Top 10 Day Tours from Edinburgh

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Alejandra Rangel
@alejandrarangel
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

What to do in Edinburgh in 3 days? We, tired of the city, decided to do it during the day a day tour.

We hired the car and drove through the Scottish countryside.

The choice of our route was not easy at all: in short, from the famous castles to the whiskey distilleries, from the historical sites to the excursions in the national parks, there are so many things that can be seen on a day trip from Edinburgh, that you are spoiled for choice.



In this article you will find 10 day tour ideas from Edinburgh.

These tips try to cover the different interests you may have, from cultural-historical to natural, covering a wide range of regions, from the Scottish Borders to Glasgow to the Scottish Highlands.

  • 1 - Rosslyn Chapel
  • 2 – Glasgow
  • 3 – Loch Ness
  • 4 - GlenCoe and the Scottish Highlands
  • 5 - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
  • 6 – St Andrews
  • 7 - Visit to the whiskey distilleries
  • 8 - Harry Potter filming locations
  • 9 - Castle of Stirling and Falkirk
  • 10 - Castles of Scotland

1 - Rosslyn Chapel

at Di Antony McAulay /

About 8 miles south of Edinburgh is a must-visit village, especially if you love movies and legends: the Roslin village it is easily reachable by bus 37 in about 50 minutes.

In short, if you have read the "Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown you cannot fail to recognize here la la Rosslyn Chapel from the XNUMXth century, a stone church full of intricate carvings which according to the author is the secret place where none other than the Holy Grail!



Rosslyn Chapel, also known as St Matthew's Collegiate Chapel, was built for the Sinclair family as a Catholic church and is considered one of Scotland's architectural gems.

The carving on the pillars and arches depicts a series of religious and secular symbols and images. Don't miss the Apprentice Pillar.

After the visit to the Chapel, head towards Roslin Glen, a green oasis just a few minutes' walk from the chapel. It is an ancient wood in a gorge along the river North Esk with a ruined castle hidden in the trees. Pack a picnic on a sunny day or head to the cozy Original Rosslyn Inn for lunch.

How to get there by car

Rosslyn Chapel is about 16 miles south of Edinburgh and takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get there by car. There is free parking for visitors.

Con i mezzi pubblici

There are regular buses from Edinburgh to Roslin but there are no trains. The bus journey takes approximately 50 minutes. The nearest bus stop (Rosslyn Inn) is about a 3 minute walk from the chapel.

With a guided tour from Edinburgh

There are several tours, some of which include other visits besides Rosslyn Chapel. The simplest is this which also includes the Abbey of Melrose.

  • Rosslyn Chapel and Holy Grail Tour from Edinburgh
  • Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian's Wall: group tour

2 – Glasgow

George Square in Glasgow. By Susanne Pommer /


Lying along the River Clyde, Glasgow is a great alternative to the much more touristy Edinburgh.


Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and is renowned not only for its museums and attractions, but above all for its lively music scene, its shops and hipster places to grab a bite, its parks and its inhabitants, difficult to understand due to their strong accent, but friendly to tourists.

Not to be missed in the city the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which welcomes over a million visitors a year and which is located in a beautiful sandstone building next to the beautiful Kelvingrove Park.

Curiosity: if like me you are a fan of “Trainspotting” you cannot forget the scene in which Mark and Sickboy use an air rifle to shoot a skinhead's dog.

This scene was shot at Rouken Glen Park of Glasgow, the largest public park in East Renfrewshire.

There are lots of things to see and do in Glasgow, so my advice is to plan your city itinerary carefully and in advance.

How to get there by car

Glasgow is located approximately 75km west of Edinburgh and the journey normally takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes from the city center.

There are two main routes, taking the M8 or taking the M9 and M80. The M8 is slightly shorter and faster. It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes (traffic permitting)


How to get there by public transport

Rail connections are regular between Edinburgh and Glasgow and is the fastest way to travel between the two cities (approximately 45 minutes). Trainline is a great site for checking timetables and purchasing train tickets.


There are also regular buses between the two cities.

3 – Loch Ness

Loch Ness by Di Botond Horvath /

Who does not know Loch Ness? This deep lake in the Scottish Highlands, is in the legends the home of Nessie, the so-called Loch Ness monster, "sighted" for the first time in 1933.

Even though Nessie hasn't been seen for decades, nowhere is better suited to keeping her legend alive Loch Ness Center and Exposition, with its displays relating to the famous "beast" and the history of the surroundings.
There are many other things to see and do on and around the lake.

Do not miss cruise on the lake which includes a visit to the impressive ruins of Urquhart Castle, the picturesque Glen Affric and a visit to the city of Fort Augustus, which is a good place to take a look at the Caledonian Canal.

How to get there by car

Loch Ness is located a long way from Edinburgh, around 280km which means 3 to 4 hours of driving. My advice, if you want to travel by car, is to stop and sleep somewhere for example at Inverness. To get to Loch Ness from Edinburgh take the A9.

Con i mezzi pubblici

Impossible to do in one day as it requires many changes and therefore many hours.

With an organized tour

For me the best choice ever if you want to visit Loch Ness in one day from Edinburgh as you relax on the bus (on the way back you can even take a nap) and observe the spectacular sceneries of the Scottish countryside without any worries. There is this tour with English guide which I think is really very interesting.

4 - GlenCoe and the Scottish Highlands

Glen Coe by By Matthew Storer /

Famous for the terrible massacre in 1692, known as the Glencoe Massacre, where 38 people of the MacDonalds clan were killed while sleeping by those they had given refuge to, Glencoe is a valley of volcanic origin with splendid views, today a nature reserve protected by National Trust for Scotland.

It is a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering and there are a number of trails for trekking between scenery that take your breath away with their beauty.

And it is precisely for these scenarios that Glencoe has been chosen as the location for the filming of many films including Harry Potter (see later in this article), Skyfall, Highlander and Braveheart.

There is a visitor center and exhibition center (for a fee) run by the National Trust, which is a great place to stop for information and hiking routes. National Trust staff sometimes organize guided walks or safaris.

C'è anche il Glencoe Folk Museum which features local history presented inside thatched-roof cottages.

On the way to GlenCoe, you can stop and explore some of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

How to get there by car

Glencoe is located about 190km from Edinburgh which means at least 3 hours of driving.

How to visit Glencoe with a tour

There are plenty of organized tours from Edinburgh that visit Glencoe and generally include other places of interest as well, such as Loch Ness. Two tours that I would personally choose are the ones below:

  • Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands: tour of Edinburgh
  • From Edinburgh: Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands tour

5 - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond. Di Ruth Peterkin /

The national park of Loch Lomond and Trossachs it was designated Scotland's first national park in 2002 and is one of the most popular weekend spots for Edinburgh locals looking for nature and outdoor activities.

The park is indeed a popular spot for camping, biking and water sports, but most of all it is famous for trekking as three of the most famous routes in all of Scotland are located here: the West Highland Way, Rob Roy Way (this is the land of Scottish outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor) and the Three Lochs Way.

Among the things to see the island of Inchmurrin, theacquario Loch Lomond Shores & SEA LIFE and if you have enough time, relax with a boat trip on Lake Katrine that offers tons of options, including cruising aboard the famous historic steamship Sir Walter Scott built in 1900 and cruiser Lady of the Lake.

How to get there by car

Loch Lomond National Park covers a large area but is approximately 80 miles from Edinburgh. It takes between 1,5 and 2 hours to reach Luss village from Edinburgh via the M8.

How to get there by public transport

Loch Lomond is accessible by public transport. see Trainline for trains or National Express for buses

With a tour from Edinburgh

There are various tours from Edinburgh which include visiting Loch Lomond and are a good option if you don't have a rental car. Some of these are below.

  • Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Stirling: Edinburgh tour
  • From Edinburgh: whiskey, Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond
  • Scotland: 1-hour cruise to Loch Lomond

6 – St Andrews

St. Andrews is also renowned for its gulf courses. By CStringer /

St Andrews is a small town on the coast of Fife and is home to Scotland's oldest university (if you love gossip you should know this is where Prince William met Kate) and is a perfect day escape to a quaint town famed for good food (try to get there hungry!).

You can climb the ancient castle tower to admire the city, wander around the university buildings or take a walk along one of the three beaches, including the West Sands Beach, the iconic coast where the famous film "Moments of glory" was filmed.

There are plenty of cafes and pubs to hang out in and St Andrews is also home to the fabulous Eden Mill gin distillery, where you can take a tour and a tasting.

How to get there by car

Driving to St Andrews from Edinburgh takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Parking is limited in downtown St. Andrews but there are both free and paid parking areas as soon as you enter the city.

How to get there by public transport

There are regular buses between Edinburgh and St Andrews, the journey takes between 1,5 and 2 hours depending on traffic.

PRO tipThere is no train station in St Andrews, but to get there you can take the train to Leuchars, then from there to St Andrews it is 10 minutes by bus or taxi.

Tour of Edinburgh and St. Andrews

Most day tour from Edinburgh are managed by Rabbie’s tour, one of the most famous and trusted agencies in Scotland.

  • St Andrews and Fife Villages Tour from Edinburgh
  • St. Andrews and County Fife: from Edinburgh (small group tour operated by Rabbie's tour)
  • Dunfermline, St Andrews, Dundee: tour da Edimburgo

7 - Visit to the whiskey distilleries

What Scotland would be without Whiskey?

What Scotland would be if there were no whiskey?

If you visit Edinburgh and are new to Scotch Whiskey, I recommend you take a tour and tasting at the Scotch Whiskey Experience which may help you better understand what kind of whiskey you like.

Fortunately there are also some distilleries that you can visit on a day tour from Edinburgh, and some of them can be reached in a few hours from the capital.

You can visit these distilleries alone, but my dispassionate advice is to take part in an organized tour, since the visits include tasting and after drinking (albeit little) it is better not to drive the car (remember that in Scotland you drive on the left, which in itself is difficult without having drunk, imagine after a couple of drinks).

Important: in Scotland the laws on drinking they are very restrictive! For this reason, many distilleries instead of letting you do the tastings on site create you a kind of whiskey take-away kit so you can take it away and drink it maybe after dinner.

Many whiskey distillery tours are quite similar, so my advice is to visit a couple and maybe if you're traveling with someone who doesn't like whiskey, try combining the distillery visit with another attraction of interest. It is easy to combine a visit to a distillery with a visit such as Loch Lomond National Park, Stirling Castle, Falkirk, Glasgow, Doune Castle or Rosslyn Chapel.

Many day trips from Edinburgh and Glasgow in fact include a whiskey distillery stop as part of the itinerary.

If you still decide to go alone, most visits can be booked upon arrival at the distillery, but some, especially in the low season, require advance booking.

Below I recommend some distilleries based on a particular brand, type (single malt or blend), or taste (for example, peaty or fruity) that are within a 2 hour drive from Edinburgh.

Glenkinchie Distillery - this “single malt whiskey” distillery is located 30 km from Edinburgh (30 to 40 minutes by car) in the city of Tranent. The visit goes from the stages of production to the tasting of 2 whiskeys passing through the factory in full business ferment. This distillery is the one that is generally included in organized tours that combine it with other places of interest.

Glengoyne Distillery - A famous whiskey distillery located in Dumgoyne, about 88 km from Edinburgh (1 hour and a half journey). In continuous operation since its foundation in 1833, it produces its "single malt whiskey" with slow and traditional methods.

Auchentoshan  - 14km north-west of Glasgow you will find this distillery, the only one in Scotland to practice triple distillation, meaning the whiskey passes through three stills before being allowed to age in oak barrels. This technique increases the uniformity, sweetness and delicacy of the “single malt” whiskey, also known as the “breakfast whiskey”.

Deanston Distillery - Deanston Distillery is a famous whiskey distillery in Doune located along the River Teith. It is approximately 72 km from Edinburgh (1 hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes by car). It produces "single malt whiskey" and offers tours and tastings.

Glenturret Distillery - This distillery is located in Crief approximately 88km from Edinburgh (1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes by car). Glenturret Distillery produces "single malt whiskey", but the tour also covers the history and creation of one of Scotland's most iconic whiskey brands, the Famous Grouse. Advance booking is recommended.

Aberfeldy Distillery - Aberfeldy Distillery is located outside Aberfeldy, approximately 119 kilometers from Edinburgh (1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours drive). It produces "single malt whiskey" and offers tours and tastings.

There are also some "new" distilleries, such as the Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow, who don't have their own whiskeys yet but offer whiskey tastings from all over Scotland.

Visits to whiskey distilleries are great on rainy days. Many of them also offer a bar or restaurant where you can eat something. As they say in Scotland: "today's rain is tomorrow's whiskey!"

8 - Harry Potter filming locations

The Hogwarts Express really exists! By Roelof Nijholt /

Although JK Rowling only wrote 7 Harry Potter booksbut there are 8 films as Warner Bros decided to split the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two parts. Filming for the films took place between September 2000 and December 2010.

Although most of the Harry Potter scenes were filmed at Warner Bros Studio in Leavensden, in England, many more were shot across the UK. These areas were mainly in the south of England, but there are also (and are notable) in Scotland.

Although Harry Potter was written in Edinburgh, none of the scenes in the films were shot in the city, but in the Scottish countryside. If you want to go there, however, know that they are not very close to the city and therefore it will probably take you the whole day.

The closest in terms of driving time is Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England which is 2 hours away.

Alnwick Castle - The exterior of the castle and its courtyard were used to shoot some scenes outside of "Hogwarts" (remember the scene of Harry's first lesson with the flying broom?), But not only.

In the past, in fact, the castle had already been used in other films, such as "Robin Hood prince of thieves", the episode "the last knight" of the Transformers saga and an episode of "Star Trek - The Next Generation". Located in northern England, the castle is definitely worth a visit.

Glenfinnan Viaduct - The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a railway viaduct on the West Highland Line just outside the town of Glenfinnan. In the Harry Potter film it is the viaduct on which the Hogwarts Express is seen passing.

Il Hogwarts Express - If you are looking for and want to see the "real" Hogwarts Steam Express, you can do it! The steam train is operated by the West Coast Railway and runs primarily between Fort William and Mallaig.

The route winds through fabulous natural sceneries and has won numerous awards such as one of the most beautiful train routes in the world. The train operates seasonally, normally from April to October and is recommended buy tickets well in advance.

HERE you will find a full day tour including tickets for the Hogwarts Express train

Rannoch Moor is a vast expanse of wild and desolate highland lands near Glen Coe.
It is a swampy area covering about 50 square miles, filled with bogs and lochans (small lakes).

It is in Rannoch Moor that the scene where, in the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters board the train in search of Harry was filmed.

Seen in more than one scene from the Harry movies, but probably most recognizable as a backdrop in the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Steall waterfall it has a drop of 120 meters and is the second highest waterfall in Scotland. It is located about 7 miles from Fort William and to get to the waterfall you cross it with a simple walk of about 40 minutes spectacular Nevis gorge.

The hike is short but steep and can be slippery in places, particularly after rain and in winter, so dress appropriately. The excursion may not be appropriate for younger children.

GlenCoe - in Harry Potter, the area has been used in some movies and is better known as Hagrid's hut.

Please note that it is not possible to visit all the Harry Potter "locations" in one day and therefore you have to decide which ones you really care about.

If I personally had to choose one, I would be undecided between the Jacobite train ride or Alnwick Castle.

9 - Castle of Stirling and Falkirk

The picturesque village of Stirling .By Stephen McCluskey /

Sitting atop the Castle Hill rock formation, the Stirling Castle as we know it today it was built between the end of the 12th and XNUMXth centuries, but its first mention dates back to the XNUMXth century.

Stirling Castle, together with the Edinburgh Castle, was one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland: it was the medieval home for Scottish royalty and saw many battles and sieges.

Today, Stirling Castle is the most popular tourist attraction in Stirling, and the visit allows you to learn about its long history: not only did the castle house several kings and queens, but it was also the place where Mary, the queen of Scotland, spent a considerable portion of his life, including his coronation in 1542.

HERE you can find the Skip-the-line ticket for Stirling Castle

I also recommend that you visit the website of the Battle of Bannockburn, one of the most famous battles of the First Scottish War of Independence, fought in 1314 and in which Robert Bruce's army defeated King Edward II's army.

Curiosity: nearby is the National Wallace Monument, a large memorial completed in 1869 to commemorate William Wallace, a Scottish knight and hero, who fought alongside Robert Bruce.

He is the man who was played by Mel Gibson in the 1995 film "Braveheart" and his sword is displayed here.

On the way to Stirling, you will pass by the town of Falkirk, where you will find a number of other things to see. THE Kelpies they are 98 meters tall steel horse head sculptures and are the largest equine sculptures in the world. You can see them from the highway but I recommend you stop and visit them.

Still, another attraction that could be visited as part of a day trip to Stirling is the Linlithgow Palace, a partially ruined medieval royal residence and the birthplace of King James V and Mary Queen of Scots.

How to get there by car

From Edinburgh it takes less than an hour to get to Stirling. There is paid parking near the castle.

How to get there by public transport

There are regular trains from Edinburgh to Stirling. The journey takes less than an hour.

Tour from Edinburgh to Stirling

Stirling Castle is generally included as a stop on tours that also include other sites of interest.

  • Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Stirling: Edinburgh tour
  • Loch Lomond, Stirling and Kelpies: small group tour

10 - Castles of Scotland

Leon Wilhelm's Dunnottar Castle /

I castles they were built in Scotland from the XNUMXth century to the XNUMXth century and range from nearly forgotten ruins, to towers, to grand fortresses, to fairytale palaces.

Within a short distance of Edinburgh there are many that are open to the public, so by planning well you may even be able to see 3 or 4 in a single day tour. Below is a list of some interesting castles to visit and which are located no more than 3 hours from the capital of Scotland.

Cragmillar Castle - A ruined castle with parts dating back to the 20th century which also has ties to Maria Stuart who stayed there while recovering after an illness. It is only a XNUMX minute drive from Edinburgh.

Blackness castle - A 15th century castle that has earned the nickname "the ship that never sailed" due to its shape of a ship located on the south bank of the Firth of Forth. A visit is recommended, it is a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh.

If you are passionate about Outlander (and want to visit the Blackness castle) the agency Rabbie's Tour organizes this full day tour

Thirlestane Castle - A private 1th century castle located in the Scottish Borders which is home to the Maitland family. Located about XNUMX hours by car from Edinburgh, it should be visited especially for the decorated ceilings. If for one night you want to feel like royalty, the castle offers overnight stays in luxury rooms.

Stirling Castle - A large medieval castle which served as one of Scotland's most important fortresses and was used as a residence by Scottish royalty. Lots of similarities to Edinburgh Castle. About an hour and a half drive from Edinburgh.

Doune Castle - fortress located near the village of Doune, a short distance from Stirling Castle, nestled on the banks of the River Teith. It dates back to around 1400, it was abandoned but was subsequently significantly restored in the twentieth century. Filming location of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the TV series "Outlander". Located 1 hour and 1,5 hours drive from Edinburgh.

Alnwick Castle - A picturesque and mighty castle with sections dating back to the 1,5th century. Located in the north of England, it is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland. Filming location for Harry Potter and Downton Abbey. Adjacent to the beautiful Alnwick garden. Located 2 to XNUMX hours drive from Edinburgh.

Dunnottar Castle - when you think of Scottish castles, probably the image that is formed in the mind is very similar to Dunnottar Castle, certainly one of the most beautiful in the whole of Scotland. A ruined medieval fortress located in a dramatically striking position on a rocky outcrop along the coast. The castle has a rich history and was an important defense site during the Jacobite rebellions. Dunnottar Castle is approximately a 2 hour to 2,5 hour drive from Edinburgh.

Balmoral Castle - Castle built for Queen Victoria and now Queen Elizabeth II's private residence and heart castle. The gardens are splendid, but beware that the parts of the castle open to the public are few and only open at certain times of the year. Approximately 2,5 hours from Edinburgh.

All castles have a paid entrance ticket. If you plan to visit several castles while in Scotland, it may be a good idea to purchase the Scottish Heritage Pass (valid for travel from April to October) which gives you free access to over 120 National Trust and Historic Scotland sites.

There is also theHistoric Scotland Explorer Pass which includes entry to over 70 historic sites in Scotland. These passes include entry to many castles including Edinburgh Castle, Blackness Castle, Craigmillar Castle, Stirling Castle and Doune Castle.

Most castles in Scotland have seasonal opening hours and some close during the winter months. Be sure to check which ones are open during your vacation.

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