In all of your vacations to date, what have you enjoyed the most? Is it the pristine beaches, or the soaring mountain, or dense forests? Whatever it might be, you are yet to experience true beauty if you haven't been to the Scottish Highlands. It is a place where facts meet fiction. Much like how the very real nation of Scotland has quite an imaginary national animal. The home of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, boasts of unreal beauty. The endless stretch of dry rugged mountainous land overlooks the unsullied Moray Firth. If you find yourself in Edinburgh with a day to spare, you must not think twice before heading to the Highlands.
Here's all you need to know before going on a day trip from Edinburgh to Highlands - distance, tours, tips and more.
Edinburgh to Highlands : The Day Trip Experience
In a nutshell, your day trip from Edinburgh to Highlands will look something like this.
- Discover the stunning castles of the Highlands that not only acquaint you with history but also form the backdrop for popular movies and shows.
- Visit a number of Lochs that are a characteristic feature of the Highlands, and take in the breathtaking view around you.
- Marvel at the sight of the monstrous sculpture of the shape-shifting spirit known as the Kelpies. Know the myth captured in the structure.
- Get an up close and personal experience of a traditional Scottish Whisky distillery and taste some of the premium native liquor.
- Experience the richness of Scottish wildlife at the Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond.
1-Day Highland Lochs, Castles & Whisky Distillery Tour
Departure: 8:15 AM
Duration: 10.5 hours
Your experience begins on either a Thursday, a Saturday or a Sunday morning, as you take a comfortable ride from Edinburgh. You begin with the awe-inspiring Kelpies sculpture and make your through a myriad of lochs, the Trossachs, and end your day at the Doune Castle, the setting for the likes of Game of Thrones and Outlander.
Edinburgh to Highlands Itinerary Deconstructed
This day trip guarantees to take you through the best of Scottish coutryside. Don't believe us? Look at all the attractions that you'll be stopping by! We have deconstructed the itinerary time-wise for a better understanding of how your day is crafted on this day tour.
Edinburgh to Highlands Day Trip Highlights
The Scots love their myths. In Scottish mythology, a kelpie is a water-dwelling spirit that has the ability to shapeshift. In this famous attraction, two kelpies are depicted in the form of horses. The horse-heads are about 30 meters high and are a treat to the eyes. This is the perfect place to begin the journey as the place is famous and may get crowded as the day rolls on.
Sitting high on an intrusive rock formation, the Stirling Castle takes the cake for being the largest and the most important of Scottish castles. Its defensive advantage meant that it had a significant bearing on Scottish history. Parts of the castle were built in the 14th century, while most of it dates back to the early 18th century. The castle is a visual treat as well owing to its magnificent architecture.
Lake of Menteith
The Highlands boasts a number of beautiful lakes and Lake of Menteith is one of them. Located in the upper reaches of the Forth and Teith rivers, Lake of Menteith has a number of inhabitable islands on it. The lake is shallow and can completely freeze over, making way for a curling tournament. This is believed to be the only water body in the country to be referred to as a lake.
Aberfoyle is a popular holiday village in Scotland. Despite being officially denoted as a village, Aberfoyle has a main street that is lined with cafés and shops designed towards enhancing the experience of the tourists. This village will acquaint you with the Scottish way of life. The golf course in the village is one of the scenic attractions in Scotland.
Even a simple drive can be a mystical experience in Scotland if you pick your spot right. Duke’s Pass is a mountainous pass connecting Aberfoyle and Brig o' Turk which is considered to be one of the best drives in all of Britain. It was originally built in the 19th century as a connector, but soon became a tourist attraction owing to its superlative landscape.
Highland cattle are of great interest among people who deal with animal husbandry. These rather odd looking cows and bulls are slowly gaining mainstream popularity owing to the high butterfat milk and low cholesterol beef that they provide. Hairy Coos are well adapted to the harsh Highland climate and their long horns help them in digging out plants from under the snow cover. On this day trip, you get to spot these typical Highland coos and maybe even click a few selfies with them!
Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond
Trossachs National Park provides you with the essence of the Scottish Highlands. With the Loch Lomond at the heart of it, the Trossachs is the perfect place to witness the sunset. You may spend the rest of the time fishing, or if you have time, even camp out. If you are on a stringent schedule, opt for one of the Loch cruises. There are a number of water-based activities to choose from as well.
Steeped in natural beauty and history, Loch Katrine is another crown jewel of the Scottish Highlands. If you are visiting with your family, Loch Katrine has the potential to enthrall you all day. Apart from sailing in the famous Sir Walter Scott, you may also take a walk around the loch and absorb the highland landscape, or cover the entire area on cycle. It will surely be a memorable experience.
On the ledges of the river Teith lies the Deanston Distillery, whose history dates back to the 1960s. The current site of the Deanston Distillery was previously a cotton mill. Since its inception, the distillery has made a name for itself by never wavering from its traditional method. Visit the place to gain an in-depth knowledge of the functioning of a distillery and taste some of the best Scottish beverages available.
Such is the appeal of the Doune Castle, that it has made its appearance in three wildly popular television shows and movies. This medieval stronghold has served as the backdrop for significant parts of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, HBO’s Game of Thrones, and the Starz adaptation of Outlander. Its pragmatic architecture made it a perfect defensive garrison in its illustrious history.
Best Ways To Go From Edinburgh To Highlands
Trains are the most reliable way of getting to the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh. ScotRail Has a reliable service running from Edinburgh to Stirling, which takes you to the heart of the Highlands. You also opt for LNER service. The one-way trip takes less than an hour.
Scotland is famous for its lush landscape, and a drive would be a perfect way to experience it. Take the A90 from Edinburgh and get to M9 via the A904. This route takes roughly an hour with typical weekday traffic.
The best way to experience all the highlights of the Scottish Highlands, however, is to take an organized tour. These tours come with guides and pre-booked time slots that make the experience hassle-free and streamlined.
Edinburgh To Highlands Route
Tips & Hacks For A Terrific Day Trip
- Make sure you carry some handy cash as the remote towns and villages have only 1 ATM and they may not always be operational. Also, most places accept only cash in the rural areas hence carrying a minimum of £30 per person is recommended.
- Weather in Edinburgh is highly unpredictable and it can rain on any given day. Carry a rainproof jacket for contingency.
- If you have opted for a guided tour, know that the seats are unreserved and allocated on a first-come, first served basis upon check-in. Hence, it is recommended that you come 15 minutes prior to departure to catch a window seat.
- Take some time out to hike in the Scottish Highlands. The landscape and the serenity will make it worth your while.
- Try a bit of the local cuisine while you are out exploring. The rugged geography oddly adds a new dimension to the taste of a good shortbread, bangers, and mash.
- Wash down the local delicacies with some of the locally distilled whiskey. Scottish whiskey has its own fragrance and underlying fruity notes that is sure to intoxicate you.
- Delve into the history of the bleak Scottish culture. Almost every structure outside Edinburgh and Glasgow has a rich history, and you would learn a lot from your guide.
- Explore one of the public museums in the area to quench your thirst for knowledge about Scottish culture. All public museums here are free to enter.