The photos above were taken about three minutes apart at North Berwick (so if you don’t like the weather, just wait), looking towards the Bass Rock. We also consider Glasgow and St Andrews for a day out from Edinburgh, but there are many more options.
North Berwick is a town on the Firth of Forth, about half an hour by train, then a fifteen minute walk from the railway station. It was a popular seaside resort until the 1970s, but it has always been a popular commuter town for Edinburgh. The town is dominated by North Berwick Law, a volcanic plug. There are some nice restaurants and one spectacularly good one whose only drawback is that everything has to be done by telephone — they do not believe in e-mail or text, and that, in my opinion, breaches the Equality Act 2010. There are two beaches, boat trips to islands in the Firth (notably the Bass Rock, the largest gannet colony in the northern hemisphere). The Scottish Seabird Centre has an exhibition, and has live video from Bass Rock and other islands (so you do not need to brave the waves).
Glasgow deserves a holiday of its own, but it is only 45 minutes from Edinburgh by train to Queen Street station. This takes you straight onto George Square, with the magnificent City Chambers (the pinnacle of Corporation Gothic). There is nineteenth century architecture on Blythswood Hill, and there are earlier buildings in the Merchant City. It has a half-pint-sized Subway train service in a circle to the west of the city centre: get off at Kelvin Hall for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and for Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum of Transport. All cuisines are to be found, with special mention of Dim Sum in the city centre for simple and authentic Chinese food, with some dishes taking up Scots fusion (such as haggis dim sum).
St Andrews requires a bit more planning, especially since the direct bus service has been axed. It will need a train to Leuchars and a local bus, taking about two hours in all, but the rewards are special. The ruined castle, the ruined cathedral, the oldest university in Scotland (1413), and the home of golf — and that’s just for starters. Medieval buildings in grey sandstone, in a lively town with good shops, cafés and restaurants. The opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed on the West Sands, and of course, that is where the Prince and Princess of Wales first met … long after I had got my degree there and left.