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.