgh, Aberdour is a delightful coastal town and a great place to enjoy a section of the stunning Fife Coastal Trail.

From the train station, walk along Aberdour High Street and turn left down Shore Road. Follow the road to the left until you reach the harbour and then take the path behind the quay gallery along the harbour.

Head up the path over Hawkcraig cliffs and through woodlands to Starley Burn. You’ll pass lovely waterfalls, distinctive due to the lime deposits left by the falling water.

Here you can either turn back to Aberdour or continue following the path to Burntisland where you can get the train back to Edinburgh.

While you’re in Aberdour, you can also explore the 14th-century Aberdour Castle and Gardens and visit the Norman-style 12th-century St Fillan’s Church next door.

Glasgow

Journey duration: 50 minutes

Scotland’s largest city is just a 50-minute train ride from Edinburgh so it’s easy to do a day-trip to enjoy its shopping and attractions.

In the city centre, make sure you check out the medieval Glasgow Cathedral and Merchant City where you’ll find designer boutiques and stylish restaurants that were once old warehouses.

For great views of the city, head to The Lighthouse, a centre for design and architecture, where you can also explore the Mackintosh Centre, a homage to Scotland’s most iconic architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

One of the nicest parts of Glasgow to wander around is the West End, which is easily accessed on the subway.

Jump off at Kelvinhall subway station to pay a visit to the majestic Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum where you can see one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world, a vast natural history collection and impressive artworks.

From here you can wander over to the beautiful grounds of the University of Glasgow and down to Byres Road where you can enjoy a bite to eat at one of the West End’s restaurants and cafes or have a drink on trendy Ashton Lane, tucked away behind the main thoroughfare.

To get back to the city centre, simply jump back on the subway at Byres Road.

Linlithgow

Journey duration: 21 minutes

In under half an hour from Edinburgh Waverley you can reach Linlithgow in West Lothian, a pleasant town steeped in history. Check out the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots and one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries.

You can also take in the historic Linlithgow Loch, which offers great views of the residence.

If you're in town between April and September, enjoy a picturesque boat trip on the Union Canal at the Linlithgow Canal Centre, not far from the railway station. The old inland port of Linlithgow dates back to 1822 and connected Edinburgh with Falkirk and the Forth Clyde Canal. The centre also has a Canal Museum and tea room.

North Berwick

Journey duration: 33 minutes

The gorgeous seaside town of North Berwick is just over half an hour from Edinburgh City Centre and provides the perfect antidote to city life, with quaint shops, cafes, galleries and a pristine beach.

If you're feeling energetic, climb to the top of the conical North Berwick Law for spectacular views over the coast. You'll also be able to see across to Edinburgh and the Pentlands on a clear day. The town's award-winning gardens are also lovely for a more relaxing stroll.

North Berwick is the perfect day out for nature lovers and you can enjoy an interactive wildlife adventure at the Scottish Seabird Centre, which also boasts a nice cafe.

From the centre, look across to the Bass Rock - a volcanic rock two miles from the shore which is home to a colony of gannets. If you're lucky you might also spot a seal in the water.

There are plenty of places to stop for something to eat in North Berwick. Try a fish supper from the local chippy or check out one of the town's many cafes.

Tweedbank

Journey duration: 56 minutes

When people go on day-trips from Edinburgh they often head north but the south has plenty to offer too. Take a trip to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders, and enjoy a train journey that's almost as lovely as the destination, as you pass through the Midlothian countryside.

Head 2km on foot from the train station to Abbotsford House, once home of famous Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. The gardens of the mansion house are impressive and much of the planning and layout was done by Scott.

You can also enjoy a stroll along Gunknowe Loch where ducks and swans bathe on the water.

Tweedbank is a great base for exploring the wider borders, and there are lots of cycle and walking routes nearby.

If you're a keen cyclist, you can enjoy 55 miles of countryside on the 4 Abbeys cycle route, which takes you to Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey, Kelso Abbey and Jedburgh Abbey.

South Queensferry

Located 10 miles to the west of Edinburgh on the shores of the Firth of Forth, South Queensferry is best known for its three iconic bridges - Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing.

The striking, red coloured Forth Bridge, a World Heritage Site built in the 1800s to transport rail passengers across the Forth Estuary, is one of Scotland's most famous landmarks.

Once you've taken plenty of pictures of the bridges, wander along the town's quaint cobbled streets past ice cream coloured houses or enjoy tree-lined walks and coastal paths.

There are also plenty of great options if you want to grab a bite to eat. You can get a good afternoon tea at The Little Bakery or head along to Scotts at Port Edgar Marina for lunch or dinner with magnificent views over the bridges.

St Andrews

Journey duration: 52 minutes (train to Leuchars), 12 minutes (bus to St Andrews)

Sadly there's no direct train to St Andrews but this shouldn't stop you taking a day-trip to one of Scotland's loveliest towns and the bus connections from Leuchers train station are frequent and quick.

Known as the home of golf, St Andrews is an iconic place to enjoy Scotland's national sport. There are plenty of courses to choose from, including the famous Old Course at St Andrews and you can find out more about the sport at the British Golf Museum.

You don't have to be a golf fan though to enjoy this seaside retreat. You can explore the remains of St Andrews Cathedral, Scotland’s largest and most magnificent medieval church. Climb to the top and be rewarded with fantastic views of St Andrews and Fife.

If that sounds too energetic, why not take a refreshing stroll on the beach and enjoy an ice cream from Jannettas Gelateria, which has been going strong in the town for more than 100 years? Or wander around the town's boutique shops and lovely cafes.