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I'm planning a trip to the UK for next year and we intend to make Edinburgh our point of arrival. The group I'm with are all avid hikers and would probably love to see some of the Scottish countryside and it strikes me that it would be more convenient to stay outside Edinburgh and make a day trip or two in. Hopefully it will be cheaper to stay outside Edinburgh too :) The group has not visited the UK before.

With that in mind, can anyone recommend a town that is:

  • close enough to Edinburgh (1-2 hours on the train) that we can visit it in a day
  • small/picturesque/'countryside'-like
  • has access to hiking routes that can be hiked in day trips.

I hope this isn't too tall an order!

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How serious are you about your hiking? Do you want a gentle 2 hour walk, or are you intending to blast it up a couple of Munros per day? –  Gagravarr Aug 9 '11 at 22:38
    
I think no more than a 6 hour walk in one day (from the hotel and back). We're all very experienced hikers and in good shape, what matters most is the views, the experience, etc. I want to show them something of Scottish countryside and not just crowded urban centres. –  victoriah Aug 9 '11 at 22:52
    
Do you want to see mountains, see and walk up mountains, or are hills enough? If you go north into the Highlands then you've the former, or you can south into the lovely (hilly rather than mountainous) borders –  Gagravarr Aug 9 '11 at 22:55
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3 Answers 3

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If you're into your hiking into a big way, then Crianlarich is a good base for a few days. It's in the Highlands about 2 hours by train from Glasgow, so just shy of 3 from Edinburgh (so only slightly out of your ideal range...)

There's a Youth Hostel (SYHA) there, which provides a great and cheap base for exploring the area. It's round the corner from the Crianlarich Hotel which does swisher rooms if that's more your thing. The hotel also does a decent priced meal, has a stunning selection of whisky, and is a great place to relax post walking!

You've about a dozen Munro Mountains walkable from there, and it's on the West Highland Way for a slightly less mountainous set of walks. You have a number of buses and trains from there, so you can easily arrange a walk where you start or end somewhere else. The scenery around there is stunning too.

It's not a "big" place, but it's big enough if you mostly want to walk, and it's very well connected transport wise (by highland standards anyway!).

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For another option, I'd suggest you first nip into the nearest library, and borrow their copy of the Lonely Planet "Walking In Scotland", which is an excellent source of inspiration and basic information.

Armed with that, if you want hills rather than mountains, then the Scottish Borders are your best bet. Walking In Scotland has a whole chapter on this area. I'm a big fan of the area around Hawick (especially some of the villages about), which is surrounded by the Teviot Hills, but it is a bit of a faff to get to by public transport... There's no train nearby, so you're going to have to get a bus.

That said, there are fairly regular buses from Hawick into Edinburgh, as the X95 from Carlisle to Edinburgh runs through there. If you'd rather one of the villages nearby, that's when things start to get really tricky. Some friends used to live in Denholm, which had a lovely pub and great walks nearby, but we always had to get there by car.

Hawick itself seems a pleasant enough town (I've not spent much time there), with several options for places to stay. A quick google reveals a number of walking routes from there, either along the valley or up into the hills. If you don't want mountains, you should find plenty of nice hills around here.

Otherwise, look through the Walking In Scotland section for the Scottish borders, and look for descriptions of other places and walks near hear that inspire you!

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There is plently walking to be found within easy reach of Edinburgh. Just south are the hills of the borders. To the north is Fife. A little further north and west and you get into the Highlands area where the country side becomes significantly more mountainous but still has something for every level from walker to climber.

Midlothian Council publish a booklet, downloadable as a PDF, of walks near Edinburgh: Explore Midlothian Walking. Probably the easiest area of hiking to reach near Edinburgh is the Pentland Hills Regional Park. This range of hills is directly due south of Edinburgh city.

Going slightly further south, you will find the attractive Border town of Peebles. This is a small town but has good services and is within easy reach of Edinburgh by public transport such as bus or coach services. There is plenty walking in the countryside nearby. One such walk is the John Buchan Way which runs 22km (18 miles) form Peebles to Broughton.

If you want to get into the Highlands, probably the easiest place to reach from Edinburgh is the small but historic town of Callader at the edge of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. To get here from Edinburgh, first take either a bus or train to the city of Sterling then transfer to another bus to Callader. The journey should be possible in just over 2 hours. A large range of walks, of every level, may be taken from here.

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+1 for the Kingdom of Fife - very picturesque fishing villages and a nice trail along the water all the way to St. Andrews. –  Jan Jul 16 '12 at 13:08
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