Need to escape studying and the city? Here are the perfect places to go

There is more to Scotland than just Princes Street and the Meadows


The life of a university student can be stressful: trying to balance classes five days a week, studying as soon as you get home and then rushing out the door to a part-time job. The difficulty of being away from home can cause anyone to stick to where they feel comfortable – in this case the Edinburgh bubble.

But there is so much to gain from exploring beyond Edinburgh's cobblestone paths. How many times have you actually left the city centre throughout your university years? If you can count that number on one hand then it's definitely time for a change.

Regardless of what you're interesting in discovering or doing, there are plenty of activities outside the city and it's time for them to be embraced. Here are some of my favourites.

Shopping

You can only walk up and down Princes Street so many times before realising that no matter how often you flick through the Urban Outfitters and Topshop sale section, it's just not going to get any better.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes there are a fair few good finds behind the monochromatic oversized blazers in Zara, but it's just not enough to satisfy the entire student population of Edinburgh.

Glasgow

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Buchanan Street, Glasgow

Known as the 'city of culture', Glasgow is a shopper's paradise. Hailing 45 miles west of Edinburgh, hundreds of shops line Glasgow's streets, as well as countless stores which feature in indoor malls that make up the 'Style Mile'. Whether it be designer, vintage or popular retailers, there are options for everyone.

Travel: A return ticket from Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street with a rail card will cost you £8.80 or £13.30 without a rail card.

Livingston Designer Outlet and The Centre, Livingston

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The Centre, Livingston

Livingston Designer Outlet, the largest outlet centre in Scotland, is only 13 miles away and it boasts Adidas, Ted Baker, Nike, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, among many others.

For more affordable options, The Centre sits opposite Livingston Designer Outlet and is home to Topshop, Primark, Superdry and many more. Not only can you enjoy a whole day of shopping there, but after putting a nice dent in your overdraft, you can head to the Vue cinema or to one of the two 18-hole adventure mini golf courses to finish the day off.

Travel: From Princes Street you can jump on the x17, x27, or x28 bus, which will take you all the way to Livingston. It will take about an hour and will cost £3.70 for a single or £7.50 for a day ticket.

Nature

Edinburgh is home to plenty of grassy spaces, perfect for setting up picnics and enjoying the outdoors. The Meadows and Bruntsfield Links are prime examples of these, even offering spots for BBQs during summer. While these are perfectly good spaces to enjoy nature, there are also plenty of other places not far from Edinburgh that can give you a lake view, grass to sit on and lots of wildlife to watch.

Pentlands

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Glencorse Reservoir

The Pentland Hills stand tall just beyond Edinburgh, offering walks that even rival Arthur's Seat. Located within the hills are several reservoirs, including ones suitable for swimming. Threipmuir Reservoir is popular among swimmers as the large quantities of peat in the water heightens its temperature.

Glencorse Reservoir is another option – it too has plenty of space to drop a blanket for a rest or picnic and is surrounded by picturesque views.

Travel: By bus you can take the x15, 47, x37 or the 37 to the Glencorse Barracks. From there it is a 20 minute walk to the Pentland Hills Cafe Express. An uber or taxi might be easier though.

Highland Tours

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Wallace Monument, Stirling

Getting to the Highlands can be quite a hassle without a car, however they are more than accessible on a bus tour. While some tours can be expensive – well over £40 – there are a fair few that are free. The tours usually last about 8 – 10 hours, visiting several places around the Highlands. A brief web search can find you multiple free tours, with the most popular being conducted by The Hairy Coo. This tour visits the bridges in Queensferry, the Wallace Monument in Stirling, the Lake of Menteith, the village of Aberfoyle, the Glen of Trossachs (to see some hairy coos), Loch Katrine and Doune Castle.

Travel: Most tour buses leave from the Royal Mile or Johnston Terrace.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

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Sleep away your stress under the trees

The Royal Botanic Gardens consists of 70 acres and is just one mile off of Princes Street. Though it is located in Edinburgh, the gardens feel like an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Travel: The gardens are a 20 minute walk from Princes Street.

Seaside

Who doesn't love a good day out around Portobello beach? There's plenty of cafes, arcades and cute dogs playing in the sand. However, going to the same beach every time there's a sunny day does get old. Journeying a bit further down or up the coast you will find an array of beaches perfect for swimming, watersports or just a lie on the sand.

St Abbs

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Murphy deciding which patch of grass to roll in next

St Abbs is a small fishing village just an hour south of Edinburgh. Having been featured in several music videos and films – most notably Avengers: Endgame – its picturesque scenery serves as a nice backdrop for a day out. You can explore the small beach and there is a nature trail that scales the surrounding cliffs. The trail is a six mile round-trip walk (or four miles if you take the detour), but the views are well worth it.

Travel: You can travel by train from Waverley to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, before switching to the 235 bus for a 30 minute ride to the village.

St Andrews

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St Andrews Castle

In St Andrews, just beyond the Old Course Resort and Spa, lies the beautiful beach of West Sands. Not only does West Sands allow you to soak up the sun or go for a swim, there is also a shack that offers kayak and paddle board rentals. If the weather is not suitable for swimming then there is always St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral.

Travel: From Edinburgh Bus Station you can take the x59 to St Andrews, which can take up to 2 hours. You can also take a train from Waverley, which will take you to Leuchars, before travelling by bus for the last 10 minutes of your journey for a total travel time of one hour and thirty minutes.

North Berwick

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Rare day of sun

North Berwick is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre and hosts a variety of beaches, including a sea wall built around a swimming zone. Beyond the seaside views, there is a high street, mini golf course and a local pub that is famous for encouraging customers to bring their dog along for a bite to eat.

Travel: Trains from Waverley to North Berwick cost £7.20 return and take 30-45 minutes.

Cramond Island

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High tide almost had us swimming back

Just across from the town of Cramond sits Cramond Island. Reached via a causeway during low tide, you can explore the island freely. Beware though, you must check online to see when the tide is high or low to make sure you'll be able to cross. Some do get stuck on the island during high tide and either have to call for rescue or wait hours for it to lower again.

Travel: Catch the 41 bus from Princes Street down to Cramond, before walking about 10 minutes from the bus stop to the harbour.