It’s not often you spend a rather drizzly blustery Sunday in January making your way around some of Scotland’s best known attractions. For most, January’s Sundays are spent firmly under a blanket with a cup of tea in hand. It’s a time of saving pennies after a particularly spendy Christmas. However, it doesn’t have to be pricey to explore more of the beautiful Scottish scenery. To help make things a little easier on your wallet, Scotrail’s City Days Out pass* is the perfect solution.
Whether you’re Edinburgh based or Glasgow based, the City Days Out pass is available to pick up from your local staffed Scotrail ticket office, and means you can travel within an hour of your city for only £18.50 for two days; hopping on and off as often as you’d like. To whet your tastebuds for a bit of train travel, here’s what we got up to when we took the City Days Out pass for a spin…
The National Wallace Monument
After hopping on the 9:38am train from Haymarket bleary-eyed, clutching a flat white, we laid out the itinerary for the day in front of us, excited for a day of exploring. The weather may have let us down but, after all, we’re Scottish so we didn’t let it dampen our spirits (no pun intended). First off on our magical mystery tour was a trip to the National Wallace Monument in Stirling. We got off the train and made our way over with a 10 minute bus journey, arriving just before 11am.
Seeing the imposing hill lining up in front of us, we were relieved to hear there’s a free shuttle bus up the hill to take you to the monument entrance. If it had been a lovely Spring day, it would have been worth the 15 minute walk, but the drizzle wasn’t really feeling very inviting…
The monument itself has a grand total of 246 steps, with a narrow winding stone staircase leading you up into the heavens. Luckily, there’s a few floors to stop off at to learn more about everyone’s favourite Scottish hero – William Wallace. Interestingly, there’s even a new exhibit detailing some of the heroines of Scottish history and their contributions to the likes of science and medicine, which we enjoyed reading up on whilst we caught our breath for the next set of steps.
When you finally reach the “crown” of the National Wallace Monument, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view across Stirling and the surrounding countryside; with Stirling Castle looking particularly striking in the distance, like a surveying noble keeping watch across the city. On this day, the parting fog added an eeriness to the whole experience that made it almost better than seeing it on a clear sunny day.
The Falkirk Wheel
After an hour spent refuelling with a cheese and onion toastie and a pot of tea at Legends Coffee House at the National Wallace Monument, we were then back on the road (or, er, train tracks) to head off to Camelon station for The Falkirk Wheel. This part of the day was probably the trickiest to navigate in our itinerary, where it’s really more worth your time hopping in a £5 taxi than fiddling around with buses, but we eventually got there. A little bit windswept, we were glad to finally make it into the boat for a trip on the wheel. Now, it’s not an attraction we ever planned to visit, but it’s rather interesting to hear how one turn of the wheel uses barely any electricity; the equivalent of boiling eight kettles, or 47p! We’d definitely recommend this as an alternative day out for families than the usual weekend museum and gallery visits – backed up by the young girl on the boat exclaiming “are we going again?!” when we landed back down.
Dinner at The Shore in North Queensferry
A 35 minute train journey from Camelon to Haymarket was the start of the final part of our day out with ScotRail. Intended to see across the Firth of Forth from the Forth Rail Bridge, we hopped on a 20 minute train from Haymarket to North Queensferry, ready to fill our tummies with food at The Shore restaurant. Unfortunately, the early January sunsets meant we lost the view of the Forth to the night, but we were still excited for dinner somewhere different than the usual Edinburgh scene.
The Shore is a sister restaurant to Twenty Princes Street, so we at least knew we were in for a culinary treat. With a menu ranging from oysters to fillet steaks, their menu was filled to the brim with options. Luckily for me, they had scallops and black pudding with apple as a starter – my favourite choice. And, as it was a Sunday, we both opted for one of their Sunday lunch offerings, going for the roast beef and all the trimmings. Now, I can’t tell you how much more delicious a Sunday roast tastes when you’ve been on your feet all day, climbing hills and steps. We’re still dreaming about that dinner…
To end our adventurous day out, we went for a tablet chocolate brownie to share for dessert – so tasty! Sleepily, we made our way back to North Queensferry train station with smiles on our faces. Who’d have known all that adventuring on a Sunday led to the best night’s sleep before it was back to work on Monday? Overall, it’s reminded us how, as luxurious as it feels to stay in your pyjamas all day, a weekend adventure sometimes feels way more satisfying. Here’s to more spontaneous train journeys in 2018!
The fine print
- The Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass provides unlimited travel on two consecutive days on all off-peak services, allowing passengers to hop-on-hop-off as much as they like.
- The Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass is £18.50 for an individual ticket.
- ScotRail offers gives rail passengers the opportunity to receive further discount / free entry to a number of attractions around Scotland.
- There is an equivalent for our friends in the West – the Glasgow Days Out Travel Pass.
- * ScotRail kindly offered us two free City Days Out travel passes, complimentary attraction tickets and expenses for the duration of our trip, but all opinions are our own.