Escaping Edinburgh in 48 hours
Escape the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh with Laura Brown as she explores Linlithgow and South Queensferry with the Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass.
As much as the buzz and compact culture of Edinburgh is addictive, sometimes you need to go cold turkey! After a crammed week of work and commuting, I decided to escape for the weekend using ScotRail’s Edinburgh Days Out ticket. Over 48 hours, the unlimited travel pass allowed me to discover locations within an hour of Edinburgh by train, an easy and scenic way to explore Scotland.
Linlithgow: The life of Scotland’s royals
An ancient royal burgh in West Lothian, Linlithgow was once home to Scotland’s royals in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Now, it’s not only a commuter town just twenty minutes from the centre of Edinburgh but it also makes a great day trip destination packed with culture and cafés (my two must-haves on a weekend adventure!).
And so Day One of my Edinburgh Days Out tour kicked off. I left Linlithgow station and after strolling along the high street — flower boxes bursting with spring colour — I stopped at So Strawberry Caffe for lunch. Overlooking the burgh halls, I shovelled down a mozzarella pesto panini and a latte before repacking my book and heading uphill to the palace.
The remarkably-preserved ruins of Linlithgow Palace sit within the ‘peel’, an area of rolling grassy banks surrounding Linlithgow Loch. It’s a beautiful spot even excepting the impressive castle which towers from ground to fourth floor and garret. From the paths weaving by the waterside — with little boats floating slowly across the still water — you can get a picture-perfect view back towards the Palace and the iconic spire of Saint Michael’s Parish Church. What a place to escape Edinburgh! As I sat on a bench breathing the fresh air and watching the world go by, it was hard to believe I’d literally been on a train for twenty minutes yet felt this far away from my daily grind.
Inside, the Stewarts’ royal residence is even more impressive. The birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots, the thick quadrangle walls hide apartments, a chapel, a great hall and a gothic courtyard fountain. You could quite literally walk around the palace for hours (I did!) just getting lost within the cold stone corridors and finally reaching the tower with its epic outlook over Linlithgow town and its loch.
South Queensferry: Sunday by the seaside
Day Two of my Edinburgh Days Out tour would see me find another oasis just twenty minutes from the capital by train. After strolling to Waverley on Sunday morning, it was a swift journey north on the Glenrothes service to reach Dalmeny. The walk to adjacent South Queensferry was simply signposted and — after a gravelled jaunt under freshly-green trees — I found myself right underneath the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. I was sold already (and didn’t even have to stress about where I’d left the car).
The first thing I wanted to do — my standard when I arrive in a new place — was go for a wander. With the Forth Bridge to my right, I followed the road along the shore. There was a happy buzz here, with families, bikers, couples and tourists all enjoying the bursts of sunshine and the seaside setting.
It was a short walk from the ferry pier into South Queensferry itself as the road weaved slightly inland and more buildings appeared. What a quaint, storybook town! Like many of Scotland’s coastal settlements, the houses were right by the road with some painted bright hues of cherry pink. All the while as I walked, I spotted the lanes that led to the sea and the beautiful rail bridge.
Before I headed a bit closer to that iconic World Heritage Site, I needed a snack. There were a handful of twee cafés along the main thoroughfare — as well as the famed Orocco Pier — but I opted for The Little Bakery… and their not-so-little cakes! After downing a great coffee and a gigantic brownie, I was ready to hit the high seas.I’d booked a Forth Bridges Cruise with Forth Boat Tours, which was a fantastic way to round off the day. It was a short walk back to the pier, from where I stepped aboard and the skipper took us out onto the choppy waters of the Forth. We passed under the red beams of the Forth Bridge, islands dotted with ruins to our left and right, the waves rolling around the hull of an oil tanker as resident seabirds spun in the sky… There’s an incredible amount of history to be discovered in this section of the Forth — wartime wrecks, religious sanctuaries and natural wonders — which you’ll hear all about during the cruise.
After sailing underneath the three bridges, silhouetted against the sky in the fading afternoon light, I headed uphill to the train station. My face was gloriously windbeaten, my freckles brightening and — after two easy weekend escapes, so close to home but far enough away to feel like an adventure — I was ready for another week.