There are those lucky travelers to Scotland who have the time and resources to zig-zag all over the country and see a huge amount of what Scotland has to offer. For the rest of us, it usually makes sense to be based in one city for the majority of your trip. In fact, for shorter trips especially, I recommend doing it this way, because it allows you to settle in a little and get to know the place, rather than just seeing it from the window of a car or coach. Longer stays in Scottish cities allow you to find your favorite breakfast place, or compare sunset views from different hills outside of town.
However wonderful the cities of Scotland are, though, some of the best travel experiences in the country are, well, in the country. Luckily, Scotland is a relatively small country in terms of area, and so most of these rural treasures can be enjoyed as day trips from an urban base.
Day trips from Edinburgh
The capital is located in southeastern Scotland, and with the Pentland Hills to the west and the Firth of Forth to the east, there’s plenty to do in the area.
- Golf: There are several courses in the Edinburgh area, including the oldest golf course in the world, Musselburgh.
- North Berwick: Scotland isn’t known for its beaches, but you might be surprised by the soft sand and resort atmosphere of this little beach hamlet, where Robert Louis Stevenson used to spend his holidays.
Day trips from Glasgow
Scotland’s largest city is a good base for southwestern Scotland and the Central Belt region.
- Stirling Castle: One of Scotland’s most impressive castles, and the site where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned. Definitely worth the trip inland.
- The Waverley: Take a ride on the world’s last working paddle steamboat. This can be a great way to see the west coast.
Day trips from Inverness
The gateway to the Highlands, Inverness is the ideal base for exploring northern Scotland.
- Nairn: Offering beaches, championship golf courses and a historic castle, there’s something for everyone in and around Nairn.
- Castles around Inverness: There are six castles in and around the city, including two that offer rooms for the night.
- Loch Ness: The most famous of all the lochs, Loch Ness is a quick drive or coach ride from the city. Be sure to explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the northern shore of the loch.
- Culloden Battlefield: Visit the site of the last battle to be fought on British soil, the clash between the English government troops and Jacobite Scots. A visit to Culloden is vital to any historical tour of Scotland.
Day trips from Aberdeen
- Cairngorms National Park: One of Scotland’s largest natural areas, Cairngorms is a great place to spot wildlife, do some hiking, or even get in some skiing.
- Royal Deeside: The valley of the River Dee is a stunning sight, and includes a 300-meter rock gorge. There is a reason that English royalty often spend holidays here.