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Ideas & Inspiration Seeing Scotland By Train: Day trips from Edinburgh

Seeing Scotland By Train: Day trips from Edinburgh

How to enhance a holiday in Edinburgh, by taking beautiful rail journeys to some of Scotland's most lovely locations, on easy day trips.

| Last Updated: 3 months ago

Few European cities are as dominated by its main railway station as Edinburgh.
Bridges which span the tracks have to be used when moving between the two core areas of the Scottish capital, it's Old Town and New Town.
As can be seen above, trains literally pass under the Scottish National Gallery.

Edinburgh is inevitably home to a plethora of other must see attractions, but time spent in Scotland isn't complete without experiencing its beautiful scenery.
The city is on the North Sea coast, so there are gorgeous towns by the sea to the north and the south which await exploration and within 10 minutes of departing Waverley station on a train, you can be passing through a beautiful landscape.

So you don't have to travel far to enhance an Edinburgh based holiday, but for those that would rather be settled in one location while on a break away from home, the city makes a great base for seeing the best of Scotland by train.
It's possible to spend time in The Highlands and be back in the city in time for a late supper and nightcap, and taking these longer trips is no hardship, with so much of the travel experience being wholly wonderful.

to North Berwick

To North Berwick on a day trip from Edinburgh To North Berwick on a day trip from Edinburgh
The charming high street in North Berwick The charming high street in North Berwick

Journey Time = 35 minutes
Frequency = 1 or 2 x trains per hour

North Berwick and its beautiful beaches are within touching distance from Edinburgh by train.
Plus as this local guide explains, there's more to do in this charming town than paddle in the sea.
To North Berwick by train
A pathway across the road from the station, leads down towards a High Street which houses multiple independent shops and numerous places to eat and drink.

to Stirling

To Stirling from Edinburgh by train To Stirling from Edinburgh by train

Journey Time = from 43 minutes: the trains heading on to Inverness are fastest
Frequency = 1 or 2 x trains per hour

Stirling, the home of Scottish kings, is an easy journey by train from Edinburgh.

Stirling Castle is a 20 – 30 minute walk from the station, though much of the route is very steep; it's why the castle has such stunning views!

However, for those who would rather avoid a stiff walk, for much of the year there is an alternative means of accessing the castle from the station, which is to take the Stirling Land Train.
It stops in Station Road and by the castle, more details are available on its Facebook page.

The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum is a 15 – 25 minute walk from Stirling station, follow the route to the top of Friars Street and then go left and left again, making a u-turn around the clock tower.
Once you’re on the other side of the clock tower, go straight ahead on to Corn Exchange Road and then turn right on to Albert Place, the gallery is towards the edge of the town over to the right

to Glasgow

Glasgow by train from Edinburgh Glasgow by train from Edinburgh

Journey Time = 45 - 50 minutes
Frequency = 2 to 4 x trains per hour

It's easy to see the best of Glasgow by train while staying in Edinburgh.
Though one thing to watch out for is that the trains between the two cities take multiple routes, so the journeys to target are the trains which terminate at Queen Street station, with its fabulous location in the heart of Glasgow.
The Gallery of Modern Art, pictured above, is within a five minute walk from the station, and Glasgow's other most most popular cultural attractions have easy access from Queen Street, thanks to the public transport wonder of the Glasgow Subway.
Kelvinhall is the closest station to the Kelvingrove gallery and museum and Hillhead is the nearest station to the Rennie Mackintosh Museum.
An entrance to the Buchanan St station of the Subway is just outside the exit on the right-hand side of the Queen St station concourse; though in common will all of the stations on the Subway, the access to and from the trains isn't step-free.

Something which Glasgow has which Edinburgh lacks, is a transport museum and the wonderful Riverside Museum amply rewards the effort of making the journey from the Scottish capital.

Buses on route/line 100 go to the museum from a stop which is within a two minute walk from Queen Street station.

The Riverside Transport Museum  is an easy day out from Edinburgh The Riverside Transport Museum is an easy day out from Edinburgh
Take the bus on from Queen Street station Take the bus on from Queen Street station

to Galashiels

To Galashiels from Edinburgh To Galashiels from Edinburgh
Riding the beautiful railway from Edinburgh to the Galashiels Riding the beautiful railway from Edinburgh to the Galashiels
From the train station to the bus station in Galashiels From the train station to the bus station in Galashiels
The typically dramatic Scottish landscape is less than 40 mins from Edinburgh The typically dramatic Scottish landscape is less than 40 mins from Edinburgh

Journey Time = 54 minutes
Frequency = 1 x train per hour

Take a journey on the delightful Borders Railway to the charming town of Galashiels and here is a guide to what you can do there on arrival.

Galashiels is also where you can experience the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

The Interchange bus station in Galashiels is across the street from the railway station.
Buses typically depart hourly on to other lovely towns in the Scottish borders including Hawick; Peebles and Selkirk.

to St Andrews

Journey Time = around 1hr 15 minutes
Frequency = 2 x connections per hour

You don't need to be golfer to be beguiled by St Andrews, the coastal town has a fabulous sandy beaches, numerous quality establishments in which to dine, drink and shop, plus the atmospheric ruins of both an abbey and a castle.
The fact that St Andrews was deprived of its train service was among the more mystifying decisions taken back in the 1960s, but it is easily accessed from Edinburgh.

There are frequent trains from Edinburgh to Leuchars (for St Andrews) - and at that station the onward connections by bus into the town centre, are as simple as can be.
Though what adds to the pleasure of the day is that much of the journey to Leuchars is among the most spectacular of Scottish rail routes.
There are views from the Forth Bridge, pictured at the top of the page, which occur around 12 -15 mins after the train has departed from Edinburgh...

And then the train, which will be heading to Dundee (see below), descends from the bridge to travel by the shore.

to Dundee

To Dundee on a day trip from Edinburgh To Dundee on a day trip from Edinburgh

Journey Time = from 1hr 10 minutes: the trains heading on to Aberdeen are fastest
Frequency = 2 x trains per hour

There are very few journeys between two European cities, taken by express trains, that are as consistently fabulous as the route between Edinburgh and Dundee.
Though the sea views on this journey can only be seen on the right-hand side of the train when facing north; all of the videos were taken from a train travelling in the opposite direction.

For much of the journey between Edinburgh and Dundee the railway line is beside the coastline of East Fife.
Virtually any time a UK coastal train journey is shown on film and television, what will be seen is a train travelling by the sea in South Devon, but from inside the trains, the views are just as spectacular on this journey – and they’re sustained for longer.

Though the views from the train as it travels by the shore are superseded by those from two of the most stunning train journey experiences which can be found anywhere in Europe!
Namely the views from the Forth Bridge, which occur around 12 -15 mins after the train has departed from Edinburgh .and the views from The Tay Bridge just before the train arrives in Dundee.

As for what to do when you arrive in Dundee, two of the cities most popular attractions are literally across the street from the railway station.
So heading from Edinburgh to experience the V&A Dundee, and the RSS Discovery, the ship which conveyed Scott and then Shackleton to the Antarctic, is easily done.

to the Highlands and Islands as day trips from Edinburgh

Edinburgh is on Scotland's east coast, but the habitable scenic islands for which it is famed are all over on the west, plus Britain's most scenic railway route, the West Highland Line, unsurprisingly lives up to its name.
However, the gap between the east and west coasts of Scotland is at its narrowest between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
So if you will be spending time in the Scottish capital, but wishing you could also see something of Scotland's wild landscapes, you can make this a reality by taking the train.
Intercity trains also link Edinburgh to the central Highlands to the north, on a route which is inevitably scenic.

to the Isle of Bute

to the isle of Bute from Edinburgh by train to the isle of Bute from Edinburgh by train
Glorious Wemyss Bay station Glorious Wemyss Bay station
To Rothesay from Wemyss Bay To Rothesay from Wemyss Bay
On the bus around Bute On the bus around Bute

Delightful Bute is the island in The Highlands which can be experienced on an easy day trip from Edinburgh.
Though the journey is most easily managed on a Monday to Saturday, because on those days of the week a fast train typically departs from Edinburgh Waverley station at 10:20 and heads to Glasgow Central station.
In Glasgow Central a simple, step-free transfer is available into a trainon to Wemyss Bay; the truly magical station which occupies pride of place on the cover of Simon Jenkins’ book ‘Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations’.

At the station a gentle slope leads down to the ferry to Rothesay which is the the main town on Bute; in the summer, the boats connect with every train arrival.
Day return tickets to Rothesay, which include the ferries, can be booked online or at the station in Edinburgh.

The ferry crossing, which takes 35 minutes offers beautiful views, and by departing Edinburgh at 10:20, you will be stepping on the quayside in Rothesay at 13:05.

On arrival in the summer season, late May to late September, you can see the best of Bute by touring the island on an open-topped bus, on a journey which takes 90 minutes.
The optimum connection for the return to Edinburgh, which includes connecting into an onward train at Glasgow Central, is typically available by departing Rothesay on the 17:00 ferry.

Though if you are happy to make a transfer in Glasgow between Queen Street station and Central station, there are multiple other end-to-end journey options available in both directions daily.
Queen Street is used by most of the fast trains to and from Edinburgh, and Central station is used by the trains to and from Wemyss Bay.

to the Strathspey Railway

to the Strathspey Railway from Edinburgh to the Strathspey Railway from Edinburgh

The wonderful Strathspey Railway is one of Britain’s most delightfully preserved steam railways, and it's beautiful route has easy access from Edinburgh, because it shares the station in Aviemore with the mainline trains.
Though check the Strathspey Timetable before heading off as its trains don't operate daily.

The journey between Edinburgh and Aviemore takes around 3 hours, but the scenery is fabulous, particularly north of Perth.

If you want to make the most of the day with two return trips on the Strathspey Railway, plus the opportunity to explore its main station at Boat Of Garten between trains, you can take direct trains to Aviemore, which typically depart from Edinburgh Waverley at 08:39 on Monday to Saturday, and at 09:25 on Sunday.

Or you can leave Edinburgh later and still have time to take up the option of a glorious afternoon tea on the steam train, whilst making the one return journey to the end of the line and back.
It's possible to depart Edinburgh at 10:35 (Mon to Sat) or 10:38 (Sun) on trains which take a glorious coastal route to Perth, where connections are available into trains to Aviemore,
These trains on from Perth will arrive in Aviemore before the departure of the afternoon steam train.

The return journey journey to Edinburgh will involve boarding a train heading to Glasgow and making what is a typically straightforward connection in Stirling; on Monday to Saturday you will be back in Edinburgh before 21:30 and on Sunday the scheduled arrival is at 20:07.

to Oban

Passing  a sea loch near the end of a journey to Oban Passing a sea loch near the end of a journey to Oban

The trains which take Britain's most beautiful railway journey, along the West Highland Line, depart from Glasgow Queen Street station, but this station is less than an hour from Edinburgh by train.
The transfer between trains in Glasgow simply involves walking from one train to the other.

If you choose Oban as a day out destination, you'll have time for a late lunch in the town as the 10:36 train from Glasgow on Monday to Saturday and the 09:56 train on Sunday both arrive there before 14:00.
The connecting trains typically depart Edinburgh at 09:30 on Monday to Saturday and at 08:30 on Sunday.
Leave Oban by the train which typically departs at 16:11 and you'll be back in Edinburgh before 21:00 (9pm).

So you won't be in delightful Oban for more than a couple of hours, but the point of this day out is to wallow in the scenic journey.

Around 25 minutes into the journey, after the train has departed from Dalmuir the railway begins to travel along the north bank of The Clyde Estuary.

Between Helensburgh and Arrochar & Tarbet there are spectacular views on the left down over two sea lochs; Loch Gare followed by Loch Long.

Between Arroacher & Tarbet and Ardlui, Loch Lomond is over to the right,

Since leaving Arroacher & Tarbet the train will have been travelling through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park and between Adrlui and Tyndrum it is the hills of The Trossachs which surround the train.

After Tyndrum, for the final part of the journey from there to just before Connel Ferry station, the best of the views are again on the left.
From that side of the train there will be views over Lochan na Bi and then after Dalmeny the railway is by the shore of stunning Loch Awe.
Though on both sides of Connel Ferry station, there are some wonderful coastal views over on the right - as pictured above!

If you will be making a return journey it can be worth taking up seats on one side of the train when heading north; and then sitting on the other side of the train for the journey back to Glasgow.

This video was taken on the return train to Glasgow.

Using tickets and passes

ScotRail offers Day Return tickets when traveling by train between Edinburgh and most of the suggested destinations; North Berwick, Stirling, St Andrews, Glasgow, Galashiels and Dundee and Rothesay on Bute, which will cost the same price at the station as what will be charged when booking online.
So you won't have to book ahead to save money and can be spontaneous and react to the weather.
They're also great value for money as they only cost a few £s more than one way tickets.

Though these Day Return tickets will be offered at either 'Off-Peak' or 'Super Off-Peak' rates - the cheaper Super Off Peak rate is typically available at any time on Saturday and Sunday.

And some great news is that ScotRail has embarked on a trial until June 28th, of abandoning peak travel periods - meaning that the cheaper Off-Peak prices are available on any train, on these routes and more. all day!
This is terrific, because when using Off-Peak Day Return tickets to make day trips, they can be under £2 more expensive than booking single tickets.

A plus of booking these Day Return tickets ahead online is that the ScotRail website will show the list of suggested trains on which the Off Peak and Super Off Peak rates will be available.
However, if you subsequently want to change your travel plans refunding a ticket(s) booked online, incurs an 'Admin Fee' of £10.

Advance tickets

Advance tickets are placed on sale at discounted rates, from eight weeks ahead of the travel date for the suggested journeys to and from Aviemore and Oban.

Though to save money by using these tickets you have to commit to taking a specific train on your travel day - so if the weather happens to be poor at the time you will making your trip, you won’t then be able to choose a different train or destination; without paying a £10 admin fee and the price difference with your original booking

Though something out of the ordinary, which is very much worth being aware of, is that ScotRail doesn't release Advance tickets for sale until 8 weeks ahead of the travel date.
However, on the routes on which Advance tickets are available, the more expensive Anytime tickets will be placed on sale up to 3 months ahead.
So if you look up a long-distance journey ticket on the ScotRail website more than 8 weeks ahead, you will only see the Anytime tickets.

ScotRail takes Advance tickets off sale at 18:00 (6pm) on the day prior to a travel date.

Travelling with children

ScotRail also offers deals for when adults travel with children – which can impact on whether using the Spirit of Scotland Pass as a family will be a money saver.
Up to four children aged 15 and under can travel off-peak for just £1 return each with an adult (aged 16 and over ) ticket holder - and until June 28th all ScotRail journeys are Off-Peak!
The 'Kids For A Quid' offer also applies when booking Advance tickets on the long-distance routes.
There's no need to book the offer ahead of travel, so if an Adult buys an Advance ticket ahead of the travel date, to save money - the ticket can then be presented at a station ticket office just before boarding, or shown to a conductor on the train, and the offer can then be purchased.

And at many attractions in Scotland, including Edinburgh Zoo, the RSS Discovery and Deep Sea World, one child travelling with the Kids For A Quid offer, can gain free entry!

Using A Spirit Of Scotland Pass

If you'll want to make day trips to Oban (or Fort William), and Aviemore (or Inverness), while you're in Edinburgh, a Spirit of Scotland Pass valid for 4 days of travel can save you money.
It will be cheaper than buying last minute Anytime tickets for these two journeys and you'll also be able to use it for two other day trips.

However, if you'll be content to book Advance tickets ahead for the journeys to Oban and Aviemore, and to be tied to taking specific trains despite the weather etc, then a combination of Advance tickets for these longer journeys + day return tickets for two other trips will be cheaper than using the pass.

Edinburgh Haymarket station

The trains between Edinburgh and Dundee, Glasgow, Leuchars for St Andrews and Stirling all call at Haymarket station, in addition to Edinburgh Waverley.
They depart from Haymarket around 5 minutes after departing Waverley, so an advantage of boarding at Waverley station is that it's easier to find seats on the trains, but the plus of Haymarket is that it's much smaller, so it's an easier station to navigate.
Also if your accommodation in Edinburgh happens to be nearer to Haymarket, making use of it is the logical way to go.


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.


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