I reckon that if you want to explore the countryside, small towns and villages around Edinburgh in Scotland, you really need a car. Public transport can be expensive and/or infrequent. Having your own transport makes you much more flexible with timings and if you are enjoying a location/attration, you can stay for longer than planned. Plus you can carry a lot more gear with you e.g. a picnic and change of clothes for the four seasons in a day which you may encounter.
Highland cattle & calves at Paxton House in the Scottish Borders
Here are my suggested itineraries for three day trips by car from Edinburgh.
The dog-head shaped Kingdom of Fife lies north of Edinburgh. You’ll need to cross the clearly signed Forth Road Bridge to get there. A few miles after the Bridge, you can turn off into Dunfermline to visit Dunfermline Abbey and Pittencrieff Park.
The Glen in Pittencrieff Park
From Dunfermline, head east on the A921 coastal road to visit the beaches in Aberdour and Burntisland.
Then continue along the A921 to Kirkcaldy to pick up the A92 dual carriageway. A few miles north of Glenrothes, join the A912 heading for Falkland. Just outside the village is a single track road which takes you half way up Falkland Hill. It’s not too arduous to climb to the peak for wonderful views. There are plenty of picnic beanches and toilets at the car park, so it’s a good spot for a picnic. If you’re interested in Scottish history you can visit Falkland Palace.
View from Falkland Hill
I’d suggest heading for St Andrews next. You’ll need to double back to the roundabout to take the A914 in the Cupar direction. Once you reach Cupar, join the A91 for St Andrews. If you have time, take a detour east (taking the A916 south of Cupar and then the B939) to the the pretty village of Ceres, which is home to the Fife Folk Museum. You can buy some locally made pottery at Griselda Hill Pottery.
Display cabinet at Griselda Hill Pottery
From Ceres, you can either continue on the B939 to St Andrews or head east on the B940 (crossing the A915) to the fishing village of Crail.
Don’t think that St Andrews is only for golf lovers, there are wonderful beaches, St Andrews Castle and a good selection of cafes and restaurants.
St Andrews from the pier
You can get back to Edinburgh quickly by sticking to a major road if you take the A91 which joins the M90 motorway back to the Forth Road Bridge.
My East Lothian day trip itinerary starts in Musselburgh, reached by the A1 and A199. There’s a car park at the beach and you can walk along the prom and the riverside. Inveresk Lodge Gardens are beautiful.
Inveresk Lodge Gardens
Miners of Prestongrange Colliery in 1911
A few miles further east, there are several car parks for a stop at Longniddry Bents for a walk along the beach.
You’ll join the A198 to stay on the coastal road. There are beautiful views at the Aberlady Nature Reserve, just east of the village. The car park isn’t very well signed, so drive slowly as not to miss it.
If you’re interested in aviation, the Museum of Flight is seven miles from Aberlady, reached by the A6137 and B940 from Aberlady. If you do visit the museum, I suggest that you double back to re-join the A198.
Komet at the Museum of Flight
Direlton, just off the A198, is a picturesque village with a castle. Yellowcraigs Beach is close to the village.
In North Berwick you’ll find the Scottish Seabird Centre, you can climb Berwick Law or take a photography boat trip out to the gannet colony on Bass Rock.
The very white Bass Rock from the beach in North Berwick
The four ton ship propeller at Dunbar Harbour
From Dunbar, join the A1 dual carriageway back to Edinburgh.
Head south from Edinburgh on the A68. A few miles south of Earlston, turn right at the roundabout onto the A6091 and look out for signs for Melrose. There are a couple of National Trust gardens in the town, Priorwood and Harmony. Melrose Abbey is very atmospheric. There’s a path along the banks of the River Tweed.
Double back to re-join the A68 for Jedburgh. There’s another abbey here and a lovely walk along Jed Water.
The Clock Tower in Jedburgh
Head north out of Jedburgh to join the A698 to Kelso, where you’ll find Floors Castle.
Stay on the A698 to Coldstream. As you enter the town, the entrance to Hirsel Country Park is on your left. The Coldstream Museum here tells the story of the Coldstream Guards.
Bridge over the River Tweed in Coldstream
In Coldstream take the A6112. In Swinton join the B6461 to Paxton House. The Stables Tearoom serves very yummy cakes. As well as visiting the house, you can walk through the grounds and there’s usually an art exhibition at the Boat Shed.
As you continue on the B6461 east to join the A1, you’ll cross the border into England. Once you join the A1 you can either head straight back to Edinburgh, with a quick photo stop at the border layby where you re-enter Scotland, or take a detour to the town of Eyemouth, reached by the A1107, off the A1, around three miles north of the border.
Continue on the A1107 to Coldingham, where you turn right for the fishing village of St Abbs.
The East Coast Fishing Disaster of 1881 Memorial at St Abbs
You’ll need to drive back to Coldingham to re-join the A1107 for a scenic drive to get back on the A1.
Getting the Best Deal on Car Hire
Make sure that you get the best deal for car hire in Edinburgh by getting quotes from price comparison sites. Prices can vary quite a lot between suppliers. You also need to check out things like is there an additional fee for a second driver and the charges for child seats, sat nav etc. Beware of insurance excesses, which can run into several hundred pounds. The car hire company may offer you excess waiver insurance at a daily rate. However, it’s usually cheaper to purchase annual European car hire excess cover, costing around £50.