Edinburgh provides access to a wide variety of fascinating tourist attractions in the surrounding regions. You can explore the Scottish Borders or the fabled Scottish Highlands, coming across many historical attractions, national parks, filming locations, and whisky distilleries. There are castles to explore, plus the countryside is a wonderful place for hiking and birdwatching. We’ve collected some of the highlights for you below, to help you create your itinerary for day trips with your Edinburgh hire car.
1. Loch Ness
- Distance from Edinburgh: 171 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: Around 3 hours 30 minutes
- Suggested route: Drive north on the A9
- Great for: Nature-lovers / Families
This is a proper road trip from Edinburgh, but you’ll regret it if you visit Edinburgh and don’t make the drive to one of the most mythical lakes in Britain. There’s no need to tell you about the legend of Nessie, the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
The Scottish Highlands offers some of the most picturesque countryside in the country, and you can take a drive all around the edge of the loch, among the hills that create the Great Glen area.
SIXT’s top tip: Take a boat trip out on the loch and spend a couple of relaxing hours, with a picnic. You can hire them from nearby Fort Augustus or Inverness.
2. The Lammermuirs
- Distance from Edinburgh: 28 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: About 1 hour
- Suggested route: Simply take the A1
- Great for: Nature-lovers / Hikers and walkers
The Lammermuirs are a series of rolling hills that separate the Lothian region of Scotland from the Borders. This remote, heath-covered countryside is ideal for really getting away from it all. The beautiful landscape offers many opportunities to stop and take photos.
The roads are long and sweeping, so you’ll enjoy the driving experience in itself, as you wind your way with uninterrupted panoramic views of the scenery around you.
SIXT’s top tip: Drive to the little village of Gifford up in the hills, for an excellent pub lunch at the local inn.
3. North Berwick
- Distance from Edinburgh: 25 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: About 40 minutes
- Suggested route: Straight along the A1
- Great for: All tourists / Nature-lovers
North Berwick is a perfect example of a quaint little Scottish fishing village. It’s set on the craggy Lothian coast, to the north-east of Edinburgh. Here you’ll find desolate beaches on a promontory, which convey a stark beauty as you look out over the sea.
Drive to the other side of the promontory to Milsey Bay, with its Victorian houses set against rocky crags. Or make your way to Broadsands, a tucked-away sandy cove connected to several nature trails.
SIXT’s top tip: Whatever you do, don’t miss the freshly-caught lobster that has made the region famous. You’ll find it at a good few restaurants in the town.
4. St Andrews
- Distance from Edinburgh: 54 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: About 1 hour 25 minutes
- Suggested route: Get onto the A92
- Great for: Golfers / All tourists
St Andrews is of course the spiritual home of golf, so a visit to The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews will probably be your first stop, if not your very reason for driving here. There are plenty of other attractions too, though.
The ruined castle in St Andrews leads to a small beach where you can have a picnic, Castle Sands. You can also take a hike along the Fife Coastal Park, with views of the North Sea. You shouldn’t miss the local seafood either – head to Anstruther Fish Bar for some of the best haddock you’ll taste.
SIXT’s top tip: Royal-watchers can have tea at Northpoint Café, which is believed to be where Prince William and Kate Middleton first met.
- Distance from Edinburgh: 74 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: About 1 hour 40 minutes
- Suggested route: Drive along the M90, then the A9
- Great for: Whisky connoisseurs / All tourists
There’s one outstanding reason to visit Pitlochry, and that’s the whisky. So make you sure have a designated driver for this day trip. Edradour is the distillery you’re after to taste the distinct local tipple. It’s also the smallest traditional one in Scotland, known for its single malt since 1825.
Other places to explore include Explorers Garden. It has a section devoted to the flora and ecosystems of each continent, which makes it a fascinatingly different botanic garden. It also contains an array of impressive sculptures.
SIXT’s top tip: Drive a few miles north of the town to the Pass of Killiecrankie where you can hike a wooded gorge running between Tenandry Hill and Ben Vrackie.
6. Tantallon Castle
- Distance from Edinburgh: 30 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: Just under 45 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A1
- Great for: History buffs / All tourists
Tantallon Castle is one of the most impressive historic ruins in Scotland. It has played a part in some of the most significant events in Britain’s history. Built in the 14th century, it was later besieged in the 17th century by Oliver Cromwell. Since then it’s been left unoccupied, making it an excellent example of a medieval castle.
You’ll have sweeping views over Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth from the red sandstone ramparts of the castle. Once you’ve had your fill, head a little way inland to the NB distillery for a tasting tour of its award-winning spirits – just plan a designated driver!
SIXT’s top tip: Drive a little way east to Seacliff, where you can visit the eerie St Baldred’s Cave said to have been an ancient site of human sacrifice.
- Distance from Edinburgh: 7.5 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: A short 20 minutes
- Suggested route: Follow the A701 directly south
- Great for: All tourists
This is a small Midlothian village with a large historical heritage spanning many centuries. It was a major battle site in 1303, during the First War of Scottish Independence, and in 1996 became world-famous as the place where Dolly the Sheep was cloned.
Another tourist attraction is the Rosslyn Chapel, dating back to the 15th century. Venture inside to experience the kaleidoscope of lighting effects that its stained-glass windows create on the Gothic stonework.
SIXT’s top tip: Dan Brown fans will also know Rosslyn Chapel as the final hiding place of the Holy Grail. Take your copy of The Da Vinci Code along – you never know.
- Distance from Edinburgh: 41 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: A little over 45 minutes
- Suggested route: Drive via the M9
- Great for: Families / History buffs
Stirling has earned an honoured place in Scottish history, as the town closest to two of the most important battles fought against the English. William Wallace defeated the English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, as Robert the Bruce had earlier done at the Battle of Bannockburn.
The 12th-century Stirling Castle still survives, and you can visit it, along with the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, where you can learn more about this history. You can also see the Wallace Monument if you don’t mind walking the 250 steps to get there.
SIXT’s top tip: Go and see The Great Kitchens at Stirling Castle, which are fully recreated immersive exhibitions with life-size human figures.
9. Outlander filming locations
- Distance from Edinburgh: 20-25 miles radius
- Travel time from Edinburgh: About 45-55 minutes
- Suggested route: Use the M9
- Great for: Movie fans / General tourists
You can spend an entire day’s trip exploring the various locations where the iconic Outlander movie was shot. One of the most important is Blackness Castle, a sea-front fortress dating back to the 15th century. It was the location for the scene where Claire is rescued from Black Jack.
The village of Culross is another significant filming location, due to its many historic buildings preserved by the National Trust for Scotland. This is where you’ll find Claire’s herb garden – the village was known as Cranesmuir in the movie.
SIXT’s top tip: Doune Castle here is not only famous for its role as Castle Leoch in Outlander – but it was also the main location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- Distance from Edinburgh: 47 miles
- Travel time from Edinburgh: Roughly 1 hour
- Suggested route: Take the M8
- Great for: All tourists
Lastly, you can of course visit Scotland’s other main city, Glasgow, which is to the east of Edinburgh. There are tons to do there, with attractions including Glasgow Cathedral, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and The Glasgow Science Centre.
You can also walk through the Necropolis, alongside the cathedral. It has over 3,500 beautiful memorial stones, some of them designed by renowned Glaswegian architects, such as Charles Rennie Macintosh.
SIXT’s top tip: Head to the Riverside Museum, where you can explore the Tall Ship, and an authentic old three-masted barque, built in Glasgow.