Take The High Road: Student day trips in Scotland
Beaches, mountains, parks and problematic rocks – here are the places we recommend visiting when city life gets a bit too much
At uni you’ll spend many a drunken evening hatching grand plans for the future, slurring to each other that, yes, a stroll in the countryside is exactly what you need – in fact, why not tomorrow? At 9am? Yes. Blow out the hangover cobwebs with a huge country walk. What a good idea.
But while you eventually realise the timings may be a little too ambitious, some of the ideas don’t have to be as far-fetched as they seem in your hungover haze. Let’s just be realistic about when’s best to seize the day, shall we?
The seaside town of North Berwick is easy to get to by train from Edinburgh; the journey only takes around half an hour from Waverley station and costs as little as £6.90 for a return ticket. Here you’ll find a lovely café run by Steampunk Coffee, as well as the amazing Bostock Bakery (as featured in an issue of Good Food mag a few years back), the harbourside crab shack and, not least, a beach from which you can gaze upon celebrated bird shit-covered island, the Bass Rock. In short, it’s all very nice. Go.
Portobello is another beach location that’s easy to get to – another 30 minutes from the city centre, though this time by bus from Princes St or London Road. It's also an easy cycle along the North Edinburgh bike paths and sea front, or down the Innocent Railway path if you're coming from the Southside. There’s an outpost of favourite Edinburgh coffee and pastry shop Twelve Triangles, while on the beach itself there’s an art walk called Art Crawl Porty. Plus, there are arcades where you can go and play penny slots for a cheap and cheerful afternoon out. Head a bit further along the coast and you'll find Musselburgh, home to local ice cream favourites S. Luca's.
If it’s beaches you’re into (and why wouldn’t you be?), there’s also Cramond Beach, Gullane Beach and tonnes more to check out around Edinburgh. If you like hills and feeling, albeit briefly, like you're in the real life countryside, you can climb to the top of Arthur's Seat – only around an hour-round trip.
Millport, OBVS, aka the town on the island of Great Cumbrae off the coast of North Ayrshire – and something of a Scottish paradise. Get the train from Glasgow Central to Largs (£8.10, 1 hour) then take the ferry (£3.20, 10 minutes) over the one mile stretch of water to the Isle of Cumbrae. Bring a bike or hire one from Mapes in Millport then cycle 'round the island, stopping to admire their many weirdly painted and occasionally problematic rocks. On your return, stop in Nardini's for an elaborate ice cream.
The Time Capsule in Coatbridge is just a 15 minute train ride from Glasgow Queen Street. Here you'll learn about the evolution of man through the medium of swimming pools as you journey from the primordial soup all the way to the space age in a series of wave machines, bubble pools and flumes. Head next door for some ice skating on a rink that historically featured a woolly mammoth, with a skate and swim coming in at £12.35.
From Glasgow you can also take the train to Callendar, which is in the actual Highlands, and from there walk up Ben Ledi or cycle around Loch Katrine. There are countless walking and bike routes around the Trossachs, so plenty of scope for future adventures, too.
Pollok Park on Glasgow's Southside in a more central escape option – get the train to Shawlands, Pollokshaws or Crossmyloof and walk. It's a 146-hectare piece of countryside right in the heart of the city, home to the Burrell Collection and Pollok House. Also a herd of Highland Coos. There are mountain bike tracks and walks, a river, cultivated gardens and areas of wilderness. And a farm, naturally. It feels very far from the urban centre.
If you're based in Dundee, you can head out for a really nice day out to Tentsmuir near Leuchars, which is across the bridge to Fife. There's a forest, a beaut beach and an old derelict weather station, along with some eerie old army bunkers to explore around. It costs about three quid return on the bus (approximately a 35-minute journey on the 42/53 bus) and is a nice wilderness spot outside of the city for picnics and walking.
Broughty Ferry is a short bus journey away and is great for a beach day out, posh charity shops, a pilgrimage to Lorraine Kelly's house and most importantly, incredible gelato and stracciatella soup at family-run Italian restaurant, deli and gelaterie Visocchi's.
You can also attempt the mammoth steep walk up to the Law monument, visible from literally everywhere in Dundee, for great views, a nice woodland bit, and the chance to try and find the Law tunnel entrance which is an abandoned railway tunnel to the base of the Law hill.