Cheap days out for everyone

Last updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2023

We’ve put together a handy guide so that everyone can enjoy a fun-filled, enjoyable cheap day out by train.

There are so many places to visit and explore across the country that are either free or discounted when you show your train ticket.

To get the best value for money, always check to see if a Railcard is available to you – this can save up to 1/3 off your fare. Check out our ‘How to save on train travel in Scotland ’ blog for more cost busting ideas.

What can I do indoors that won’t cost much?

Whether you're a local or a tourist, there are plenty of fun and inexpensive things to do indoors across Scotland. We've highlighted some options, so you can make the most of your days out, come rain or shine.

Museums and art galleries are always a great cheap day out. Most of them simply ask for a donation but that’s not obligatory, so you can enjoy a visit without it costing a penny. There are lots of fantastic museums to explore all across the country covering almost every topic imaginable. Here are some of our favourites:

The Riverside Museum is packed with all things transport related and is home to over 3,000 objects! Take a seat in an old subway train, wander an old Glasgow street and find yourself wowed by the huge steam engines on display. It’s a brilliant day out for all ages.

Closest station: Partick (10 minute walk)

This fantastic art gallery, museum and cultural centre celebrates the rich history of Stirling through a wonderful collection of exhibits. Spend a while enjoying the artwork of Thomas Stuart Smith, known as ‘The Man Who Could Paint Anything.’

Closest station: Stirling

As soon as you step outside Dundee station you’ll spot the eye-catching building housing the V&A Museum situated on the city’s waterfront. Home to a fantastic array of free and paid-for exhibits, the museum is a must-visit when in the city.

Closest station: Dundee

See more museums and art galleries by train here

If you fancy enjoying an attraction or two, but don’t want to splurge out too much, that’s where travelling by train pays off. There are attractions all across Scotland that offer 2FOR1 entry, or free entry for a child, when you show your train ticket. From scaring yourself (and a friend) silly at the Edinburgh Dungeons to relaxing amidst the beautiful surroundings of a country house or gardens, there are a lot of attractions to choose from.

For those of you who love a thrill, the Dungeon is perfect for you. Immerse yourself in Edinburgh’s dark history as you take an underground journey through the city’s murky past with live actors and thrilling rides. Feeling brave enough? Book your tickets in Advance to get your 2FOR1 entry.

Closest station: Edinburgh Waverley

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Step on board the iconic ship Discovery to learn all about her beginnings in Dundee to the famous expedition with Captain Scott. Take a wander through the extensive galleries featuring photos, films and artefacts, plus lots of interactive exhibits too.

Closest station: Dundee

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Take a trip beneath the surface of Loch Lomond to discover all the wonderful creatures that live there. Get hands on at the interactive rockpools and come face to face with sharks, rays and many others in the tropical ocean tunnel. Book in advance to enjoy your 2FOR1 entry.

Closest station: Balloch

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Riverside Museum and Tall Ship

What about free things to do outdoors?

We’re so lucky in Scotland to be blessed with stunning outdoor spaces. You don’t even need to venture miles into the middle of nowhere to enjoy some beautiful sights – our towns and cities are filled with glorious outdoor spaces too! We’ve popped down just a few ideas, so grab your waterproof (because it’s Scotland after all, and you never know when you’re going to need it), pull on a comfy pair of shoes and head outdoors to enjoy our beautiful country.

Hop off the train at Milngavie and enjoy the 20-minute walk into the park. Alternatively, take your bike and enjoy a leisurely cycle. This park has something for everyone with lots of nature trails and a couple of fantastic playparks too.

Closest station: Milngavie

This gorgeous park on the outskirts of Glasgow is perfect for combining a walk, a play in the playpark, a stroll around the fascinating Burrell Collection (which is also free), and perhaps even a visit to Pollok House, where you can get 2FOR1 entry when you show your train ticket. Hop on the train at Glasgow Central and get off ten minutes later at Pollokshaws West. It’s then just a five-minute walk into the park.

Closest station: Pollokshaws West

With woodlands, grasslands, and lochs to enjoy at Drumpellier Country Park, it’s a fantastic park to explore, whatever the weather. Enjoy a stroll along the nature trails, burn off some energy in the adventure playparks or relax in the café and visitor centre. There really is something for everyone here.

Closest station: Blairhill

The loch at Drumpellier Country Park

Botanic Gardens are another wonderful way to feel at one with nature. The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is around a twenty-minute walk from Waverley station, or a short bus ride away. The 70-acre gardens are home to a rich variety of species from all over the world and you can get a fantastic view of the city from there too.

Closest station: Edinburgh Waverley

Take a leisurely half-hour stroll from the station along the banks of the River Ness and over the Ness Islands before arriving at the city’s Botanic Gardens. The UK’s most northerly Botanic Gardens are home to a huge variety of colourful plants and flowers. If the weather’s a bit nippy, pop into The Tropical House to warm up – it’s been dubbed the ‘hottest’ spot in the Highlands.

Closest station: Inverness

Situated in the city’s West End, around a 20-minute walk from the closest station, Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens are a beautiful place for a wander, particularly on a sunny day. Take a stroll through the gardens or explore the fantastic array of plants inside the Glasshouses. There are a range of self-led trails you can follow around the Gardens and onto the Kelvin Walkway. For kids, the Minibeasts, Birds and Trees of the Botanics Trail is waymarked, and perfect for younger ones. The playpark is sure to be a hit with them too.

Closest station: Partick or Hyndland

Glasshouse at Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh

Perched atop a rocky outcrop, castles enjoy a dramatic stance overlooking their surroundings.

The most famous of the Scottish castles is of course Edinburgh Castle, and you can go right up to the castle entrance with no need for a ticket. The esplanade offers fantastic views over Edinburgh, the Pentland Hills and the River Forth to Fife.

Closest station: Edinburgh Waverley

Further inland, Stirling Castle stands tall over the city, again offering incredible views of the surrounding areas. From the castle’s esplanade you get fantastic views over to the National Wallace Monument, built in honour of renowned patriot William Wallace.

Closest station: Stirling

If you’re heading up north during the summer months, be sure to visit Dunrobin Castle. This picturesque castle looks like it’s come straight from a Disney movie, and its beautiful grounds and gardens are equally as impressive.

Closest station: Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle

If castles are just your thing, make sure you read our guide to our favourite castles accessible by train in Scotland.

What better way to enjoy a cheap day out than heading to the seaside? Whether you’re packing a picnic to spend the day there with kids, or just fancy taking your furry friend for a long walk with a change of scenery, Scotland has so many stunning beaches that can be enjoyed whatever the weather. Here are a few of our favourites:

Hop off the train at Aberdour station, making sure to enjoy the beautiful floral displays there, thanks to a fantastic team of volunteers. It’s then a 15-minute walk through the town to the beach. This charming beach has lovely views over the Firth of Forth and Inchcolm Abbey. In the summer months there’s a kid’s putting green and bouncy castle - perfect for a day by the water.

Closest station: Aberdour

This pretty seaside town is just 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train but feels a world away. Relax on the golden sands as you enjoy views over the water to the island of Craigleith and Bass Rock. During the summer there’s a putting green to enjoy too.

Closest station: North Berwick

Once you arrive at Troon station it’s a short five-minute walk down to the water. The white, sandy beach stretches for miles so it’s perfect for a long walk or a play in the sand - you’ll often see kite surfers here too. The beachfront play park is a great place to stop if the kids have any energy left after exploring the beach.

Closest station: Troon

Bench on the beachfront

Read our guide to plan your next day out to the coast.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Looking for a few more ideas for free things to enjoy outside? Have a read of our best picnic spots blog for some idyllic recommendations.

Getting active in the great outdoors

Scotland is one gigantic outdoor playground and if you love to get out there and explore on foot or by bike, there are so many opportunities to have a great time, whatever your ability.

Walking is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to get around, plus it has huge benefits for your physical and mental health. There are lots of fantastic walking routes across Scotland with something suitable for everyone’s ability. From coastal walking routes in Fife, to a more challenging hike along the West Highland Way, the train can drop you off at one stop then pick you up from another station once you’ve completed your walk – saving you having to retrace your steps.

See walking routes by train

Walking West Highland Way

If getting around on two wheels is more your thing, you’ll want to know about our Highland Explorer Carriages. These specially designed carriages run on the West Highland Line with space for 20 cycles, and large luggage racks for other sporting equipment.

Cycle reservations are compulsory to travel on this service, but they are free. The biking opportunities are endless between Glasgow and Oban so whether you choose to ride the route the whole way and set sail for biking on an island, or hop off en route for a ride, you’re sure to have a great time.

Find out more about the Highland Explorer

People riding bicycles near Lake Lochnagar

Ready to plan your cheap day out?
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Useful links

  • Kids for a Quid : Up to four children travel for £1 return each with an adult.
  • Advance: Save up to 60%* on train travel across Scotland with our Advance Single tickets.
  • Group travel and discounts: Save money when you travel as a group of three or more.
  • Railcards: Great way to save money if you travel regularly.