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Best Tours and Day Trips from Edinburgh

Touring Edinburgh has a special charm, but when you immerse yourself in its green and leafy surroundings, you know you're in Scotland.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

7 min read

Best Tours and Day Trips from Edinburgh

Edinburgh at sunset | ©Peter Cordes

Walking through the streets of Edinburgh is a mix between stepping back in time and entering a fairy tale. With these guided tours you will be able to discover the most fascinating corners of the city and its surroundings.

1. Guided tour of Edinburgh's mysteries

Royal Mile| ©Emran Yousof
Royal Mile| ©Emran Yousof

One of the main reasons why I fell in love with the city of Edinburgh is because of the stories of monsters, ghosts and murders that it has behind it. Surely if you take this tour through the old town of Edinburgh your guide will tell you how the mayor of the city was the one who inspired the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or how advances in medicine used to go through the theft of corpses from the cemetery of the city.

This mystery tour of Edinburgh's Old Town explores the darker side of the city's history and includes stories of cannibals and dealings with the devil so it is not an activity suitable for children. Stories aside, you will also enjoy perfect views of the city and a pleasant stroll through its cobblestone streets.

Itinerary

  • Royal Mile
  • North Bridge
  • Calton Hill
  • Old Calton Burial Ground
  • Canongate Kirk Cemetery

2. Guided tour: the Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotch Whisky Experience| ©Neil Turner
Scotch Whisky Experience| ©Neil Turner

It was inevitable that in the capital of Scotland there would be a space reserved for the legendary Scotch whisky. This introductory tour to the world of whisky takes place every day at ten o'clock in the morning. On this guided tour you will skip the sightseeing in the city center and focus on the history of the national drink by touring a distillery and the world's largest collection of Scotch whisky. Of course, the final tasting is included.

The tour of the whisky museum lasts 50 minutes andcan be conducted in a total of 15 languages. Children under 18 are allowed to enter the tour, but not the tasting of alcoholic beverages.

The museum is located next to Edinburgh Castle and the tour of the museum includes transportation in a mobile whiskey barrel through the facility. You will finish this tour knowing much more about the history of this drink and why it is so important in the country.

3. Guided tour of the New Town of Edinburgh

Detail of the Walter Scott Monument| ©qiv
Detail of the Walter Scott Monument| ©qiv

While with the Old Town tour you will discover stories of monsters and ghosts, during the New Town tour the expert guide will tell you about influential inventions such as the telephone or anesthesia, the Enlightenment period in Edinburgh or the abolition of slavery.

Itinerary

  • High Street
  • Walter Scott Monument
  • Views of Edinburgh Castle
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery
  • Princes Street Gardens
  • Ross Fountain

4. Day trip to the lochs and castles of the Edinburgh Highlands

Glen Ogle Mountains| ©Alan Clark
Glen Ogle Mountains| ©Alan Clark

Leaving Edinburgh without seeing the country' s nature is almost a sin. If the city has pleasantly surprised you (which it will), wait until you see the landscapes of the Highlands on this full-day tour of Edinburgh's lochs and castles.

You will meet your driver and guide at a meeting point that will be communicated to you by email once you make your booking. You will then travel by coach (or minibus) to the different key points of the tour itinerary.

Lovers of Scottish castles will be more than satisfied after this guided tour that would be very difficult to do on your own.

Itinerary

  • Doune Castle
  • Inveraray Castle
  • Loch Lomond
  • Kilchurn Castle
  • The mountains of Glen Ogle
  • The Arrochar Alps

5. Guided tour of Harry Potter's Edinburgh

The colorful houses of Victoria Street inspired J.K. Rowling to create Diagon Alley.| ©Mike McBey
The colorful houses of Victoria Street inspired J.K. Rowling to create Diagon Alley.| ©Mike McBey

What has the city of Edinburgh got to do with Harry Potter - isn't London the setting for J.K. Rowling's books? Yes, but it is in Edinburgh that the author lived during one of the hardest periods of her life and it is there that she found inspiration for many of the names and locations that appear in her books.

Lovers of the saga of the most famous wizard of all time will enjoy like children with the tour of Harry Potter's Edinburgh discovering how in the cemetery of the city there are tombstones with the names of many of the characters in the saga or how Edinburgh Castle looks suspiciously like Hogwarts.

You can enjoy this two-hour walking tour available in English, Spanish and German. A specialized guide will take the group to see the cafes where the author wrote her books and the places that inspired her.

Itinerary

  • Diagon Alley
  • Voldemort's name
  • Hogwarts School
  • The game of Quidditch

6. Two-day tour to Loch Ness and the Edinburgh Highlands

Be captivated by the beauty of Loch Ness| ©Dave Conner
Be captivated by the beauty of Loch Ness| ©Dave Conner

All children have heard of the Loch Ness Monster and there are more than a few who will stick their heads out of the car window on a trip with their parents to the Scottish capital as they drive through the Edinburgh Highlands to try to find him. In this excursion to Loch Ness and surroundings from Edinburgh you are not guaranteed to find the monster, but you are guaranteed to know all its history and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The famous loch is located about three and a half hours from the Scottish capital and there is plenty to see along the way, which is why this tour lasts two days. Accommodation can be added to the tour for a surcharge or you can arrange it yourself.

Itinerary of the first day

  • The village of Luss
  • Glencoe Lochan Glen
  • Fort William and the highest mountain in Britain
  • Fort Augustus Abbey and Loch Ness

Itinerary of the second day

  • The famous battlefield of Culloden
  • The Neolithic stones of Clava Cairns
  • The military garrison of Ruthven Barracks
  • The Hermitage Forest
  • Forth Road Bridge

7. Excursion to Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle| ©Mohammed Alhinai
Edinburgh Castle| ©Mohammed Alhinai

The jewel in the crown of the city of Edinburgh is undoubtedly its majestic castle. This guided tour of Edinburgh Castle includes a guided visit to the castle without waiting in queues and also a visit to the National Monument, St. Margaret's Chapel (which houses one of the few dog cemeteries in the world) and the National War Museum.

At the end of the tour, once you say goodbye to your guide, you can continue exploring the castle independently. The Edinburgh Castle tour is available in English, Spanish and German and lasts approximately one and a half hours.

You've probably seen snippets of the bloody battles that forged Scotland's history in TV series or movies; on this tour you'll learn how and where these battles took place. Get ready to go back a few centuries of history enjoying this tour for all ages with the best explanations and anecdotes.

There are sites such as Edinburgh Castle that you can also see on your own instead of on a guided tour. If you have just enough time, but you don't want to miss the main sites of the city, you can also make an independent visit by buying tickets for Edinburgh Castle without taking a guided tour. I tell you all about it here: Castle of Edinburgh Tickets.

8. Royal Yacht Britannia Floating Palace Tour

Floating Palace Royal Yacht Britannia| ©Airwolfhound
Floating Palace Royal Yacht Britannia| ©Airwolfhound

Normally when talking about an excursion to a palace one does not imagine that it is located on the water, but when talking about the Royal Yacht Britannia the reference points change. For over 40 years, this ship was the state yacht of the British Royal Crown and today, by order of Elizabeth II it has been converted into a museum.

During the excursion to the Royal Yacht Britannia floating palace, you will tour the five decks of the ship with the help of an audio guide in 15 languages that will tell you the story of personalities who have walked on it, including Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. You will also be able to access the crew's quarters and contemplate the furniture of the royal collection aboard the ship.

The departure point will be the port of Leith, located 15 minutes away from the center of Edinburgh.

9. Gastronomic tour of Edinburgh with typical tastings

Typical Scottish cheeses from I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger| ©Scottish Government
Typical Scottish cheeses from I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger| ©Scottish Government

We could not miss in the list of the best excursions and tours in Edinburgh and surroundings a gastronomic tour with food and drink tasting. This food tour with tasting in Edinburgh includes the services of an expert guide and during the tour you will visit some of the most famous pubs in the Scottish capital.

In addition to the food and its history, this food tour also visits the Morningside and Bruntsfield areas, so you will have the opportunity to learn more about the local culture of the city unlike other tours that focus only on food.

Itinerary

  • Cheese and wine tasting at I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger
  • Tasting of sweet products at A la Carte
  • Local cupcake tasting at Cuckoo's Bakery
  • Craft beer and whiskey tasting at Café Grande
  • Haggis Chocolate Tasting at The Golf Tavern