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Scotland by train: A 7-Day Travel Itinerary

Sunday 22 March 2020

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When planning your next holiday, why not take a leaf out of the Queen’s book and take a trip to Scotland? While Balmoral might be a little bit out of your budget, you can still enjoy a stately tour round Bonny Scotland, just like royalty.

As seen in The Crown, the Queen likes to take the train up to Scotland, which is what we’d recommend. We offer services from around the country so wherever you live you’ll be able to get to the starting point of Edinburgh. However, if you’d prefer to take a plane, or are starting your trip from overseas, flying into Edinburgh Airport is your best bet.

We’ve put together a 7-day itinerary, pulling together some of our favourite Scottish tourist attractions, plus a couple of ideas to take you off the beaten track with CrossCountry.

Day 1 – Edinburgh

Our itinerary starts in Edinburgh, but don’t worry, there’s no need to pack everything into one day, as you’ll be back in a few days. To stretch out your legs and explore the city, we recommend trying one of these wonderful walks around Edinburgh’s 7 Hills. Although the walks are a great choice in winter, they’re even more spectacular in the summer if the weather is good – you may be able to get some unbeatable views from Arthur’s Seat.

Enjoy spectacular views over Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat, these three friends are overlooking the whole town, so it’s easy to see why it’s a popular stop on a Scottish itinerary.

If you’re keen to start off your holiday in style, why not have a celebratory dinner at Number One? It’s one of our favourite Michelin Starred restaurants on our network, and is perfect for omnivores and vegetarians alike. The menu focuses on incredible Scottish ingredients, which makes it perfect for setting the scene of all you’re about to see.

Day 2 – Dunbar

Those of you who took our advice and travelled up to Edinburgh by train will have come along the spectacular section of track which connects Newcastle to Edinburgh. These, in our opinion, are some of the prettiest views from any train in the world. Pay attention on your train journey down to Dunbar – you wouldn’t want to miss the iconic sights.

Dunbar, in East Lothian, Scotland, is one of our top recommendations for summer holiday destinations in the UK. You could easily spend weeks here, exploring the over 40 miles of stunning coastline, pretty villages, cultural attractions and amazing food. If your family are keen golfers, it may be worth extending your stay here to take advantage of the world-class golfing.

If you’re following our itinerary and you’re only here for a few hours, we recommend exploring Dunbar town. Explore the tangle of streets, which wind around shops, churches and historic buildings, revealed like gems around every corner. Kids will love Dunbar East Beach just minutes from the High Street, so once you’ve explored buy yourselves a net and poke around in some of the rockpools.

Day 3 – Edinburgh

Back in the city after a day out exploring the countryside, why not take advantage of the hustle and bustle? Check out some of the amazing museums and galleries the city has to offer! There are loads to choose from, so learn about Scottish history at the National Museum of Scotland or the National War Museum, discover the toys of the past at the Museum of Childhood, or admire the art at the Scottish National Gallery. All the museums in Edinburgh are very reasonably priced, and the Scottish National Gallery is actually one of our favourite free things to do in Edinburgh.

Victoria Street in Edinburgh is not to be missed on a Scotland Itinerary, this iconic street is filled with brightly painted shops on two levels.

For those who prefer a bit of retail therapy, we recommend exploring the amazing range of shops and boutiques available around the city. For that serious Edinburgh aesthetic, Victoria Street can’t be beaten, with everything from a gourmet cheesemonger to shops selling whiskies, books, and even a joke shop. Nearby, Grassmarket also has a wide range of completely unique and bizarre shops, perfect for picking up a souvenir or small gift for a friend.

Day 4 – Glasgow

There’s absolutely tonnes to do in Glasgow, but as you’re only going to be in town for a short period, we recommend our guide to how to spend 24 hours in Glasgow. Our tips will help you hit all the top sites as well as get in some art and culture, AND some retail therapy. Can’t say fairer than that! Make sure you don’t sample too many beers at the Drygate Brewing Company, which is the last stop on our suggested itinerary, as you’re only halfway through the week and still have loads to do!

Take in some art at Kelingrove Art Gallery, a beautiful brick building with turrets and arches, in Glasgow.

Of course, if you’re not keen to have an action-packed day, we recommend trying out a couple of the free things to do in Glasgow. Or if the weather is great, and you’d rather explore outdoors, why not visit Cuningar Loop? Here you can try bouldering and explore the network of paths.

Day 5 – Dundee

Dundee can be a bit overlooked when it comes to holidaying in Scotland, but there’s plenty to do in this vibrant little city. The city is home to the only Victoria and Albert museum outside of London, which opened in 2018 and is a great place to find out more about Scotland’s incredible design heritage. In fact, it’s one of our favourite things to do in Scotland!

Dundee is home to the only V&A museum outside of London. This spectacular modern building is beautiful from the outside with slatted stone exterior.

While you’re in the city, we recommend heading out to Broughty Ferry. Known locally as “The Ferry”, it’s the perfect place to spend long summer evenings. With a seaside location, the area is known for its pubs and restaurants which pack this small suburb. A great place to grab a glass of wine and relax after a busy day of sightseeing.

Day 6 – Kircaldy

One of the smaller stops on our itinerary, Kircaldy gives visitors the opportunity to experience a slightly different side of Scotland. This coastal town is the perfect place to get outdoors. Kircaldy beach is one of our favourite beaches in the UK, and is just a short walk from the station. It’s perfect for getting some fresh air and admiring the views.

Another reason for a stop in Kircaldy on this itinerary is the fresh, locally caught seafood available in the area. With a much less touristy vibe than any of our other stops, here you can really enjoy seafood as the locals do. Our pick is The Waterfront, but you can find a whole range of pubs, restaurants and cafes serving delicious local catch.

Day 7 – Aberdeen

This is the last stop on our itinerary, but it’s one of our favourites. With fewer tourists than Edinburgh, or even Glasgow, you can really take your time to enjoy some of the attractions on offer. One of the activities we recommend is going on a whale or dolphin cruise from Aberdeen Harbour. You can really get to know the wildlife of the area this way and see some of Aberdeenshire’s amazing coastline. Alternatively, if you want to get a taste of coastal living but not actually get wet, we recommend exploring Footdee. This quirky neighbourhood is bright and colourful and filled with nautical details.

The unique neighbourhood of Footdee is a must see while in Aberdeen. The coloured houses, flower gardens and nautical details are not to be missed.

In Aberdeen it stays light until past 11pm in the summer, so make the most of the evening light and explore Aberdeen’s food and drink scene. With restaurants catering to every taste, from vegans to those wanting to sample some local Aberdeenshire steaks, there really is something for everyone. Friendly pubs and bars also crowd the old city, with its cobbled streets and imposing 15h-century cathedral.

Extend your stay

If you’re looking to extend your stay why not take a trip to Inverness before you head home? Although it’s not on the CrossCountry network, you can still buy your tickets on our site, along with all the other tickets you need for this itinerary.

Exploring Scotland by train is an excellent option, and CrossCountry has services running from all over the country. You can buy tickets on our website or Train Tickets app, and remember to check out our cheap tickets page to see how you can save money on your travel with CrossCountry.

For more travel inspiration, why not check out our 7-day Cornwall by train Itinerary, or for a range of UK holiday ideas, check out our blog for loads of staycation inspiration.

Written by Seb

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