Edinburgh is only a short drive from some of the country’s most stunning national parks and historic towns. You won’t need your passport to see these impressive sights, but the dramatic landscapes and an unbeatable sense of tranquillity – or exhilaration if you’re more of a thrillseeker – will provide a brilliant escape. From romantic getaways to authentic camping experiences, we’ve noted down five of the best local weekend breaks right on your very doorstep.

Cairngorms National Park

Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Cairngorms National Park provides breathtaking scenery, ancient castles, and six distilleries that are perfect for a post-walk tipple. The UK’s largest National Park, it offers masses of activities such as water sports, snow sports, wildlife watching and incredible walking and cycling routes for all abilities. Grab your skis, as three out of the five Scottish Ski Centres are nestled within the park, or if the weather is warmer, enjoy white water rafting or horse riding.

Getting there and accommodation

From Edinburgh, a two and a half hour car journey takes travellers to the Cairngorms. The National Park boasts a wealth of accommodation, but Glenbeag Mountain Lodges is particularly tempting, with their idyllic log cabins set amidst Glensgee in the Glen of the Fairies offering hot tubs 1,100 feet above sea level.


One of Scotland’s most picturesque towns, Culross takes visitors back in time to the 16th century. Striking white-harled and red-tiled houses line the streets, and the well-preserved Town House is a visitor favourite, with accused witches once being held and tried here. The mustard-coloured Culross Palace boasts antique rooms, winding passageways and a rich history as a former merchant’s house. History lovers can walk down the cobbled alleyway known as Back Causeway, complete with a raised aisle that originally segregated noblemen and those who were considered to be ‘commoners’.

Getting there and accommodation

The 23-mile journey from Edinburgh to Culross is easiest via a 30-minute drive. The Den at Culross provides a beautiful cottage on a working farm – with the luxury of a summerhouse and a hot tub – situated just a short walk from the historic village.

Galloway Forest Park

Offering picturesque forest walks, stunning wildlife, a colourful history of ancient battles and world-famous mountain biking trails, Galloway Forest Park is a must-visit. It is the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, having received a Gold Tier status for its exceptionally rare stargazing conditions. The 300-square-mile forest is mostly void of people, making the night’s 7,000 stars and planets visible to the naked eye. One of the best places to stargaze is Clatteringshaws Loch, which is home to a visitor centre conveniently situated in one of the park’s darkest areas.

Getting there and accommodation

The park is just over two hours by car from Edinburgh, sitting south of the city. Glentrool Camping and Caravan site is the only campsite within the park, perfect for a genuine outdoor experience. For anti-campers, Kirroughtree Country House is an 18th century mansion offering upscale dining and eight acres of private grounds.

East Neuk

East Neuk’s charming towns are a must for those seeking refuge from the city. Anstuther’s fish and chips taste better than the fresh air of the harbour, whilst Crail’s cobbled streets play host to a mouthwatering annual food festival each June. White dunes and crystal shores offer a perfect setting to relax after lunch, and miles of golden sand at Kingsbarns and Elie Harbour are ideal for water sports enthusiasts. The coastal path leads to more award-winning beaches, historical monuments and stunning wildlife, and the Isle of May’s National Nature Reserve is just a short boat ride away, offering visitors a chance to see puffins in their natural habitat.

Getting there and accommodation

East Neuk sits 45 miles outside Edinburgh, and is just under an hour’s drive or train ride away. Holidaymakers can rest their bones in the cosiness of a Snowdrop tent at Cambo Glamping, a self-catered restored fort at Dairsie Castle or the luxury Fairmont St Andrews resort.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond is set in a mountainous landscape of vast tranquillity. The leafy heights of its surrounding highlands offer spectacular views, whilst the babbling brooks of Puck’s Glen and Benmore’s Botanical Garden facilitate exciting encounters with nature. Footpaths and cycle trails criss-cross the craggy Ben Lomond Mountain, complete with waterfalls and ancient Scottish pinewoods. The diverse landscape, which varies from woodland and heathland to grassland and marshland, provides terrain for all hiker abilities, and habitats for a variety of wildlife. Animal lovers may be able to spot otters, red squirrels and striking red deer. Across the Loch, Luss Heritage Path winds through the rolling countryside and the stone cottages of Luss village.

Getting there and accommodation

The village of Balloch, at the foot of Loch Lomond, is only a 90-minute drive from Edinburgh. Cameron House Lodges offer luxury accommodation with panoramic views of the Loch from each terrace, whilst five-star rustic holiday home The Strone is just a short walk from the water’s edge.