Mountain peaks in Glencoe, Scotland

Edinburgh to the Highlands: The Best Day Trips

Visiting Edinburgh can feel like an escape in itself; the city is brimming with expansive green spaces, medieval streets, and royal palaces — but there’s a whole world of wild nature and glorious scenery right on its doorstep.

Within a few hours’ drive, you can enter into a completely different world — one that’s filled with storybook castles, dazzling lochs, magnificent swathes of untamed wilderness, and staggering mountain peaks. 

A Highland getaway is a must when you’re travelling through Scotland’s capital — even if only for a day. So, make sure your camera is charged and ready — here are four of the best day trips from Edinburgh to the Highlands.


Travel to: Scotland


Aerial view of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland
Amazing scenery like this is easily accessible from Edinburgh | © Nad Hemnani/Unsplash

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Craggy hills, ancient pine forests, and charming villages — this is only a small taste of what you’ll find in the Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond sits at the heart of the park and, although it’s the region’s main draw, there’s so much more to see and do in this starkly beautiful region.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventure and stunning landscapes, this is the place to find it; you can easily spend a full day immersing yourself in the park’s natural attractions and getting your heart rate up in the process. 

Rent a kayak and paddle across Loch Lomond, hit one of the region’s many hiking trails, summit a munro (a mountain that’s over 914m tall), tackle a mountain bike trail, or test your endurance on a paddleboard — the options are almost endless! Of course, you can also keep your visit laid-back with a Loch Lomond sightseeing cruise, a round of golf, or a nature walk. 

The surrounding villages are worth a visit, too: head to picturesque towns like Luss, Killin, Callander, and Balloch for a spot of shopping and local food and drink.

How to get to Loch Lomond:

  • By car – Depending on your chosen destination within the Trossachs National Park, the drive from Edinburgh takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • By public transport – You can reach villages within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park — including the likes of Callander, Luss, and Balloch — by bus from Edinburgh. The journey takes roughly 1.5 to 3 hours and includes stops and transfers along the way.
Aerial view of a hiker and Loch Lomond, Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Loch Lomond is a fantastic destination for outdoor pursuits of all sorts | © Sander Lenaerts/Unsplash

Glencoe

Known for its spellbinding views and haunting history, Glencoe is one of the most famous regions in Scotland. And once you lay eyes on it yourself, you’ll instantly see why it’s the country’s best-known Highland glen: Glencoe’s natural setting is nothing short of stupendous, dominated by the ridge of Aonach Eagach on one side and flanked by the brooding crags of the Three Sisters on the other.

The area seems to have an air of magic about it, and that might just be the reason why it’s been featured in films like Skyfall and Harry Potter — so don’t be surprised if you feel a sense of déjà vu in Glencoe.

You’ll likely spend most of your time here marvelling at the area’s spellbinding scenery and sheer grandeur, but if you manage to put your camera down long enough, active pursuits and outdoor adventures await. You can try your hand at skiing, snowboarding, or mountain biking at the Glencoe Mountain Resort, go kayaking on Loch Leven, or hike up one of the nearby mountain ranges.

Glencoe is undoubtedly a place of profound natural beauty, but it’s also the site of a tragic historic event: the Massacre of Glencoe. The story is marked by violence and bloodshed, but it’s one you must learn about while you’re here.

How to get to Glencoe:

  • By car: Glencoe is roughly 193 km (120 miles) from Edinburgh, and the drive takes approximately 3 hours.
  • By public transport: Glencoe isn’t easily accessible by public transport; the best way to travel here is by driving or joining a guided tour.
Mountain peaks in Glencoe, Scotland
Glencoe is one region you simply can’t miss when visiting Scotland | © Malcolm Lightbody/Unsplash

Stirling

Technically, Stirling isn’t part of the Scottish Highlands (it’s uniquely positioned where the Lowlands meet the Highlands), but it’s a must-visit stop on the way to destinations like Glencoe and Loch Lomond — and it also makes for a fantastic stand-alone day trip from Edinburgh. 

This city is small in size but big on history: it’s been host to some of Scotland’s most infamous battles during the Jacobite Risings and the Wars of Scottish Independence, including the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Stirling Castle — one of Scotland’s most significant historic sites — is the city’s main draw, along with the National Wallace Monument. This striking 19th-century memorial is dedicated to William Wallace, a Scottish knight and national hero, who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence (and was famously portrayed in the movie Braveheart).

Round off your day here with a visit to the immersive Battle of Bannockburn Experience or a whisky tasting at the nearby Deanston Distillery.

How to get to Stirling:

  • By car: Located roughly 58 km (36 miles) from Edinburgh, the drive from Edinburgh to Stirling takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • By public transport: Stirling is accessible by bus or train from Edinburgh, and the journey takes roughly one hour.
Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland
Stirling Castle is one of the most significant historic sites in the country | © Buster Brown BB/Wikimedia Commons

Loch Ness

One of the most well-known lakes in the world thanks to the mythical monster that’s said to lurk in its deep waters, this iconic Scottish landmark needs no introduction.

The best way to experience Loch Ness’ sights, wildlife, and history is to join a sightseeing cruise. Even if you don’t spot Nessie, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring Highland scenery and a deeper insight into the myths and mystery associated with this loch.

When your feet are firmly back on land, you can visit the nearby town of Fort Augustus, explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle, learn about the region’s storied history at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, or set off a leisurely walk up Conic Hill.

How to get to Loch Ness:

  • By car: Most destinations within the Loch Ness region are a four to five-hour drive from Edinburgh. 
  • By public transport: You can reach Fort Augustus by bus or a combination of bus and train,
View of castle ruins on the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland
The view of Urquhart Castle ruins on a Loch Ness sightseeing cruise | © Ramon Vloon/Unsplash

Any other destinations you’d add to this list? What’s your top pick for a day trip from Edinburgh to the Highlands? Share in the comments!

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

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