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London-Edinburgh by train: east coast & west coast

Visiting London and Edinburgh this Spring and travelling between the two cities by train. We're thinking of taking the west coast line (Virgin) when we head north and then returning south via the east coast (East Coast Rail). We hope the train travel is more than just "getting there," but a pleasurable experience itself.

Based on scenery and any other factors, is this two-coast plan a worthy idea? What are we likely to be seeing along the way? Are both coasts—by rail, anyway—recommended?

Thank you!


Posted by
2081 posts



When i traveled from Edinburgh to London via train a few years ago, it was a nice and about 4 hour trip. I dont remember which line since i was more for a direct/shortest time route. To me the scenery was just like driving on a freeway. Just passing towns/farms and such.

as far as if the train is a "pleasurable experience" i guess it would depend on how you would describe it and whats "pleasurable" to you. I enjoyed chatting with passengers more than the ride but thats just me. That train ride was my first time on a European train and i just loved it. Waaaaaaaaay more seating space and no TSA to deal with. Food carts would come by too and some of them have food cars. The only thing that caught me off guard was that everyone and their dog was rushing to get on the train. I didnt realize why until i saw all of the table seats taken. most of them were people with laptops plugging in and probably doing work on the commute.

happy trails.

Posted by
4684 posts

Although they're referred to as "east coast" and "west coast", neither line actually gets that close to the actual coast, apart from the East Coast line for a time around the English-Scottish border.

Both routes have some attractive scenery as you go through northern England, but they aren't very scenic for much of the way.

The "east coast" line is prone to occasional catastrophic blockages, as they skimped on the price of the electrical equipment when it was electrified and whenever there are strong winds the wires are liable to get blown down.

My personal advice would be to choose which coast by which has the cheapest advance fares available for each leg.

Posted by
5182 posts

I guess we're really only supposed to discuss the East and West Coast lines as far as Berwick-on-Tweed and Carlisle in here ...

Going on each route may give a bit of a different perspective, but from Edinburgh the western route is a bit longer in time. Only a personal view but I don't much care for the trains run on the west coast route; they just seem too cramped to me with rather small windows (a result of accommodating the tilting mechanism I think). If you can get a reasonable first class advance fare this crammed in feeling is not so much of a problem though. Dinner trains are the best value.

Posted by
312 posts

Hi Kris, I've enjoyed several train trips. The best experience I found was first class with Virgin, a complete breakfast on one train where others were just water and biscuit pack. I can't afford flying first, so it's a nice change to do first with a train company. Even with going first, on some trains it's good to get a reservation (they're free) when the time you're traveling is around commute time.

I did do the Edinburgh to London trip and saw the scenery, but it's only on the upper portion, still it's there and was nice. Going south, you want a seat on the left; going north, it'd be on the right. Taking a train trip once you're in Edinburgh so you can go over the Firth of Forth bridge is fun :-)

My experience with Virgin was Edinburgh down to Carlisle on a morning run, thus the breakfast pack. I would hope an afternoon/evening trip from London up to Edinburgh would be just as nice. I took a morning train from Edinburgh down to London, with a break to visit the railway museum in York, and the morning views of the ocean were nice, but no Virgin breakfast pack ... decisions have to be made :-)