Around the World: Edinburgh Day Tripping by Train
Dynamic Edinburgh is beautiful, accommodating and rich in year round cultural events, but day tripping from the Scottish capital is a must, even if it’s for just one or two quick and satisfying adventures to experience other highlands highlights.
It’s convenient, fun and comfortable to travel from Edinburgh by train to see nearby castles, quaint towns, pristine nature preserves and the seaside. And, a BritRail pass – the Freedom of Scotland pass, in particular -- makes it so easy and affordable to get around.
Here are my recommendations:
North Berwick, a lovely seaside town that’s been called ‘the Biarritz of the North,’ has great ambience, lots of fun family activities and historical significance. The town is of particular interest to Americans because it is here that FDR and Sir Winston Churchill convened to plan D-Day.
The train schedule is ample, with trains leaving on the hour, and during the 35-minute you get wonderful vistas of the Firth of Forth on one side and the scenic landscape of Fife on the other. You can also spot several castles surrounded by East Lothian’s vast fields of barley (yes, that’s the grain used to make Scotch Whiskey).
The North Berwick station is in the town center, just a short walk from the gorgeous beach.
At North Berwick Harbour, visit the Scottish Seabird Center, the world-renown wildlife discovery center where visitors can take control of live cameras to zoom in on birds nesting on remote Bass Rock, Isle of May National Nature Reserve, plus other islands in the Firth of Forth. There are many other wildlife-centric activities and displays sure to please and inform kids of all ages.
At the Scottish Seabird Center, you can board a tour boat for a cruise to Bass Rock and Craigleith, remains of a now extinct volcano that jut out of the sea in the Firth of Forth, about three miles from shore, where you can view sea bird colonies. Bass Rock has been described by famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the wildlife wonders of the world’ because of its amazing gannet population and profusion of puffins. One of the best tours is offered aboard Sula II, a traditional sea-going launch that provides comfort and an interesting commentary about the sea, land and birds.
Back on the mainland, you can get a magnificent overview of the town by trekking up the Law Hill. It’s a steep and challenging climb, so wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water and energy-restoring snacks.
And, speaking of snacks, the tiny coastal town of Musselburgh, a stop on the Edinburgh-North Berwick train route, boasts Scotland’s best ice creamery, S. Luca, founded in 1908 by Italian immigrants and still run as a family business. Made fresh daily, the divine ice cream is served in cones and sundaes. Other specialties include homemade soup, cakes and other sweets, and fresh brewed coffee. To enjoy there or on the train, and there are delicious candies that can be brought home as souvenirs for family and friends.