Our regular readers will know that we love exploring Scotland, so when the opportunity to try out Scotrail’s new Edinburgh Days out explorer ticket came along, we jumped at the chance.
Scotrail’s City Days Out Ticket
For just £18 per adult or £34 for a family ticket (two adults and two children) you have unlimited hop-on hop-off, off-peak travel to destinations around one hour away from Edinburgh. There’s a handy map showing the stops available from Edinburgh here. Glasgow also has a similar ticket available, so whether you are in the East or West, you can explore far and wide with these tickets.
Edinburgh and Glasgow both have so much to offer locals and visitors, but there are also so many great destinations on our doorstep that we often never visit. The Scotrail City Days Out ticket makes it so easy to travel around central Scotland, stopping where you fancy and then heading off to your next destination – it puts you in control. Start your adventure by visiting any manned station to purchase your ticket and then hop on the train and let the adventure begin!
Whether you are looking for a great way to spend a few days during the school holidays or are looking for a relaxing way to show your visitors Scotland, we highly recommend checking out the City Days Out Ticket. To give you some inspiration about where to go, here’s what we managed to get up to over our two days.
Day 1: Saturday
Train from Edinburgh to Stirling – approx 53-minute journey.
We arrived at Edinburgh Waverley with time to spare before our departure so decided to pop into the kiosk for a takeaway coffee for our trip. We had set off early on Saturday morning to try to fit in as much sightseeing as possible, so the coffee was a very welcome kick start. We settled into our table seat and started planning the next stage of the journey thanks to the onboard wifi. After recently spending two weeks travelling around Italy by train, we were impressed by Scotrail’s facilities – the seats were comfortable, the trains clean and service friendly. The 53-minute trip flew by, and we were soon arriving in Stirling.
Breakfast in Stirling at Toast
Our first stop before heading out to see the sights was breakfast at Toast. This trendy local cafe is situated over the bridge in the Springkerse area just behind the station. When we arrived at about 9am the place was packed with folks enjoying hearty breakfasts. We chose a bacon, egg and roasted tomato bagel and a bacon, cream cheese, avocado and watercress bagel (£5.95) – both were delicious.
Some culture at Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
We’ve visited Stirling a few times and explored the Castle and Argyll’s Lodgings. These are widely regarded as Stirling’s main tourist attractions and would certainly be on a first-time visitor’s “Stirling To Do List.” However, as we had visited both already, we decided to skip the castle and explore a bit wider. Nothing in Stirling is too far from the station, so we took a short walk to the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum which has various exhibitions and houses a large number of interactive exhibits about Stirling’s history, making it an ideal stop for children. On the way, you can stroll through the city centre, view the old town walls and admire statues of Robert Burns and Rob Roy.
You could easily spend a whole day in Stirling, but we wanted to see as much as possible using our two day Edinburgh City Days Out Pass so having never been to the Falkirk Wheel we decided to make Falkirk our next stop – it’s only a 17-minute train hop away.
Train from Stirling to Falkirk Grahamston – approx 17-minute journey
Falkirk’s main tourist attractions are the Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies. We decided to pick the Falkirk Wheel after it got rave reviews from Raymond’s sister and the family. Lunch and a pint were in order first, so we visited the Artisan Tap just up the hill from the station.
Lunch at Artisan Tap
The Artisan Tap have a few venues around the UK that specialise in local beer and good simple food. Their menu offers a range of pizzas, burgers, burritos, and flatbreads, so there’s something for everyone. With perfectly chilled pints of West and Harvieston Beer in hand, we made our choices. I decided to have the Chicken Club Wrap with Chips and Coleslaw (£5!) and Raymond chose the Halloumi Burrito again £5. We loved our lunch and felt we got excellent value for money.
The Falkirk Wheel
We were excited to be visiting the Falkirk Wheel as it’s an amazing feat of engineering standing at over 35m tall (the equivalent of 8 Double Decker buses all piled on top of each other) and takes boats from the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal and vice versa. We had planned a guided fifty-minute boat trip to experience the rise and fall of the wheel for ourselves. The sail was excellent, the tour informative and we thoroughly recommend a visit. You can find out all about booking your tickets here.
There are a lovely cafe and gift shop to wander around and enjoy tea and a slice of cake after your sail.
Train from Falkirk Grahamston to Linlithgow – approx 13-minute journey
Linlithgow Palace and Loch
Our next stop was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, Linlithgow. It’s just a 13 minutes train ride away from Falkirk, so we jumped on the next train and headed to the impressive Linlithgow Palace and Loch. Historic Scotland looks after the palace, and you can pay to enter and have a wander around the well-preserved ruins. If it’s a nice day, walk around the loch where you can take lots of pictures of the Palace from below. Outlander fans might recognise the facade of Wentworth Prison from series one which was filmed here. If by now you’ve had too much history for one day, the town has lots of lovely independent shops, cafe’s and bars to enjoy and rest your weary feet in.
We decided to stop off at Cafebar 1807 in the main street for pre-dinner cocktails. It’s just opened recently, and they seem to have found their feet quickly as the service and cocktails were both excellent.
One of the huge benefits of taking the train rather than a car is that you can stop and enjoy a wee drink on the way! Very relaxing.
Dinner at The Chop and Ale House
We dined at The Chop and Ale House which is little brother to the famous Champany Inn. The ethos of great service and excellent produce is consistent though, and the steaks we enjoyed were the best we have ever had. The Chop and Ale House have their in-house butcher who buys in whole carcasses and then prepares them for diners. If the steak was fantastic, so were the fluffy chips that tasted like the best chip shop chips you’ve ever had. The chef cooks them in beef dripping, and you can tell – they are exceptional. The Ale and Chop House don’t take bookings and are usually busy, so you might need to be prepared to wait your turn. On our visit the restaurant was full, and folks were waiting up to about 45 minutes and nobody was complaining about having to wait. Sit down with a Harris Gin and Tonic and wait your turn – it’s worth it! The only thing we weren’t very sure about was the frilly aprons, but see what you think!
Train from Linlithgow to Edinburgh – approx 20 mins
Homeward bound for the bright lights of Edinburgh. What a fantastic day we had hopping on and off the trains and visiting Stirling, Falkirk, and Linlithgow. We managed to pack loads in, and the great thing about our pass is that it allows travel on two consecutive days. On day two we are heading over the iconic Forth Bridge to Fife.
Day 2: Sunday
Train from Edinburgh to Aberdour – 20 minutes
After a later start on Sunday morning, we travelled from Edinburgh to Aberdour. We were so looking forward to this part of the trip as it meant heading over the Forth Bridge towards North Queensferry and on to Aberdour. As you leave Dalmeny station, the tree and bush lined railway tracks open up, and it feels like you are flying through the sky as you cross the Forth. From one side of the train, you can see the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing and on the other the islands of the Forth. The sun was shining as we crossed the bridge and it felt magical.
We arrived in the picturesque village of Aberdour just before lunch and wandered towards the shore for our lunch at A Room with a View. Aberdour feels well to do, and they take great pride in their village’s appearance winning gold medals in Britain in Bloom, Beautiful Scotland and Beautiful Fife.
Lots of new small independent businesses are popping up making this a lovely village to wander around and shop local (check opening times as they can vary).
Lunch at Room with a View
We visited Room with a View for lunch and my goodness, it certainly has a view. Located right on the shoreline peninsula, the hotel (they have three rooms with a view too!) and restaurant looks right across the Forth to the Edinburgh skyline at one side, Inchcolm Island in the middle with fantastic views of the Abbey and then the Forth Rail Bridge in the distance. We could easily have sat for hours just enjoying the view.
The seafood restaurant has an interesting menu with a good number of choices. I chose mussels in cider, red onion, and creme fraiche liquor (£6.95) and Raymond went for the prawn and chorizo pate with oatcakes (£7.25) for a starter.
Raymond’s main course was poached monkfish tail stuffed with Thai green curry prawns, wrapped in sushi nori seaweed with lime and coconut rice and a banana cream drizzle (£17.95), and I had pan-fried seabass fillet on a smoked haddock and leek risotto and asparagus puree.(£16.25). The dishes were both delicious and a real Sunday afternoon treat.
Desserts sounded very interesting, so we shared a salted caramel and sticky toffee pudding eton mess, and yes it did taste as good as it looks – three desserts for the price of one (£5.75)
After lunch, we walked over the cliff path towards the blue flag awarded Silver Sands Beach, and plenty of folks were enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Sadly we hadn’t packed our trunks, so we vowed to come back another time and wandered off towards Aberdour Castle instead.
Aberdour Castle and Gardens is looked after by Historic Scotland and costs £6 per adult to enter. It’s probably Scotland’s oldest castle, built around the 1100s but Outlander fans will recognise the kitchen and the stables from series one.
Although a ruin, there’s plenty to see in the castle and it also has a lovely tea room and walled garden to enjoy.
It was time for us to catch the train back across the Forth Bridge to Dalmeny for South Queensferry and our final visit of the weekend. We made sure that we planned our seating so that we could enjoy the other side of the Forth Bridge crossing.
Train from Aberdour to Dalmeny – approx 16 minutes
After a little walk through the woods from Dalmeny station, we emerged right under the rail bridge, and the views from below are just as good. The three bridges, each built in different centuries, with such different construction styles provide fantastic photo opportunities, especially as the sun is setting.
South Queensferry is a lovely village to wander around, exploring the vennels (you can imagine there would have been pirates here!) and stopping for tea and cake or perhaps a beer or cocktail in one of the many cafe/bars with outside terraces overlooking the bridges. There’s also a few gift and sweet treat shops to buy some souvenirs or an ice cream.
From South Queensferry, you can visit Hopetoun House, Scotland’s most elegant stately home – a lovely long walk on a sunny day.
Orocco Pier for a bite to eat before heading home
After our South Queensferry wanders, we decided to pop into Orocco Pier for our tea and to view the bridges from their panoramic floor to ceiling windows in the bar. The bar is a great last stop before heading back to Edinburgh as the cocktails and food were good and the view from the window breathtaking.
Train from Dalmeny to Edinburgh approx 23 minutes
Heading back on the train to Edinburgh we reflected on what an amazing two days we had just enjoyed. Our two tickets must have saved us around £40 in fares and rather than having 14 different tickets between us we just had one pass each. It was straightforward to use and allowed us to decide at the last minute where to go next without worrying about having the right ticket. North Berwick and the new Border’s railway lines are also available on the Edinburgh City Days Out Ticket, so we are looking forward to exploring these other two lines over the summer.
Travelling by train off peak is such a relaxing way to get around the country, and for folks that love chilling over a nice lunch and a bottle of wine like us, you don’t need to worry about who’s driving!
How can I find out more and book my own City Days Out trip?
Full details of Scotrail’s Edinburgh and Glasgow City Days Out Tickets are available here. Check it out now and start planning your two-day Scottish exploration!
Many thanks to Scotrail for our kind invitation to try out their two-day Edinburgh City Days Out Ticket and to Scottish Canals for providing the sail on the Falkirk Wheel.