1. Explore Edinburgh
Edinburgh is so full of thing to do, it’s made the top spot on our greatest day trips in Scotland. It’s also well-connected by rail to other cities in Scotland and England. Trains from Glasgow to Edinburgh take as little as 44m, and from Newcastle to Edinburgh it's only 90m. Edinburgh Waverley station is the city's main rail hub, located just a stone's throw from the city's Old Town. We’ve got two exciting day trips options for you to choose from.
A historic expedition
Once you arrive, stroll along the Royal Mile, and you'll reach Edinburgh Castle. The grand chambers of this famous fortress include the mighty Great Hall, a medieval banqueting room. Other highlights are cannons lining the exterior walls, as well as the National War Museum which is housed here.
A Scotch whisky and cultural tour
Perhaps you'd like to sample a bit of the good life. Around Grassmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town, you'll find an abundance of traditional pubs – the perfect place to unwind with a pint and maybe a bite to eat. The Scotch Whisky Experience is an excellent way to learn about and sample one of Scotland's best-loved exports.
The Edinburgh Playhouse is one of the city's principal theatres, specialising in comedy and modern plays. You'll find the biggest names in entertainment performing shows here, as well as musicals productions on tap. The King's Theatre is a more traditional venue, putting on award-winning plays and even special children's shows.
2. Get cultural in Glasgow
The fastest trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow take under 50m. This makes it very easy to zip between Scotland's two biggest cities, trains usually arrive at Glasgow Queen Street station, which is right at the heart of the city centre.
World-class shopping and art
Glasgow has a fantastic blend of culture and shopping opportunities. Right by the station is the Gallery of Modern Art, with an exciting array of rotating temporary exhibitions. It's housed in a gorgeous neoclassical building, bringing together the culture of Scotland both old and new. Also close to here are the Buchanan Galleries, a marvellous shopping area that's perfect for finding gifts, or stopping for lunch and a coffee.
The Glasgow historic tour
Glasgow also possesses a formidable history to discover. Glasgow Cathedral is built in the Scottish Gothic style, dating all the way back from the 12th-century. Crookston Castle is also from the same century and is another of Glasgow's oldest buildings. It survived raids in the 15th and 16th centuries, sitting atop a spot with panoramic views of the city.
For a look into prehistoric wonders, check out Fossil Grove in Victoria Park. This unusual collection of fossilised trees is an intriguing attraction amongst the beautiful green space. It's an excellent area to go for a walk in fine weather, perhaps with a picnic to enjoy the best of the Scottish sunshine. On rainy days, take a tour of the historic City Chambers, with its ornate mosaic ceilings and marblework.
3. Beautiful Dundee and the Scottish Highlands Coast
Dundee is an ideal destination for those seeking a mix of city life and the beauty of the Scottish sea and Highlands. Trains from Edinburgh to Dundee take only 1h, making it easy to see one of the country's most picturesque regions. Take walks at the coast and step aboard the HMS Unicorn, a restored 19th-century frigate that's now a museum.
Dundee is definitely one of the best places for day trips in Scotland for families. The city is home to the Mills Observatory. This is a brilliant place to bring the family to learn about space, and even see planetary shows held by experts. Free activities include kids' craft-making and hands-on guided experiments. It's an inspiring place to learn about the wonders of the stars.
4. Wild nature and a spot of golf in Gleneagles
Dundee also makes for an excellent starting point for walks in the Highlands. Take the train from Dundee to Gleneagles in under 40m, with options for walking tours. This oasis of calm so close to the city allows Dundee's visitors to escape to experience the best of Scottish nature.
The area is also well known for its marvellous golf courses, both close to Gleneagles and also nearer to Dundee. This classic national pastime is an excellent way to get active in the great Scottish outdoors on holiday. Alternatively, rent a bike and explore the wild scenery independently on numerous biking routes and trails.
5. The best of both worlds in Aberdeen
Aberdeen is another coastal delight further into the Scottish Highlands, boasting a stunning array of architecture. Trains from Dundee to Aberdeen take 1h 20m. Most visitors will find themselves in the Old Aberdeen district at some point. This is where you'll find the High Street, with excellent places to shop, eat, and drink. Plus, iconic buildings like the Old Town House are among the many historic buildings to explore.
Architecture and history
Also be sure to walk along Union Street and Broad Street, where you'll find prime examples of Aberdeen's gorgeous granite architecture. Marischal College is a grand example of this. This building dates from the 19th-century, and it's one of the world's largest granite buildings.
The gorgeous green spaces and coast of Aberdeen
Aberdeen is home to a great variety of parks. The Union Terrace Gardens is a small but gorgeous garden right in the centre of town, and a popular spot for picnickers. The David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park are also well worth a visit. They're a prime example of a splendid Victorian botanical garden.
Aberdeen Beach is a great place to visit in summer. It's a long sandy stretch of coast and is within walking distance of the city centre. There's a beach leisure centre, and a selection of cafés and restaurants here too. Plus, Aberdeen is another excellent starting point for exploring the Highlands in surrounding Aberdeenshire.
See the best of Scotland's day trip destinations by train
Travelling by train in Scotland is an economic and efficient way to take day trips. The main cities are well-linked together by rail services, meaning you can easily set off in the morning and be back in time for tea. Check out our guide to trains in Scotland for excellent offers on train travel to start planning your next trip.