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Although Edinburgh has a full complement of attractions and plenty of activities, there are also a number of worthwhile side trips you can take into the surrounding countryside. Whether in the Lothians (which surround Edinburgh), south toward the Borders, or north across the Firth of Forth into the Kingdom of Fife - many attractions are no more than an hour's drive from the city.

The nearest sights are in West and East Lothian, on either side of the city. The highlights here include the impressive ruins of Linlithgow Palace, a favorite of the Stuart dynasty; 18th-century Hopetoun House; and the seaside town of North Berwick, with its views of Bass Rock. Further afield, south in the Borders, the historic Jedburgh and Melrose Abbeys and Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott's majestic home, beckon day-trippers.

But one of the most popular excursions from the Scottish capital is north to Fife and places such as the golfing mecca of St. Andrews, with the oldest university in Scotland.

One of the best excursions from the Scottish capital is north to Fife and places such as the golfing mecca of St. Andrews, with the oldest university in Scotland. There's also the ancient town and one-time capital of Dunfermline.

Spa Hotel Breaks

If you are looking for a bit of pampering out of town, head for Dalhousie Castle hotel, in Bonnyrigg. Here they have created "Aqueous," a hydro spa: It combines therapeutic treatments, Jacuzzi-like massage pool, Turkish bath, and room for mud cleansing, too. The "total experience" costs about £200. Dalhousie Castle is on the A7 south of Edinburgh. tel. 01875/820-153. www.dalhousiecastle.co.uk. Another recommended spa is that of the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwick, East Lothian. There is an exercise pool, health and fitness program, and "thermal suite." The Spa Day rate (which includes facial, scalp massage, and more) costs about £170. The hotel is on Cromwell Rd., North Berwick, tel.0844/879-9130,  www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/marine.

Guided Minitours From Edinburgh

Sightseeing tours from Edinburgh can give tourists a taste of the often stunning countryside as they whisk visitors on 1-, 2-, and 3-day excursions, whether to Stirling and Loch Lomond or farther north to Glen Coe and the shores of Loch Ness. Timberbush Tours (555 Castlehill; tel. 01312/266-066; www.timberbush-tours.co.uk) use minibuses to take small groups to the Highlands. Prices for a 2-day tour range from around £65 in low season to £80 at the height of summer, and the prices only cover transportation and guide. Heart of Scotland Tours (37 Logie Green Rd.; tel. 01315/588-855; www.heartofscotlandtours.co.uk) offers 1-day minibus tours of different regions, such as Loch Lomond, the Borders, or Fife. They depart from Waterloo Place near Calton Hill at 8 or 9am, returning to Edinburgh between 6 and 8pm. Prices average about £35. More intrepid adventurers might want to consider a "hop-on, hop-off" hostel bus service offered by MacBackpackers (105 High St.; tel. 01315/589-900; www.macbackpackers.com). This bus does a circuit of Scotland stopping at Pitlochry, Inverness, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort William, Oban, and Glasgow. The basic price is £75.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.