After another fun filled festival month, its hard to believe that its all over for yet another year. However, as the street entertainers say good bye and crowds disperse, please don’t think that Edinburgh and its surrounding areas have nothing more to offer. In fact this is the perfect time to visit the city, catch the last of the longer evenings and ‘better’ weather. Often, flights and accommodation are cheaper and of course it’s less busy, therefore you can enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace.
Edinburgh is a city full of culture, history and enjoyment! However, as I touched on in my previous post, if you ever want to prise yourself away from its captivating beauty, there are still many places you can visit that can equally enchant you. Within the space of an hour you can be walking along a soft sandy Scottish beaches, admiring the rugged Scottish coast, be surrounded by sprawling woods and rivers, and enjoy other bustling cities that Scotland has to offer.
Here are my recommendations if you want to enjoy a day or two away from the City of Edinburgh.
East Lothian – 26 Miles Away
Only a 45 minute car ride or 30 minutes by train, is the lovely coastal town of North Berwick. As you walk down to the sandy shores of the Firth of Forth, you feel like you’re in nautical heaven with rows of pastel coloured houses and the smell of fresh salty air.
On a lovely sunny day, enjoy a walk around the vast crescent golden sandy beach and listen to the waves lap against the rocks. You can’t help but feel envious of the houses that are perched over the sand that have this amazing outlook as their front garden.
Something else you can’t help but notice is the famous Bass rock that juts out of the water as if watching over this seaside town. This rock holds the world’s largest Gannet colony and without taking away from the beautiful image in your head, what gives the rock its white appearance is the birds toiletry habits.
You can learn more about the bird life in the area at the five star sea bird centre or stroll around the harbour and taste the delightful catch of the day at the popular lobster shack.
Peel yourself away from the beach and you can enjoy the surrounding streets, adorned with restaurants, pubs and shops. Don’t miss the chance to grab some fish and chips followed by some ice cream at the lovely Alanda’s Gelateria recently visited by Ewan McGregor. If you are anything like me, you should definitely take a visit to my favourite home ware store Time and Tide, with is abundantly filled with nautical inspired goodies.
Kingdom of Fife – 35 miles away
This tranquil village located in the Kingdom of Fife is only a one hour drive from the centre of Edinburgh. Perched on the side of Falkland Hill (that can be seen from Edinburgh’s shoreline) this little treasure is a must when visiting Scotland. Walking into its quaint village square you are bombarded with picturesque buildings filled with eating establishments, craft shops, a violin shop and pubs. On a lovely day you can sit outside, enjoy the peaceful surroundings and simply watch the world go by.
As you wander around its narrow streets you feel like you have stepped back in time and perhaps this was why it was used to film a few scenes for the popular series Outlander.
Also in this area is the beautiful 200 year old Renaissance style Falkland Palace, wander around the reconstructed rooms filled with gorgeous 17th century items or stroll around their tranquil gardens, home to the oldest Royal tennis court in Britain which was made for King James V.
Take a walk through the village and you will enter the expansive Falkland estate, 1900 hectares of woods, farmland and countryside. Follow the clearly marked path in either direction and you will eventually reach my favourite eating place: The Pillars of Hercules. This 100% organic vegetarian café feels like it has grown out of the ground itself. With its wooden structure nestled in the middle of fields and trees, it brings back a simplicity in life that is often lost these days. All the food sold here is grown around the area and freshly cooked on the day. On a gorgeous day you can sit outside on their rustic wooden tables within their strawberry fields and enjoy their delicious delights as you look out to vegetable patches and orchards. They also have a lovely organic food store and an area where you can purchase some of their very own, freshly grown flowers and herbs.
Afterwards, take a walk around the estate through gorgeous fern covered woods, visit a local studio where wooden furniture is made from the surrounding trees and enjoy the splendid views of the imposing Falkand Hill that provides a gorgeous backdrop to the village.
Glasgow City – 45 Miles Away
Only 45 mins by train or 1 hour by car; Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city. In comparison to Edinburgh, Glasgow excerpts a more cosmopolitan and industrial feel with grid like transport system and underground trains. Glasgow boasts to be the biggest retail hub outside London. Its main shopping areas are Buchanan street, Argyll street and Merchant City. Buchanan Street, with its wide exposed outlook is filled with the latest high street shops, high-end fashion stores and plentiful places to eat and drink.
The city is also famous for its music scene, so much so that it was named UNESCO city of music in 2008. With an abundance of music venues, you’re never too far from your favourite band or artists. On the outskirts of the city is the large indoor arena; The SSE Hydro, which attracts all the most famous musical talents and artists.
Don’t let its raw edge put you off, as Glasgow is home to some beautiful historic sites too. One that needs to be highlighted is the beautiful 1920’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. These are free to enter and house beautiful collections of art including Monet and Vincent van Gogh. It also holds a large collection of Natural history items, that are sure to keep you wandering this delightful building for hours on end.
If you fancy an overnight stay in Glasgow, there are some lovely five star hotels. My recommendations are Blythswood Square Hotel and Hotel Du Vin’s One Devonshire Gardens, which if you want a sneak peek, visit my previous blog posts.
Dunkeld & The Hermitage
Perthshire – 57 Miles
This hidden treasure is only a 85 minutes drive from Edinburgh. Drive over the the impressive stone bridge to reach this picturesque town that straddles the side of the cascading River Tay. With a quaint main street filled with Scottish gift shops, hotels and places to eat and drink, a visit here is definitely worth it.
Wander around its beautiful Cathedral and it’s expansive grounds, where you can sit at the side of the river and enjoy the views of the delightful trees and the historic building itself.
Casually stroll around its small square and enjoy the lovely scented baskets of flowers that hang outside the historic little houses.
Of course you cant be in Dunkeld and not visit the impressive; Jeffreys Interiors. This amazing interior design shop is situated inside an old church and it’s a true pleasure for the senses. Filled with aromas of burning candles, perfect mood lighting and a display of the latest high quality interior products, you wont want to leave.
A walk from Dunkeld is the awe inspiring woodland called The Hermitage. Walking through this expanse of green, vibrant forest brings a sense of calm as you as follow a carefully marked trail. The trees tower above you and eventually open up to a beautiful arched stone bridge and Follie looking over a bubbling, rushing waterfall washing away all of your stresses are cares.
Perthshire – 69 Miles
Pitlochry is known as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands and even though it has grown in popularity it still hasn’t lost its charm. Being only 90 Minutes drive from Edinburgh or a 120 By train, Pitlochry has a lot to offer. As you enter the town you will be greeted by the darkened building of the Bells Whisky Distillery, continue driving and you will pass through the historic main street, which is adorned with food and drink establishments, craft shops and of course, stores packed with Scottish products made locally.
Take a walk around the majestic Loch Faskally, which on a clear calm day, acts as a mirror that reflects the surrounding forests. Stroll over the dam, where at the right time of year, you can watch salmon pass through the famous fish ladder created to allow them to reach the upper parts of the river in order to spawn. If you fancy a treat, why not climb the stairs from the Loch and visit the beautiful five star Fonab Castle. Enjoy a cocktail or two in the lounge looking over the Loch. You could even splash out and have a flavour filled afternoon tea or meal at its established restaurant.
If you are visiting by car be sure to explore the surrounding areas of Blair Athol. Here you can visit a beautiful historic castle and perhaps have a spot of lunch at the Watermill & Tea Rooms; where they grind all their own flour to bake with.
If you are staying longer and feeling a tad more adventurous why not climb the local mountain Ben Vrackie. Covered in true Scottish heather, this beautiful rugged walk provides rivers, waterfalls, wildlife and views to die for.
Of course these are only a few of the places you can visit from Edinburgh, we are lucky enough to be bang in the centre of many beautiful spots. If you are unable to drive or take the bus and train there are some tour companies in Edinburgh that can take you to some of the places I have mentioned, these can be found here.