ScotRail and Two Scots Abroad
Cobbled streets, fine dining, modern art, and over 300 years of history!
You'd be mistaken if you thought I was talking about Scotland's capital. Sure all of these attractions can be found in Edinburgh but they also exist within an hour of the city, which makes taking day trips from Edinburgh an alternative idea for your days off this winter.
Trigger warning - Scotland has not been known for its great transport connections and many guides encourage you to hire a car but now ScotRail offers a two-day hop on/off Edinburgh Days Out ticket for £18 (£34 for families), making Alba's top attractions within one-hour of the city easily accessible and affordable. It's a good deal - Inverkeithing to Falkirk return is £14 for one day. So what did we (Gemma and Craig) get up to with our weekend escape?
Edinburgh - South Queensferry (Dalmeny)
One of my favourite spots in Scotland is South Queensferry. Usually packed full of tourists with chippies in hand during the summer months, this quaint town is silent come the colder season.
I love the imposing Forth Rail Bridge sitting over the rippling Firth of Forth. In November, boats are docked, the air is crisp, and shop windows advertise festive gifts.
We mooched about the high street popping into the local gift shops, which sell modern Scottish presents as well as non-Scotland related products. You can always get an alternative greetings card and something unusual in South Queensferry.
It was chilly so we nipped into Picnic Coffee Shop for some winter veg soup, a toastie, and this deluxe in a cup monster hot chocolate with an additional side of more melted chocolate to top up with!
South Queensferry - Falkirk (via Haymarket)
What's over 30 metres high and weigh over 300 tonnes, each? Scotland's newest landmarks stand tall and, I'm embarrassed to say, I had not seen the Kelpies up close and personal until this rail trip. The mystical beasts are just as beautiful in the steel as they are on Instagram. We arrived at dusk to very few tourists (taxi driver told us thousands visits The Helix Park on a warm day). This meant we could watch the sky dim and the purple lights twinkle through the gaps in the metal.
Tip: Falkirk has two stations. Falkirk High (3 miles from the Kelpies) has more trains passing through but Falkirk Grahamston is slightly closer at 2 miles. We took a taxi from the centre of town, walking through the 'kicking off Christmas' event.
Edinburgh - Dalkeith (Eskbank)
Dalkeith is not a town I've visited before but it is one I’ll be bringing Bowie, our German Shepherd/Husky, back to, if I can get her past the train doors (thanks to the ScotRail staff for the encouragement!). Dalkeith Country Park is quiet at this time of year, you only hear the water and the birds tweet. Dalkeith Country House is lost among the oranges, yellows and greens of the leaves, but that's not the true gem of this park just outside of the city - the Restoration Yard is.
Set up in the 18th-century stables, you'll find this fairy lit cafe stuffed with tantalising cakes and a shop with cool gifts for Christmas such as pineapple lights and local gin.
Note: Eskbank train station is 1.5 miles from the park.
Eskbank - Edinburgh
Christmas cheer wouldn't be quite complete without a visit to the Edinburgh Christmas Markets for gluhwein and good times. This year I added a new experience to my list. The Ice Adventure, you can take a chilly stroll through Scotland's history, look out for the unicorn. It's cool!
Edinburgh - North Queensferry
Taking a train ride to North Queensferry means you get to travel over the Forth Rail Bridge to the Kingdom of Fife. This tiny picturesque village is far calmer than its southern counterpart but still offers beautiful views of the bridges as we draw to a close on our hop on/off Edinburgh days out adventure.
Readers always ask when is the best time to visit Scotland and naturally I respond with the age old joke that summer was nice last year, that one Wednesday in July. Scotland has a different feel to it post Fringe Festival; it is fresh and calmer. Edinburgh starts to heat up with the Christmas markets late November so if crowds put you off, head out of the city to discover new turf.
Gemma Armit, the Scotland travel blogger, is the fingers and lens behind the incredibly useful travel site Two Scots Abroad and part owner of the SEO support site and consultancy team Make Traffic Happen. You can also find Two Scots Abroad on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest