The Best Day Tours From Edinburgh For First-Time Visitors

Glencoe from car window on Highlands day tour

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Sit back and relax as a local expert guides you on the following day tours from Edinburgh. Reach rural and remote parts of Scotland featuring iconic landmarks such as castles, lochs, and mountains while learning more about history, culture, food, and drink without navigating public transport or maps! Whether you prefer a private, small group, or social coach, there are various options to choose from.

You may also enjoy our guide to Highlands tours.

Best Edinburgh Day Tours

Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour

With over 7000 reviews, this 1-day Highlands bus tour is ideal for people visiting Scotland for the first time or for locals who want to learn more about their home country!

The tour leaves Edinburgh for Stirling in the northwest, where you’ll see Stirling Castle from the bus window; this is where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned before the first refreshments stop at Kilmahog near Callander.

Here, you might just see a seasonal Highland coo!

Back on the bus, the tour drives through Rannoch Moor and the Black Mount to Glencoe while the driver regales the story of the 1692 Clan MacDonald massacre.

A lunch stop is offered at Fort William on the shores of Loch Linnhe; then it’s on to Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness, which guests can choose to tour for an additional fee.

The tour then regroups and heads towards a comfort stop at the Clansman Hotel, where visitors can choose between exploring the Old Coffin Road walk, doing a one-hour round trip cruise (additional fee), participating in a gin-tasting session (additional fee), or relaxing at the hotel before the drive back to Edinburgh but not without a stop at Pitlochry in pretty Perthshire.

The air-conditioned bus seats 16-53 people, and the price includes narration from an expert Scotland guide.

There are over 7000 reviews on GetYourGuide, with statements such as “lots of jokes and stories”, “knowledgeable in all of Scotland’s history”, and “definitely worth the money”.

Note: This will impact all of the Highland tours from Edinburgh in our guide, but the more rural you travel, the fewer options are available for hospitality during winter. It may be worth packing a lunch, giving you more time for sightseeing!

Also, wear layers to ensure maximum comfort on and off the coach.

  • Duration: 12.5 hours
  • Travel: Large bus, 16-53 people

Reserve your spot here.

Rannoch Moor Scotland West Highland Way

Loch Ness, Glencoe, Highlands & Ben Nevis

Another option for tours to Loch Ness from Edinburgh, which allows you to see all of the Scottish sights that most newcomers dream of, are featured during this coach trip.

Embark from Edinburgh’s Old Town and drive by Stirling Castle on the way to Callander, aka The Gateway to the Highlands, then through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Then, the guided bus tour takes the winding roads to majestic Glencoe, stopping for a photo opportunity of the famous Three Sisters hills, two of which are classified as Munros.

The tour continues through Fort William, passing by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles.

Lunch is enjoyed in the quaint canal town of St. Augustus, where visitors can take a boat tour of Loch Ness or relax by the Caledonian Canal.

The final leg takes in Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, Cairngorms National Park, Loch Laggan, Grampian Mountains, and the Pass of Drumochter before a comfort stop at Pitlochry in Perthshire.

The air-conditioned bus seats 6-57 people, and the price includes live onboard commentary.

There are over 4000 reviews on GetYourGuide, with statements such as “humorous and so informative,” “totally worth it,” and “storytelling was incredible.”

  • Duration: 12.5 hours
  • Travel: Bus, 16-57 people

Reserve your spot here.

Alternatively, please read our guide on how to get to Loch Ness by car, train, and bus.

Three Sisters hill and mountain scene of Glencoe Scotland Highlands

Glenfinnan, Fort William, & Glencoe Day Tour

Depart Edinburgh to visit the viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter movies during this Highlands tour!

The first comfort stop during the 12-hour journey is in Callander, then on to the dramatic landscape of Glencoe, which has been the backdrop of popular movies such as James Bonds’ Skyfall.

The next route hugs the banks of Loch Linnhe on the way to Fort William for a lunch break, fuelling up for the star of the show: the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

It’s surreal to think that this Victorian viaduct was built in 1897, and today, it is one of the most visited locations in the Scottish Highlands as this is where the Jacobite steam train that resembles Hogwarts Express passes four times a day to thousands of camera phone clicks and captures.

Glenfinnan is also home to the Black Lake, or Great Lake, that Hogwarts Castle overlooks, it is called Loch Shiel in real life.

This is where the boat rises from the water for the 700-year-old competition, the Triwizard Tournament in the Goblet of Fire.

Another landmark is the Glenfinnan Monument, a tribute to those who died in the 1745 Jacobite uprising, built in 1815.

The bus trip back to Edinburgh is broken up with a stop in Pitlochry.

There are over 2000 reviews on GetYourGuide, with statements such as “the views even from the coach are stunning”, “full of information”, and “informative and entertaining”.

  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Travel: Bus, 16 – 53 people

Reserve your spot at GetYourGuide or Viator.

A moody Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan Scotland

Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle & Kelpies Tour

This tour is a little shorter at nine hours and, like the above options, includes Loch Lomond and Stirling; however, it does not travel as far as Glencoe, Loch Ness, and Fort William.

A bonus with this shorter trip is that it visits the enchanting 100ft Kelpies located at The Helix; you honestly have to see them with your own eyes to appreciate how outstanding the craft by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott is.

The next stop is the largest loch in Scotland, Loch Lomond, where visitors can pay for an additional cruise before driving through the Highlands in Miniature, Trossachs National Park and a lunch stop.

The final leg is Callander driving by Doune Castle, an Outlander filming location, and a tour of Stirling Castle to learn about William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots.

The tour ends back in Edinburgh.

There are over 1000 reviews, such as “we saw a lot in one day” and “never a boring/dull moment”.

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Travel: Bus, 16 – 53 people

Reserve your spot here.

Huge metal statues of the Kelpies located in Falkirk Scotland

Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond & Whisky Tour from Edinburgh

Add a splash of scotch to your Edinburgh day tour with this 10-hour trip to a distillery.

The bus excursion leaves Edinburgh for Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, to visit the modern Clydeside Distillery, where guests can participate in a tour and tasting session for an additional fee.

Lunch can be bought at the next stop, Loch Lomond (Aberfoyle or Balmaha), with ample time to explore the shores before the final tourist attraction, Stirling Castle (additional fee).

There are hundreds of reviews, such as “an experience of a lifetime” and “a solid 5/5”.

Check out our whisky tours from Edinburgh guide for more one-day options.

  • Duration: 10 hours
  • Travel: Bus, 16 – 53 people

Reserve your spot here.

Stirling Castle blue skies train trips from edinburgh

Outlander Adventure Day Tour with Entry

Calling all Claire and Jamie fans, this 1-day Outlander tour visits five filming locations and several historic landmarks, too.

The first stop is Jamie’s home, Lallybroch, which is Midhope Castle in real life, and then it’s on to the striking Blackness Castle, aka Jack Randall’s headquarters.

Mary Queen of Scots’ birthplace, Linlithgow Palace or Wentworth Prison in Outlander land, is up next.

The palace was also used as a canvas in the Netflix TV show Outlaw King.

In the afternoon, the bus travels to Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, then Outlander’s Castle Leoch, which is called Doune Castle.

Here, you can listen to an audio guide that features a chapter spoken by the one and only Sam Heughan.

The final stop before returning to the city is Culross, Cranesmuir, the Fife village used for Claire’s herb garden (Culross Palace) and its historic streets.

Culross is also a filming location in Captain America: First Avenger.

There are hundreds of reviews such as “great stories along the way” and “highly recommend the tour”.

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Travel: Mercedes mini-coach, 16 people – small group tour from Edinburgh

Reserve your spot here.

Histporic Doune Castle Scotland with blue skies

Hogwarts Express and History Tour

You don’t have to travel to London’s Platform 9¾ to experience the Hogwarts Express as a Jacobite train chugs over Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, which you can witness during this Hogwarts Express tour.

The tour leaves Edinburgh for scenic Glencoe, then on to Fort William, passing Harry Potter filming locations such as Rannoch Moor, where the Death Eaters soar through the sky and abruptly board the train in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

During this trip, you will also learn more about Scottish history and the landmarks along the rugged road.

Alight the Hogwarts Express at Fort William and steam over the Victorian-era Glenfinnan Viaduct, which departs in Mallaig, where you can enjoy lunch.

Note: We have personally done this train ride, and the train itself, although beautifully historic, is not a replica of the Hogwarts Express, which disappoints some visitors.

After dining, the tour bus transfers you from Mallaig to the Glenfinnan Visitor Center so that you can watch the train thunder over the viaduct you just crossed.

There are hundreds of reviews such as “absolutely brilliant day” and “great guide and very knowledgeable”.

However, some reviews state that the Glenfinnan Visitor Center car park was fully occupied; therefore, they did not get to experience watching the train on the viaduct.

  • Duration: 13 hours
  • Travel: Bus with toilet facility

Reserve your spot here.

A moody yet lush trees around Glenfinnan Viaduct Scotland Highlands

St Andrews Tour From Edinburgh

We may be biased as we hail from The Kingdom of Fife, but we would love for visitors to consider this 1-day tour to see “it’s always sunny in Fife!”.

Leaving the city, the bus travels over the iconic Forth Bridge, which connects Edinburgh with Fife, then through the seaside village of Aberdour before stopping in the East Neuk villages of Anstruther, Pittenweem, Crail and St. Monans.

Popular day trips with locals, these charming villages are known for fishing trade, beaches, and witchcraft.

The next stop is St Andrews, which is famous for golf and the meeting place of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (Kate).

The tour then heads to the Lomond Hills and Falkland, an Outlander location where you can pose by Bruce Fountain as Jamie’s ghost does, looking up at Claire in Mrs Baird’s Guesthouse window.

On the way back to Edinburgh, the route passes Loch Leven and stops at the bustling South Queensferry to see the Forth Bridges in all of their glory.

There are hundreds of reviews such as “more than enough photo stops” and “enough time in all of our stops”.

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Travel: Bus, 16 – 53 people

Reserve your spot here.

Woman posing by Bruce Fountain in Falkland Fife, back to camera looking at Outlander's Mrs Baird B&B like Jamie's ghost

Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Britain 1-Day Tour from Edinburgh

Cross the border between Scotland and England during this bus tour to Hadrian’s Wall.

Departing Edinburgh in the morning, the first stop is Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders, one of 70 former royal burghs in the country, known for the 12th century Augustinian Abbey.

Next, the bus stops at Carter Bar, aka toll-gate, on the edge of the Cheviot Hills, which separates Scotland from England.

Now, for the main event, the route follows the south side of Hadrian’s Wall, with a stop at Steel Rigg, one of the best viewpoints of the wall, with Crag Lough Lake sitting in the distance.

Before returning to the city, visitors can add on an optional tour of the Roman auxiliary fort, Vindolanda.

There are hundreds of reviews such as “the landscape was amazing.” and “highlight of my trip to Scotland”.

  • Duration: 11 hours
  • Travel: 16-seat Mercedes mini-coach

Reserve your spot here.

Cloudy day over Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg on Hadrians Wall

Rosslyn Chapel Tours From Edinburgh

Learn about the myths of the Da Vinci Code during this 1-day trip to Rosslyn Chapel!

This six-hour tour itinerary features the lush Scott’s View, which overlooks the Tweed Valley in Melrose, a view loved by Sir Walter Scott before visiting the statue of William Wallace.

Then, the tour moves on to the 12th-century Melrose Abbey and the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.

A lunch stop is provided in Melrose before visiting the 15th-century Rosslyn Chapel, famous for its inclusion in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code book and movie, before driving back to Edinburgh.

There are hundreds of reviews, such as “couldn’t have been better.” and “a healthy dose of Scottish history”.

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Travel: 16-seat Mercedes mini-coach

Reserve your spot here.

Sunny day at Melrose Abbey Scotland

Final Words

From the north to south of the border, featuring castles, Munros, lochs, beaches, distilleries, battlefields, villages and cities, the itineraries on the above Scotland tours from Edinburgh will suit every visitor.

Which did you choose? Tell us in the comments.

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