Beyond the City Limits: The Best Things to Do Near Edinburgh

Best things to do near Edinburgh

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As one of the most historic and culturally vibrant cities in the UK, Edinburgh is a top destination for tourists from around the world. The city centre is a treasure trove of history, art and architecture, but many visitors don’t realize there are just as many sights and experiences to be found in the surrounding area.

Two examples of things to do near Edinburgh are visiting the Pentland Hills and Rosslyn Chapel.

The Pentland Hills offer breathtaking views of the city as well as opportunities for hiking, cycling, and horse riding, while Rosslyn Chapel – located just a 30-minute drive from the city centre – is famous for its intricate stone carvings and sculptures that were the inspiration for Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code”.

If you’re looking for a more unique experience, then Jupiter Artland is a must-visit. This contemporary art park features a collection of sculptures and art installations by some of Scotland’s most renowned artists, set against the background of the picturesque West Lothian countryside.

There are many more amazing attractions waiting to be discovered outside of Edinburgh which you’ll discover in the list below. All have been chosen for their ease of access and the majority can be visited by public transport as well as by car.

The best things to do near Edinburgh

Inveresk Lodge Garden

Inveresk Lodge Garden

Out About Scotland Guide: Inveresk Lodge Garden

Address:24 Inveresk Village Road,
Musselburgh,
East Lothian,
EH21 7TE
Opening Hours:1 Dec to 31 Mar, daily, 10.00–16.00
1 Apr to 30 Sep, daily, 10.00–17.00
1 Oct to 31 Dec, daily, 10.00–16.00
Admission Price:£3
Parking:There is limited parking at the site near the garden gate, but this is only for use by NTS members. All other visitors can use free on-street parking in Inveresk village.
Contact:Email: inveresk@nts.org.uk
Tel: 0131 6651546
Facilities:Parking for NTS members, bike storage, toilets, dogs welcome. The nearest shops are in Musselburgh (Tesco Extra, Olive Bank Road, EH21 7BL).

Nestled on the outskirts of Edinburgh, just south of Musselburgh, lies the charming village of Inveresk.

Designated as a conservation area, this quaint village boasts a rich history dating back to Roman times and has a plethora of 17th and 18th-century buildings lining the high street.

One of Inveresk’s hidden gems (and a personal favourite of mine) is Inveresk Lodge Garden.

Situated on the eastern end of Inveresk Village Road, the garden is surrounded by a tall stone wall which keeps it secluded from public view.

Believed to date back to 1781, the garden has undergone many changes over the years including being replanted to grow vegetables during WWII and later being taken over by the National Trust for Scotland in 1958.

Inveresk Lodge Garden

Now maintained for visitors to enjoy year-round, the trust has created a series of themed areas, each offering a unique experience depending on the season.

In the depths of winter, visitors can admire exotic plants in an Edwardian conservatory, while in autumn the arboretum transforms into a kaleidoscope of changing colours.

Summer brings a symphony of buzzing insects to a large pond, and in spring the herbaceous borders come alive with fragrant blooms.

The garden is split into two halves – an upper hillside and a lower woodland and lawn area, connected by a network of paths. Families with children will particularly enjoy the lower area with its picnic benches, large pond and viewing platform, woodland, and open lawn.


Dalkeith Country Park

Dalkeith Country Park

Out About Scotland Guide: Dalkeith Country Park

Address:King's Gate,
Dalkeith,
EH22 1ST
Opening Hours:Dalkeith Country Park is open 07.00 – 19.00
The Store at Restoration Yard is open 10.00 – 17.00
The Kitchen at Restoration Yard is open from 09.30

Fort Douglas:
Morning session 10.00 – 13.00
Afternoon Session – 14.00 – 17.00
Admission Price:Free entry to the park.
For Fort Douglas prices, see the Dalkeith Country Park website.
Parking:£3 per vehicle parking on-site
Contact:0131 654 1666
info@dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk
Facilities:Shops, toilets, walking routes, restaurant, cafe

Dalkeith Country Park is a must-see attraction located in the historic county of Midlothian.

The park is part of the Buccleuch family estate and spans 1,000 acres encompassing forestry, farmland, the 1700-era Dalkeith Palace, a river, a shopping and restaurant complex, an adventure playground, and a high ropes playpark.

To get to Dalkeith Park, drive north on the A6094 through Dalkeith high street until you reach a large gated entrance surrounded by a thick coppice of woodland, then head to Restoration Yard.

The shopping area, adventure play park, and Dalkeith Palace are all within easy reach of each other, as are the surrounding woodland and farmland. Entrance to the park is free, and there are plenty of spots to lay down a blanket and enjoy a picnic.

Dalkeith Country Park

For couples, Restoration Yard is a must-visit thanks to its range of quality shops that sell arts and crafts as well as a café that serves delicious locally-sourced food. Children, meanwhile, are guaranteed to have a blast in the nearby Fort Douglas play park.

Dalkeith Country Park also offers a variety of outdoor activities for all ages including leisurely riverside walks, cycle routes and woodland trails, while the more adventurous can go wild at the Go-Ape high ropes course.

In conclusion, Dalkeith Country Park is a genuine hidden gem that offers a peaceful and budget-friendly day out and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do near Edinburgh for families and couples alike.


Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel

Out About Scotland Guide: Rosslyn Chapel

Address:Chapel Loan,
Roslin,
Midlothian,
EH25 9PU
Opening Hours:Mon-Sun: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Saturday: 12.00 to 4.15 pm
Admission Price:Adults: £9.50
Concessions: £7.50
Children go free as part of a family group
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:0131 440 2159
mail@rosslynchapel.com
Facilities:Gift shop, toilets, cafe, disabled access
BUY TICKETSClick here to purchase

If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, make sure to include a visit to the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel, situated just 7 miles south of Edinburgh city centre.

This historic chapel, dating back to 1446, is renowned for the intricate stone carvings that cover its walls. There are many theories about the symbolism behind these carvings which have attracted even more attention since the chapel was featured in the popular movie, The Davinci Code.

At the visitor center you can learn about the history of the chapel and the myths and legends that surround it, before losing yourself in the sense of mystery inside the historic building.

Rosslyn Chapel

Keep an eye out for several curious carvings such as the Apprentice Pillar which is adorned with twirling vines that resemble a DNA strand, and the window that’s adorned with images of corn, carved years before the first Europeans even discovered the crop.

After exploring the chapel, take a break at the visitor centre café to enjoy a slice of homemade cake and a coffee on the outdoor balcony, and then end your visit by browsing the gift shop for souvenirs.

But the chapel isn’t the only reason to visit the site as the surrounding Rosslyn Glen is incredibly pretty and offers plenty of opportunities for peaceful walks. It really is a great spot to spend an afternoon, especially during the summer when the woodland is filled with vibrant colours.


Pentland Hills

Pentland Hills Swanston

Out About Scotland Guide: Flotterstone, Swanston

When it comes to things to do near Edinburgh, the Pentland Hills are a personal favourite.

This expansive hill range is located south of Edinburgh, stretching for 18 miles southwest towards the town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire.

The hills cover an area of around 35 square miles and are easily visible from almost anywhere in the capital, yet due to the fact they lie beyond the Edinburgh bypass they’re rarely visited by tourists, making the regional park a great place to head for a relaxing walk.

The Pentland area comprises a mix of woodland, lochs, and wild, hilly expanses of heather and gorse. Much of the landscape is upland pasture, but there are also forestry plantations and a couple of large reservoirs that supply fresh water to Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians.

Flotterstone Pentland Hills

The Pentland Hills are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with hill walking, mountain biking, and horse riding among the most popular activities. Fishing is also available at Glencorse, Harlow, and Threipmuir reservoirs, while snowsports enthusiasts will find fun-packed slopes at the Midlothian Snowsports Centre at Hillend.

There are over 60 miles of paths through the Pentland Hills and hillwalkers will find the best views in the Lothians as they explore the range, with many hill summits reaching heights in excess of 550 metres.

These include Scald Law (579m), Carnethy Hill (573m), East Cairn Hill (567m), West Cairn Hill (562m), West Kip (551m), Byrehope Mount (536m), East Kip (534m) and Turnhouse Hill (506m).

The walk from Flotterstone to Turnhouse Hill is a great option for those looking for a brisk hike and fresh air close to Edinburgh, with an easy-going trail that offers spectacular views of the Midlothian countryside over the 7-mile route.


Midlothian Snowsports Centre

Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Best things to do near Edinburgh

Out About Scotland Guide: Midlothian Snowsports Centre

Address:Biggar Road,
Hillend,
Edinburgh,
EH10 7DU
Opening Hours:Monday - Friday 9:30 - 21:00
Saturday - Sunday 9:30 - 19:00
Admission Price:See https://www.midlothian.gov.uk/info/200281/snowsports_centre/183/prices
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:0131 445 4433
ski@midlothian.gov.uk
Facilities:Toilets, cafe, tuition

Nestled in the picturesque Pentland Hills near Edinburgh lies the Midlothian Snowsports Centre, an outdoor playground that offers a host of exciting activities for the whole family.

Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a first-time snowboarder, this centre has something to suit all skill levels and ages.

The centre boasts two of the UK’s longest artificial ski slopes – one of which is floodlit for night skiing – meaning that even if Mother Nature doesn’t provide the white stuff you can still enjoy the thrill of gliding down the slopes.

And if you’re looking to improve your skills, the centre’s expert instructors are on hand to offer lessons to skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, the centre also offers tubing. This outdoor activity is perfect for all ages and involves climbing into an inflatable rubber ring and sliding down purpose-built tube runs.

Midlothian Snowsports Centre

It’s an activity that both novices and children can enjoy and the centre has even provided a travelator to transport you and your tube back to the top, making it accessible for all fitness levels.

In addition to skiing and tubing, the Midlothian Snowsports Centre also provides a terrain park for freestyle skiers and snowboarders as well as a cafe and a new £13.8 million fun slope.

If you’re looking for exciting things to do near Edinburgh with children, head to the Midlothian Snowsports Centre and experience the thrill of skiing and tubing all year round.


Jupiter Artland

Jupiter Artland

Out About Scotland Guide: Jupiter Artland

Address:Bonnington House Steadings,
Wilkieston,
Edinburgh,
EH27 8BY
Opening Hours:Open 10 am to 4 pm daily
Admission Price:Adult £10
Child 4-16 £6
Concession £9
Students £6
Disabled £6
Family £28
Parking:Free parking on-site
Contact:01506 889900
enquiries@jupiterartland.org
Facilities:Shop, cafe, toilets

As a lover of surprises, I was delighted to discover Jupiter Artland, a hidden gem of a sculpture park located just outside of Edinburgh.

Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted by a verdant landscape of rolling hills and sparkling pools where nature and man-made design converge in a collection of thought-provoking artworks.

The park (situated 10 miles from Edinburgh’s Princes Street) lies within 100 acres of managed meadows and woodland, all set within the grounds of a grand 19th-century country house.

Wandering through Jupiter Artland you’ll randomly stumble across sculptures and artworks of all shapes and sizes, made from a variety of materials.

Some are nestled high amongst the trees, while others are perched atop giant landscaped mounds. One particularly striking sculpture, ‘Love Bomb’, dominates the exit of the car park – an enormous, vibrant structure that looks like something straight out of a science fiction novel.

Jupiter Artland

But Jupiter Artland isn’t just about the art – the park’s founders, two art-loving philanthropists, have gone above and beyond to make it a place for families of all ages to enjoy.

The on-site café is a particular highlight as it serves delicious homemade cakes (though it’s closed for winter) and there are also exhibitions and special events held throughout the year.

In short, Jupiter Artland is a surreal and unique destination that’s a must-see for art lovers or anyone in search of visiting somewhere that’s a little out of the ordinary.

Just be sure to check the ‘What’s On’ section of the Jupiter Artland website before you go as they often hold talks, tours, and workshops that you can join during your visit.


Hopetoun House

Hopetoun House

Out About Scotland Guide: Hopetoun House

Address:Queensferry,
South Queensferry,
EH30 9RW
Opening Hours:Opening times: 11am to 5pm (last entrance 4pm)
Open Days: Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon
Closed Days: Tues and Wed
Admission Price:House and Grounds:
Adult £12.50
Children £6.50
Pensioner/Student £11.00
Groups (15+) £11.00
Family (2 + 2) £34.00
Disabled £6.50
Young Scot Card Holder £1.00
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:0131 331 2451
Facilities:Cafe, toilets, guided tours, disabled access

Hopetoun House, a large stately home located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.

Built in the late 1600s by the wealthy Hope family, the house boasts a plethora of priceless collections including paintings, tapestries and furniture, all of which are kept in rooms that have remained virtually unchanged for over three hundred years.

The Hopetoun House Preservation Trust manages the property and opens its doors to visitors during the summer months with guided tours, and visitors can explore the beautiful gardens at their leisure.

The house and grounds are used for a variety of events throughout the year from Easter egg hunts to fireworks spectacles as well as music recitals and art exhibitions, but they’re most used by locals looking for a relaxing break from Edinburgh.

Hopetoun House

As you stroll through the 100 acres of fields and woodland you’ll be met with a diverse range of wildlife, from seabirds to resident herds of red deer.

Maps are available to guide you through the many routes that have been laid out which makes it easy to take in all the sights and sounds of the grounds, especially in the summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom.

One of the highlights of a visit to Hopetoun House is a stop at the Stables Kitchen, located in an 18th-century stable block that has been modernised into a restaurant that serves top-quality Scottish cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients.

With its rich history, stunning collections of artworks and furniture, and beautiful grounds, Hopetoun House is a must-see for any lover of stately homes and the great outdoors.


Forth Road Bridge

Forth Bridge

Out About Scotland Guide: Forth Road Bridge

Address:42 Inchcolm Terrace,
South Queensferry,
EH30 9NA
Opening Hours:The Forth Road Bridge is accessible on foot 24/7, 365 days a year (weather permitting).
The bridge is closed to cars.
Admission Price:There is no fee to visit the Forth Road Bridge.
Parking:Parking is available at the Forth Bridge Visitor Centre (42 Inchcolm Terrace, South Queensferry, EH30 9NA).
Alternatively, park in South Queensferry and walk to the bridge.
Contact:Email: enquiries@bearscotland.co.uk
Phone: 01738 448 600
Facilities:There are no facilities on the Forth Road Bridge.
Shops, toilets and restaurants are available in South Queensferry.

The Forth Road Bridge is a must-see attraction for visitors to Fife, Edinburgh, and the Lothians.

The enormous bridge, which opened over 50 years ago, still impresses visitors today with its size and grandeur and even now it’s recognized as being one of the most significant long-span suspension bridges in the world.

The Forth Road Bridge is actually one of three bridges that cross the Firth of Forth, with the historic Forth Rail Bridge on one side and the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge on the other.

The red-painted rail bridge, built in 1890, was once regarded as the eighth wonder of the world and was given UNESCO world heritage status in 2015, but it’s only accessible by taking a train ride across it.

Forth Bridges

Visitors on foot, meanwhile, can cross The Forth Road Bridge to enjoy spectacular views of the Firth of Forth while viewing the engineering marvels on either side across a 1.5-mile span that’s easily accessible for all ages and fitness levels.

There’s also a section of the railings that have been set aside for love locks, so if you’re crossing with a partner don’t forget to take a padlock with you to leave as a memento.

Visitors can learn more about the bridge’s history and construction at the South Queensferry side which has a visitor station, a public car park, and a viewing platform, while the North Queensferry side offers the best low-level view from its sheltered harbour.

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge has to be one of the top things to do near Edinburgh for couples, and it’s a fascinating example of Scottish engineering.


Cramond Island

Cramond Island

Out About Scotland Guide: Cramond Island

Address:Cramond,
Edinburgh,
EH4 6HY
Opening Hours:Open 24/7
Access depends on tide times
Admission Price:Free
Parking:Free parking is available at Cramond car park (postcode EH4 6NU)
Contact:N/A
Facilities:No facilities on Cramond Island
Toilets and cafe in Cramond village

Cramond Island, located near the village of Cramond in Edinburgh, is a hidden gem that’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.

You can get there by crossing a causeway that’s part of a WWII anti-tank barricade which offers beautiful views of the Firth of Forth including the coastline of Fife and the Forth Bridges.

Cramond Island is not well-known by visiting tourists so it’s a great place to visit if you want to escape the busy city of Edinburgh.

The island is only a third of a mile across but it offers a beautiful walk that’s perfect for families with children, especially when the tide is out as it’s possible to step off the causeway and explore a huge stretch of sand.

Cramond Island

Cramond village has a few facilities including a café and a pub, and there are public toilets near the causeway entrance and a car park overlooking Silverknowes beach. If you don’t want to drive, you can catch a bus (Lothian Buses routes 41, 32, and 36) to the village.

Once on the island, you’ll find yourself on a shingle beach with a small hill that was once home to a WWII lookout post. Just be aware that some visitors use the bunkers as impromptu toilets so they can be quite pungent in the warm weather.

Although there aren’t any specific activities or attractions on Cramond Island, its natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere make it a perfect spot for a relaxing day trip from the capital.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is not to miss in Edinburgh?

There are many things to see and do in Edinburgh, but some popular attractions that are not to be missed include:

1: Edinburgh Castle.
2: The Royal Mile.
3: The Palace of Holyroodhouse.
4: St Giles’ Cathedral.
5: Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat.

Is 2 days enough for Edinburgh?

The amount of time required to visit Edinburgh depends on how much of the city you want to see. Edinburgh is compact and easily walked around and the majority of the main attractions are all located within two miles of each other.

Two days will be enough time to see the main tourist attractions in the city centre such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. However, visiting all of the top attractions at a leisurely pace could take up to five days.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in Scotland?

The number one tourist attraction in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress dominates the city skyline from its position on Castle Rock, positioned at the top of the world-famous Royal Mile. The castle is officially the most-visited paid tourist attraction in Scotland and welcomes more than 2 million visitors annually.

What are the top attractions to visit in Edinburgh?

The top attractions to visit in Edinburgh are:
Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, St Giles’ Cathedral, Holyrood Palace, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, The National Museum of Scotland, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, Arthur’s Seat, and Calton Hill.

What are the best outdoor activities in Edinburgh?

There are many outdoor activities to enjoy in Edinburgh, such as:

1: Hiking and walking in the Pentland Hills, which offer beautiful views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
2: Visiting Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park – the highest point in Edinburgh – for panoramic views of the city.
3: Exploring the Royal Botanic Garden which features a wide variety of plants and flowers from around the world.
4: Taking a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway, a 12-mile trail that winds through the city from the Pentland Hills to Leith.
5: Visiting the city’s many parks such as Princes Street Gardens and The Meadows.
6: Riding a bike on the many cycle paths in and around the city, including the Innocent Railway Path and the Union Canal Walkway.

What are the top things to do near Edinburgh?

There are many places to visit and things to do near Edinburgh, but some popular attractions that are not to be missed include:

Inveresk Lodge Garden, Dalkeith Country Park, The International Climbing Arena, Jupiter Artland, Cramond Island, The Forth Bridge, Hopetoun House, Rosslyn Chapel, The National Mining Museum, and The Pentland Hills.

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By Craig Neil

Craig Neil is a travel writer from Edinburgh with a passion for exploring the hidden gems of Scotland. From the rugged Highlands to the bustling cities, he's dedicated years to touring the country and uncovering its many attractions. Join him as he shares insider tips and personal experiences to help visitors find the best things to do in Scotland. Follow him on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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