From world-class art to world-class whiskey, Fringe Festivals to fashion, castles to cathedrals, Edinburgh has plenty to experience. Once you've toured the highlights and sampled the haggis, it's time to see what else Scotland has to offer. The country is full of enchanting nature, Celtic history, and charming seaside towns. Some of the best spots are less than two hours from the capital, creating the perfect visit without the need to book another hotel. You could be strolling on the beach with an ice cream cone, hiking to incredible loch views, or learning about the country's past in no time.
1. St. Andrews
Perhaps most famous for its many golf courses, or the country’s oldest university, this beautiful seaside town has a lot to offer the day tripper. Whether you prefer to wander the Fife Coast path or stick to major hot spots like the St. Andrews Cathedral, Castle, and Botanic Gardens, be sure to save time in an authentic old pub. The Vic, Criterion, and Whey Pat Tavern are great places to try. You’ll also want to take a walk around West Sands Beach, see the local wonders of the free St. Andrews Museum, and enjoy a picnic at Craigtoun Park. Even if you aren’t a golfer, you won’t regret a walking tour of one of the world’s most famous courses. If you time your trip right, you might even be able to explore the secret bunker from which the government would have operated in the event of a nuclear war.
Travel time by train: 1 hour and 15 minutes
2. Trossachs National Park
The Highlands offer an air of mystery in addition to awesome natural views — and the southern tip isn’t too far from Edinburgh. If you can rent a car, buckle up for a ride to the U.K.’s biggest lake, Loch Lomond, as well as Trossachs National Park. You’ll be wowed by the prolific moors, jutting peaks, and incredible mountain capped scenery the park has to offer. Hiking is the preferred mode of transport, but you could rent a kayak or canoe, too. Prepare to meet some wallabies — there are wild ones on Inchconnachan Island, thanks to an eccentric aristocrat — and get more connected to the nature you came to visit. On your way, consider a stop at Stirling Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was coronated. The massive fortress is an incredible sight to behold and hints at times when Stirling was the country’s capital. The grounds’ Unicorn Café is the perfect place to fuel up with a cream tea before your adventure.
Travel time by car: 1 hour and 40 minutes
For a contrast to the Highlands, what could be better than a quaint town in the Lowlands? “Braveheart” fans and Scottish history buffs may recognize the name Falkirk, as it’s where William Wallace was defeated in battle in 1298 after the nobility abandoned independent war efforts. The town and surrounding area is now bursting with exciting attractions, from the Callendar House mansion and Roman Antonine Wall to Blackness Castle and Hippodrome Cinema. Of course, no Falkirk visit would be complete without a ride on the Falkirk Wheel, a rotary boat lift that connects the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal, or a visit to The Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures, designed by Andy Scott to honor the horse-powered heritage of Scotland.
Travel time by train: 30 minutes
4. Rosslyn Chapel
In the small town of Roslin on the Edinburgh outskirts sits a 15th-century chapel rumored to once be home the the Knights Templars and their Holy Grail. Whether the tales are true or not, the intricate stonework and beautiful setting makes Rosslyn Chapel worthy of a visit. The carvings tell stories from the Bible, celebrate nature, and teach moral lessons. Instead of trying to crack the code yourself, opt for a tour from the knowledgable staff. Just check the website before you board the bus, as it’s a working church and occasionally closes for weddings and other events. After a few hours exploring the chapel, grounds, and visitor center, head to The Original Rosslyn Inn Gastropub for lunch. Before you head back to Edinburgh, be sure to explore the ruins of Roslin Gunpowder Mills, which highlight the area’s industrial past.
Travel time by bus: 45 minutes
That’s right. Edinburgh’s grungier, more populous sister city is only a short train ride or hour drive away. And surprisingly, you can see it in a day. The galleries and museums hold some of the country’s best art, so make them a priority. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is free to enter and includes natural history and archaeological wonders. For something more modern, head to the Gallery of Modern Art, Lighthouse, or House for an Art Lover. To see some innovative architecture and learn about Scotland’s transport, check out the Riverside Museum. Want to learn more about the reputedly friendliest people in the world? Check out another free highlight: Glasgow Green and People Palace & Winter Gardens. Leave some time to wander the street art of City Centre Mural Trail, shops of Buchanan Street, and trendy cafes of Merchant City. If you get hungry, check out the food vendors at Barras Market, which has been an East End institution since the Victorian era. The Ubiquitous Chip is another local favorite.
Travel time by train: 50 minutes
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