Historic houses - Edinburgh & The Lothians itinerary

View across Linlithgow Loch and the palace
72 hours in the Lothians ››

Spend three days in the Lothians discovering the history of aviation, exploring a country park and more.

Looking over Edinburgh's skyline including the extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat
72 hours in Edinburgh ››

Make the most of your trip to Edinburgh with this 72 hour itinerary covering some of the city’s most visited attractions.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Free attractions ››

There's a wide choice of fantastic indoor and outdoor attractions in Edinburgh that won't cost a penny.

Enjoy a day exploring historic houses in Edinburgh and the Lothians and you could see the Scottish Crown Jewels, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, a 14th century castle, or the famous Rosslyn Chapel.

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  • Edinburgh Castle and the Ross Fountain, Princes Street Gardens
    Edinburgh Castle and the Ross Fountain, Princes Street Gardens
  • Looking across the moonlight grounds to Hopetoun House
    Hopetoun House
  • The ornate stone carved Prentice Pillar of Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin
    The ornate interior of Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin
  • Looking out to the sea from Tantallon Castle
    Tantallon Castle

A day exploring Edinburgh’s historic houses

Begin the day at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland's number one visitor attraction, which sits on its own volcanic rock at the top of the Royal Mile. View the Scottish Crown Jewels, the delightful St Margaret's Chapel, the Stone of Destiny on which previous Scottish monarchs were crowned, and many other historic buildings.

Visit time - 1.5 hours

Head to Charlotte Square in the New Town - Robert Adam's masterpiece of urban architecture - and visit the Georgian House. Explore three floors of the Georgian House, which have been beautifully refurbished by the National Trust for Scotland to reflect the lifestyle of 1796.

Visit time - 1 hour

Have lunch in one of the cosmopolitan bistros and restaurants of the West End before heading around 5 miles west of the city centre to Lauriston Castle, a 16th century tower house featuring a fine collection of furniture and decorative art, set in tranquil grounds.

Visit time - 1 hour

A day exploring West Lothian’s historic houses

Take the A90 towards the Forth Road Bridge and visit Hopetoun House (seasonal opening) - Scotland's finest stately home. Originally built between 1699 and 1702, much of Hopetoun's original 18th century furniture and wall coverings still survive today. The house sits in 100 acres of magnificent parkland with woodland walks, a red deer park and nature trails. Groups are also invited to enjoy drinks and refreshments in the Stables tearoom.

Visit time - 2 hour

Continue into West Lothian to Linlithgow and the House of the Binns (seasonal opening) - occupied by the Dalyell family for over 350 years and displaying fine collections of portraits, period furniture and porcelain.

Visit time - 1 hour

Not far away is Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of three monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots in 1542. Under the care of Historic Scotland, this extensive home of Scotland's Stewart kings is a regular venue for historic performances and re-enactments.

Visit time - 1 hour

A day exploring East Lothian’s historic houses

Head 6 miles east of Edinburgh to the historic village of Inveresk and Inveresk Lodge Garden - an attractive terraced garden with colourful displays throughout the year but especially during the summer with its wide range of roses and shrubs.

Visit time - 45 mins

Continue along the A199 to Haddington and Lennoxlove House (seasonal opening) - home of the Duke of Hamilton with furniture, paintings and mementoes of Mary Queen of Scots.

Visit time - 1 hour

Take the A6137 and the A198 to Dirleton for a visit to Dirleton Castle - a romantic 12th century castle often in the forefront of Scottish history. The gardens were added in the 16th century and include an arts and craft herbaceous border and Victorian garden.

Visit time - 45 mins

Enjoy lunch in Dirleton or nearby North Berwick. Try the Nether Abbey Hotel or the Macdonald Marine Hotel.

Continue along the A198 to North Berwick and Tantallon Castle - a formidable castle set on the cliff’s edge with views of the Bass Rock.

Visit time - 45 mins

Rejoin the A198 and the A1 to the seaside town of Dunbar. Visit John Muir Country Park - named after the great 19th century conservationist, who established America's first National Parks. You can also visit his birthplace, transformed into a stunning Interpretative Centre highlighting the work of the man known as 'the father of modern conservation'.

Visit time - 1 hour

Travel back to Edinburgh on the A1 with one last stop at Craigmillar Castle, 2.5 miles south east of the city centre. Built in the 14th century, James V resided at the castle in 1517, and it was here that Mary Queen of Scots fled after the murder of David Rizzio, her favourite secretary, and plotted the murder of her husband Lord Darnley.

Visit time - 45 mins

A day exploring Midlothian’s historic houses

Crichton Castle (seasonal opening) is a large and sophisticated castle built in a commanding position in a tranquil valley of the River Tyne. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries, the courtyard includes a spectacular façade of faceted stonework in Italian style. Mary Queen of Scots spent several nights at Crichton Castle for the marriage of her half brother.

Visit time - 1 hour

Founded in 1446, the mysterious, richly decorated late-Gothic Rosslyn Chapel featured predominately in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown is not the only literary figure to be inspired by Rosslyn. The great Scots writer Sir Walter Scott and renowned poet William Wordsworth, whose sister Dorothy described it as ‘exquisitely beautiful’, have all featured it in their works.

Visit time - 1.5 hours

Visit Newbattle Abbey with its connections to Mary Queen of Scots, Rosslyn Chapel and the Declaration of Arbroath. Discover nine centuries of history as the abbey dates back to the 12th century and has beautiful Italian Gardens. The abbey is now a private venue but should accept group tours for around £5 per person.

Visit time 1.5 hours

Magnificent Arniston House (seasonal opening), boasts portraits by contemporary Scottish artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn. This Palladian style mansion house was created by William Adam and is set in acres of beautiful parkland.

Visit time 1.5 hours