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The best day trips around Scotland

Find tours leaving from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness

Discover fantastic day trips exploring the best that Scotland has to offer.

From snow-capped mountains and rolling fells, to calm lochs and regal castles, it is no wonder that day trips around Scotland are such a popular choice for those visiting the country.

My first trip north of the English border into Scotland was on an open day to Aberdeen University.

It was a journey that first took me to Edinburgh to stay with friends overnight, and then onwards along the east coast across the Forth Rail Bridge, through Dundee and Arbroath (famous for their Smokies) before finally reaching the city synonymous with granite, Aberdeen.

It was incredibly captivating, and I made up my mind there and then that Scotland was somewhere I needed to spend some considerable time exploring.

Deciding on Edinburgh as the place to study, I spent the next 5 years in-between lectures getting acquainted with some of Scotland’s best places to visit.

So, if you have a passion for exploring really incredible places, these are my top recommendations for tours which you should take to see the best sights in Scotland.

Day trips around Scotland leaving from Edinburgh

Whilst Edinburgh has a plethora of fantastic attractions to visit (e.g., Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh Castle, Dynamic Earth, Mary King’s Close, Scottish Galley of Modern Art etc), if you have the inclination to explore Scotland beyond the capital, here’s where you should go:

Loch Lomond pier
Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

Nestled within the picturesque Trossachs National Park lies stunning Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s most iconic natural wonders and rather massive at 36km long tip-to-tip.

Whether you are a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking some relaxation, Loch Lomond has something for everyone.

You can take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline’s many footpaths, or venture out onto the water for a spot of kayaking or fishing.  Loch Lomond is also surrounded by some incredible mountains (known as Munros), with Ben Lomond being the highest Munro in the region, with the summit visible from the loch on a clear day.

Whilst you’re up there, and if you have some spare time, I throughly recommend exploring the wider area, with the nearby medieval stronghold of Dumbarton Castle being a great place to spend an afternoon. 

Alternatively, you may prefer to indulge in some retail therapy at the charming town of Balloch, which is a small town at the southern tip of the loch.

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Perched atop a striking craggy hill in the heart of Scotland lies the magnificent Stirling Castle, an emblem of the country’s noble (and often violent) past.

Originally built in the 12th century, this imposing fortress has witnessed some of Scotland’s most defining moments, from the Battle of Stirling Bridge to the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots.

When you visit Stirling Castle you can almost expect to be transported back in time as you explore the ancient walls and chambers, and the view from the top is quite something – certainly worth the climb!

Two horses called 'The Kelpies' constructed from steel
The Kelpies

The Kelpies

Constructed in Falkirk, Central Scotland, The Kelpies are a pair of rather enormous horse head sculptures that stand as a symbol of the country’s industrial heritage and its enduring connection to the natural environment.

The concept for the Kelpies was first conceived by Scottish artist Andy Scott, who drew inspiration from the legend of the kelpie, a supernatural water spirit that takes the form of a horse. The sculptures themselves were designed by Scott and constructed by the steel fabricators SH Structures, using a total of 300 tonnes of steel.

Standing at an impressive 30 meters tall, the Kelpies are a great example of modern day engineering blended with very cool artistry, capturing the beauty and power of these iconic animals in remarkable detail.

The significance of the Kelpies in their environment lies in their ability to bridge the gap between the past and the present, serving as a reminder of Scotland’s proud industrial past while also celebrating its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

As a prominent landmark attraction, the Kelpies have become a symbol of Scotland’s creativity, innovation, and enduring spirit, and are certainly worth a visit in their own right.

The remains of an old pier in Loch Ness, Scotland
Loch Ness

Loch Ness

As one of the Scottish Highlands most popular landmarks, Loch Ness draws visitors from around the world. Spanning over 22 miles in length, it is the second deepest loch in Scotland and holds more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, which if you think about it too much is almost unbelievable, but it is definitely true!

The landscape surrounding Loch Ness is quintessentially Scottish, with its rugged hills, dense forests and heather-clad moors forming a stunning backdrop to the tranquil waters. 

Geologically, the area around Loch Ness demonstrates just how powerful nature can be, as the loch was formed over 10,000 years ago by glacial activity during the last ice age, and its unique shape was carved out by the movement of glaciers which scoured out the landscape to how we see it today.

Glacial movements aside, Loch Ness is perhaps most famous for the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as “Nessie.” First mentioned in the 6th century by a monk, sightings of this elusive creature have been reported throughout history.

While there has been no concrete evidence of the creature’s existence, the myth of Nessie has captivated the imaginations of millions of people around the world, and the loch remains a popular destination for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious beast.

So, be sure to have your camera ready just in case…

Hotels and red brick buildings in St Andrews, Scotland
St Andrews

St Andrews

The historic and remarkably charming town of St Andrews (located on the east coast of Scotland) is known for its prestigious university, stunning coastline, and diverse cultural heritage.

The town has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the medieval period, when it was an important religious centre and pilgrimage site.

Nowadays, St Andrews is perhaps best known for its association with the game of golf, with the Old Course at St Andrews Links being widely regarded as one of the most iconic courses in the world.

The town also gained international attention in the early 2000’s, when Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, started dating whilst at both studying at the university. You can only imagine how excited the British press got…..

Today, you can expect to see a wealth of historic landmarks and quirky cultural attractions, from the stunning ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and Castle to the bustling streets of the town centre, where traditional pubs, restaurants, and shops line the cobbled streets.

The town’s natural beauty is also a major draw, with scenic walks along the Fife Coastal Path and panoramic views over the North Sea from the top of St Rule’s Tower.

So, whether you’re avid royalist, a seasoned golf enthusiast, or simply seeking an escape from the larger cities of Scotland, St Andrews is sure to leave a lasting impression, and for all the right reasons.

Day trips around Scotland leaving from Glasgow

Scotland’s largest city is a great starting point to explore the west coast of Scotland and some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. In fact, most of the tours which depart Edinburgh also follow a similar itinerary to those leaving from Glasgow. However, being that bit further west, Glasgow is ideally placed for those looking to spend some time around the region know as Argyll & Bute.

The Town of Oban at Sunset
The town of Oban

Oban

Oban, a rather picturesque port town nestled in the Scottish Highlands, is steeped in history and natural beauty. Located on the west coast of Scotland, it has long been a hub of transportation, connecting travellers to the surrounding islands and serving as a gateway to the region’s rugged landscape.

Founded in the late 18th century as a fishing village, Oban quickly grew in size and significance, thanks to its strategic location close to the mouth of Loch Linnhe. In the years that followed, the town became a centre of commerce and trade, attracting visitors from across Scotland and beyond.

The landscape surrounding Oban is stunning, with its rugged coastline and towering cliffs forming a stunning backdrop to the town’s bustling streets.

Transport connections to the surrounding islands are plentiful, with regular ferries departing from the town’s harbour to destinations such as Mull, Iona, Staffa and the Western Isles. These (often windswept) islands are home to some of Scotland’s most iconic natural landmarks, including Fingal’s Cave and the puffin haven that is the Treshnish Isles.

Whilst you’re in Oban be sure to take in some of the town’s many attractions, including the Oban Distillery, where some of Scotland’s finest single malt whisky is produced, and the McCaig’s Tower, a striking monument perched on a hill above the town. Other sights that are worth a visit include include Dunollie Castle, a ruined fortress that dates back to the 13th century, and the Oban War and Peace Museum, which chronicles the town’s role in some of Scotland’s most significant historical events.

Loch Lomond

Just north of Glasgow lies Loch Lomond and is a great first stop on any day trip around the West Coast of Scotland. You can read more about Loch Lomond further up the article by clicking here

A view over the Scottish mountains looking towards Fort William
Glencoe

Glencoe & Fort William

The famous valley of Glencoe and the Scottish town of Fort William are two destinations that have captured the imagination of visitors to Scotland for centuries. Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, these locations boast a stunning natural landscape that continues to draw travellers from around the world.

Fort William, located at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, is a town with a long history, although the most recent chapter in Fort William’s history appears to be dominated by a little too much brutalist architecture in the town’s centre…

Originally founded as a garrison town in the early 17th century, it quickly grew in size and importance, becoming a centre of commerce and trade in the centuries that followed.

Today, Fort William is a vibrant and bustling hub of activity, offering visitors a range of cultural and historical attractions, including the West Highland Museum and the ruins of Inverlochy Castle.

Just a short distance from Fort William lies Glencoe, one of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes. With its towering mountains and rugged terrain, Glencoe has been the site of some of Scotland’s most significant historical events, including the infamous Massacre of Glencoe in 1692.

Today, the area is a really popular destination for hikers, climbers, and outdoor aficionados, who come to explore the region’s hills and take on the challenge of scaling Ben Nevis. 

Whilst you can spend well over a week exploring the majestic beauty of Fort William and Glencoe, a day trip is a great way to get an introduction to this remarkable location and I guarantee it will be on your future travel itineraries for years to come.

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray

On the shores of Loch Fyne in western Scotland lies Inveraray. The town’s origins date back to the 18th century when it was founded by the Duke of Argyll as a planned community.

Today, Inveraray is a popular tourist destination, offering visitors a range of cultural and historical attractions.

The landscape surrounding Inveraray is truly remarkable, with its rolling hills and picturesque shoreline providing the perfect backdrop to the town’s charming streets.

Loch Fyne, one of Scotland’s largest sea lochs, is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including seals, otters, and porpoises, making it a popular destination for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and connoisseurs of oysters, for which the loch is particularly famous for.

One of the town’s most notable attractions is Inveraray Castle, a stunning 18th-century mansion that has been home to the Dukes of Argyll for generations.

If you decide to visit the castle, you can explore its ornate interiors, which are filled with artwork, furniture, and artefacts that offer a glimpse into the Argyll family’s history, and their role in defining Inveraray to how you see it today.

Another must-see attraction in Inveraray is the Inveraray Jail, a former prison that has been converted into a museum.

You can take a guided tour of the jail, learning about the harsh conditions that prisoners faced in the 19th century and the role that the prison played in Scotland’s justice system, which could at times be as brutal as you can imagine.

Other notable attractions close to Inveraray include the Allt na Moine nature reserve, which offers visitors the chance to see rare plant species and wildlife, the Crinan Canal (affectionately know as Britain’s most beautiful shortcut) and the Auchindrain Township Museum, a living history museum that provides a glimpse into rural Scottish life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A wild landscape of bogs and mountains in Scotland
Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor

Deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands you’ll find Rannoch Moor, a wild and remote expanse of peat bogs, lochs, and hills that captivates visitors with its rugged beauty and haunting atmosphere.

Located between Glencoe and Rannoch Station, the moor spans over 50 square miles and is surrounded by some of Scotland’s highest peaks, including Buachaille Etive Mor and Schiehallion.

The landscape of Rannoch Moor is a unique blend of moody skies, heather-covered hills, and tranquil lochs that reflect the surrounding mountains like mirrors.

The area is also home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including rare bird species such as the golden eagle and the ptarmigan.

What has to be one of the UK’s most remarkable and underrated engineering achievements is the construction of the railway line across Rannoch Moor which connects Fort William to Glasgow. 

Despite the soggy terrain, railway navvies constructed a single-line route which, at points, literally floats on top of the boggy foundation underneath.  I’ve done the trip twice; once by myself and the other with a bike in tow, where I got off at Corrour station and had the most amazing bike ride off the moor down to Tulloch.

Quite simply, it is the most glorious train journey in the world and I’d ride it every day if I had the chance.

For road travellers, especially those on day trips to the region, the A82 road is a real treat to drive. 

As the road climbs higher onto the moor, you’re greeted with expansive and spectacular views across small loch and mountains, punctuated only by the snow poles that line the side of the road to ensure you know where the tarmac ends and the unforgiving bog starts….

Rannoch Moor is also steeped in mystery and legend.

One enduring tale tells of a spectral figure known as the Grey Man of Rannoch who is said to haunt the moor, appearing suddenly in front of unsuspecting travellers and leading them astray into the boggy mire. Once you’re up on the moor you can see why it is so easy to comprehend this as a real story!

Despite its reputation for being a desolate and eerie place, Rannoch Moor is also a haven for hikers, nature lovers, and those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

The moor’s vast open spaces and unspoiled beauty provide a perfect setting for outdoor adventure and reflection, inviting you to connect with the rugged beauty of this remarkable Scottish landscape.  

Day trips around Scotland leaving from Inverness

Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is a cracking little city located at the mouth of the River Ness and is a superb gateway for exploring the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland.

A cascading waterfall with mountains in the background on the Isle of Skye
Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Cuillins & Fairy Pools

Located on the northwest coast of Scotland, the stunning Isle of Skye is a mystical and dramatic landscape that has enchanted visitors for centuries.

Skye is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides and boasts a stunning variety of landscapes, from rugged mountains and windswept moors to pristine beaches and crystal-clear lochs.

Skye has a rich and fascinating history, with evidence of human habitation dating back over 4,000 years. The island has been the site of numerous battles, including the Battle of Carbisdale in 1650, and was a centre of the Jacobite Rebellion in the 18th century.

Today, you can explore Skye’s history at sites such as Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod clan, and the Talisker Distillery, which has been producing whisky on the island since 1830.

Another great place to visit on Skye is the charming fishing village of Portree, which boasts a picturesque harbour and a colourful array of shops, restaurants, and galleries which you can visit.

As Skye’s principal hub, you’ll often find it a great place to meet other travellers and swap stories of your adventures around Scotland.

However, one of the main reasons that you may be drawn to Skye is the supermassive landscape that exists on such a relatively small piece of land.

The island is dominated by the towering peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, which rise up to almost 1,000 meters and provide a stunning backdrop to Skye’s jagged coastline.

The Fairy Pools, located at the foot of the Cuillins, are also worth a visit if you find yourself up in the hills. The pools are a series of crystal-clear freshwater ‘ponds’ and waterfalls that are said to be home to supernatural creatures.

On a hot day in the summer (you do occasionally get them on Skye), a Fairy Pool is quite simply the best place to relax on the way down from tackling some of the island’s more demanding peaks.

Eilean Donan Castle stone bridge leading to a Scottish Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Eilian Donan

Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most iconic landmarks in Scotland and is known around the world for its incredible beauty and cameos in numerous television and film productions (including Highlander, Rob Roy, and The World Is Not Enough).

Located on a small island where three great sea lochs meet, Eilean Donan Castle is situated in the western Highlands of Scotland, near the village of Dornie.

The castle has a long and storied history, dating back to the 13th century when it was built as a defensive structure against Viking invaders.

Throughout its history, the castle has been attacked and destroyed numerous times, but it has always been rebuilt and restored to its former glory.

Today, Eilean Donan Castle is a symbol of Scottish heritage and is one of the most visited castles in the country.

The landscape surrounding Eilean Donan Castle is simply awesome. The castle is situated on a small island at the junction of Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and hills.

When visiting Eilean Donan Castle, you can expect to see a beautifully restored castle, complete with a drawbridge, ramparts, and stunning interior decoration. The castle houses a museum that showcases the castle’s history and provides insights into life in medieval Scotland.

A Red Squirrel climbing a tree and looking at the camera
The Cairngorms is famous for its Red Squirrel population

The Cairngorms National Park

As one of the UK’s fifteen National Parks (and the most northerly) the Cairngorms is a breathtakingly beautiful area of natural wilderness located in the eastern part of Scotland.

The park is named after the Cairngorm Mountains, which are amongst the highest mountains in the UK, and is the largest national park in the country, covering an area of 4,528 square kilometres.

The Cairngorms have a fascinating history, with evidence of human settlement in the area dating back to the Mesolithic period, around 10,000 years ago.

In the centuries that followed, the area was home to various groups of people, including the Picts, Celts, and Vikings.

Today, the Cairngorms National Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities, including hiking, cycling, skiing, and wildlife watching.

The park is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and the rare Scottish wildcat. Depending on when you visit, you can expect to see a blend of dramatic snow-capped peaks, glistening lochs, and rushing rivers, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

Having spent a month living up in the Cairngorms after coming back from Afghanistan, I cannot champion this area enough.  Whilst it is certainly worth spending a week in the Cairngorms, a day trip is certainly a fantastic way to get an insight into this special landscape.

Glenfinnan Monument

Glenfinnan

Hidden away in the western region of the Scottish Highlands, Glenfinnan is a small, picturesque village, and widely recognised for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which featured prominently in the Harry Potter movies.

Glenfinnan’s history dates back several centuries, with human settlements in the area evident since the Bronze Age.

The village gained significant prominence in the 18th century when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at Glenfinnan in 1745, heralding the start of the Jacobite Rising.

One of the most prominent features of Glenfinnan is the Glenfinnan Monument, erected in the late 19th century to commemorate the Jacobite uprising.

The monument stands at 18 meters tall and is situated at the head of Loch Shiel, a beautiful freshwater lake that adds to the serene beauty of the area.

The landscape of Glenfinnan is as colourful as it is diverse. With majestic mountains, pristine lochs, and dense forests, the area provides visitors with endless opportunities to enjoy nature at its finest.

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, there are plenty of opportunities to observe a wide range of fauna, including red deer, otters, and eagles which live in the area.

For those with a little more time, one of the most memorable experiences you can have of Glenfinnan is by taking a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train, which runs from Fort William to Mallaig.

The train passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, offering panoramic views of the Glenfinnan Monument and the surrounding landscape as the track carefully winds its way along the lochs and glens on its way to the sea.

Getting to Scotland without a car

Train: Scotland is well connected by train and there is even an overnight sleeper which departs from London daily.

One of the great advantages of travelling to Scotland by train is that you arrive in the heart of the city and catching a tour elsewhere in Scotland is incredibly easy.

Trains to Edinburgh & Glasgow: 

  • LNER services start from London King’s Cross and follow the east coast, with joining points at Peterborough, Leeds, York and Newcastle.
  • Avanti West Coast run trains from London Euston along the west coast with joining points at Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Crewe, Preston & Carlisle.
  • Cross Country services travel across the UK, with joining points at Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, York and Newcastle.

Trains to Inverness: 

  • LNER operate a direct service to Inverness from London King’s Cross daily called the Highland Chieftain.  It takes around 8 hours but is a magnificent way to travel to the north of Scotland.  Joining points include York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Pitlochry & Aviemore.
  • Scotrail is Scotland’s primary rail operator, with an expansive network reaching almost all corners of the mainland.  There are frequent daily services from Edinburgh to Inverness.  

Overnight Caledonian Sleeper service

For a truly immersive travel experience, we highly recommend the Caledonian Sleeper – an overnight train which will get you over the border and in Scotland by daybreak.

The service leaves London Euston station 6-nights a week and heads north to arrive in Scotland the next day.  The service has 5 principal destinations:

  • Glasgow
  • Edinburgh
  • Aberdeen (also calling at Dundee & Montrose)
  • Inverness (also calling at Stirling, Perth, Pitlochry & Aviemore)
  • Fort William (also calling at Helensburgh Upper, Crianlarich, Upper Tyndrum, Rannoch, Corrour & Spean Bridge)

Taking a coach to Scotland

There are a number of different coach operators running services between England and Scotland.  The biggest providers are

Flying to Scotland

Although flying tends to be pricier than taking a train or a coach to Scotland, there are some great deals to be had if you are flexible with your travel dates and are able to book well in advance. 

Flights to Edinburgh

  • Flights from Birmingham to Edinburgh: easyJet run a daily service to Edinburgh Airport from Birmingham International Airport.

Once you arrive at Edinburgh Airport you will need to take a bus, tram or taxi to get into the city centre (the journey is typically between 25-40 minutes).

Flights to Glasgow

  • Flights from London to Glasgow: British Airways and Easy jet both run daily services to Glasgow Airport. 
  • Flights from Birmingham to Glasgow: easyJet run a daily service to Glasgow Airport from Birmingham International Airport

The easiest way to get from Glasgow airport to the City Centre is to hop on one of the frequent bus services which takes just 15 minutes.

Flights to Inverness

  • Flights from London to Inverness: British Airways, easyJet and Ryan Air each run several daily flights between London and Inverness Airport.
  • Flights from Birmingham to Inverness: easyJet run a daily service to Inverness Airport from Birmingham International Airport.
  • Flights from Manchester to Inverness: Loganair run a daily service to Inverness Airport from Birmingham International Airport.

Once you arrive at Inverness Airport you will need to take a bus, train or taxi to get into the city centre (the journey is typically between 20-30 minutes).

Our final thoughts on day trips around Scotland

The UK has a massively diverse landscape and history, with Scotland having arguably the most eclectic mix through our isles.

Although you could spends many months exploring Scotland, we know that time is precious and therefore a day trip around Scotland is often an excellent option when you want to experience the very best that the country has to offer.

So, with so many professionally organised trips on offer, and at hugely affordable rates, there has never been a better time to take a day trip around Scotland.

Who we promote

Having lived in Scotland for over 5 years, I’ve come to explore pretty much every corner and therefore have recommended some of the best places I think you should visit outside of Edinburgh & Glasgow based on my own experience of travelling around the country.

In conjunction with our listings on Monty’s Guide, we work with a small number of trusted companies whose services we are happy to recommend. In return, we may earn a small commission through an affiliate network which helps us keep Monty’s Guide one of the top resources for people looking to discover their next great day out.

About the author

Having worked across the heritage and tourism sector for over 10 years, Monty Beaumont is an expert when it comes to discovering new places to visit and great days out for the whole family. 

He has previously worked for the National Trust as a General Manager in Cornwall, coordinated the complex operations of running a castle in Devon and the mastered the intricacies of providing exceptional hospitality and service at some of the finest historic houses in the UK. 

Prior to starting his career, Monty studied archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and managed to explore a huge part of Scotland, and study its history and landscapes in great detail.

As part of his vision and drive for Monty’s Guide, Monty travels across the country to find new places to visit and explore, and sharing his finding on montysguide.com, which is used by 1,000s of people each week to find their next great day out.

His experience and knowledge of the historic and cultural sector gives him a unique insight into the elements that make tourism and learning so important in our quest to understanding more about our heritage.

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