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National Rail Family & Friends Railcard & Itinerary help

Hello. We (a family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers, age 13 and 16) are arriving in London Heathrow at 10:50 am (direct from US) and we are planning to head to Scotland (Edinburgh) by train on the same day. We will have 5-6 days before returning to London for a week stay.

1) I think our arrival day plan should be feasible based on this travel forum posts, but I wonder if anyone has tips or advice on the best way to get to London's King's Cross Station (Heathway express to Paddington or Tube to Piccadilly?) and the amount of time I should allow.
2) URGENT QUESTION!!!! I am trying to buy advance tickets to Edinburgh with Family & Friends Railcard on National Rail website. It says I can buy F&F Railcard over the counter at any staffed National Rail Station. I read someone mentioning we need passport photos for the card. My question is can I get the card at the spot on SUNDAY (our arrival day) right before getting on the train and use it right away? If I can't get it in station, I don't want to buy advance tickets with F&F Railcard. I am also wondering if there will be any other issues I should worry about buying rail tickets on National Rail website vs Rail Europe.
3) We will be in Edinburgh in mid July and don't have lodging yet. We will be checking booking.com/vrbo.com/airbnb.com. Does anyone know of other good websites to check for Edinburgh lodging (preferably quad room or apts)?
4) We are first time in Scotland and I don't want to drive while in Edinburgh. Any suggestions how we can see "country side" of Scotland by public transportation and/or tour company while in Edinburgh. We are NOT golfers but I heard St Andrews is lovely.
5) We would be traveling to see Alnwick Castle on the way back to London (Harry Potter fans). Any suggestions on where to stay one night between Alnwick and London. We are debating whether to stay near Alnwick Castle and head to London the next day or take a train to York for a night stay.
Thanks for replies in advance.

Posted by
2125 posts

Yes you can buy the railcard at Kings Cross on the Sunday you arrive.

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/kgx.aspx

Buy train tickets from the train operator https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/ nowhere else is cheaper. National Rail will simply direct you to that website.

Get the tube from Heathrow direct to Kings Cross – takes an hour.

It is however madness to endure a transatlantic flight, then head into central London and take a 5 hour train journey up to Edinburgh. Do remember that if you miss the train your Advance tickets are worthless. A connecting flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh would be the least stressful option and your ticket is protected in the event of any delay to your flight from the US.

Posted by
27710 posts

I am not aware that the booking office at Heathrow Express issues Railcards, but both Paddington, where you can take Heathrow Express to, and Kings Cross, where you will go to Scotland from, will have ticket windows all the hours that the station is open, 7 days a week except Christmas Day and the day after.

Scotland is NOT in England, and they will vociferously remind you of that.

Five - York.

Four - no clue, I don't write about Scotland.

Three - see answer Four and include Premier Inns.

Two -

wondering if there will be any other issues I should worry about buying rail tickets on National Rail website vs Rail Europe.

only that RailEurope doesn't publish every train, doesn't know all the discounts available and overcharges. Otherwise use either.

One - if there are no engineering works that Sunday the tube and the combination of Heathrow Express and Tube or taxi will come out pretty similar times, the tube being hugely cheaper.

The elephant in the room - the unasked question - is what time train are you planning - hoping - to catch after a transatlantic flight hopefully arriving at Heathrow at 10:50 am? I hope it is at least 3 in the afternoon if your plane is on time and later if your plane has any delays. That will put you pretty late into Edinburgh.