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Train Tips - London to Edinburgh

I am trying to decide between flying or taking the train between London and Edinburgh with my husband, two teenagers and luggage in June. I have a good estimate of how early I need to get to Heathrow before our flight (90 minutes), but I'm not sure of the procedure for train travel. If I book train tickets online, do I have to go to a ticket office at the train station on day of departure or do I just board the train? How early do I need to arrive at Kings Cross station for a 10:00am or 11:00am train? We're staying in Fulham so I think the cab ride to Heathrow and the cab ride to Kings Cross station will be about 30 minute either way. Which seat preferences should I pick for a family of four from the options of backwards, forwards, aisle, window, individual, table since what I want is to be seated together with some window seats and a view of the east side of the train (I think). Thank you.

Posted by
767 posts

If you have your ticket at King's Cross, you just walk on to the train. The train station is not big so 30 minutes early tops. If you are Harry Potter fans, there is a free photo op on the main floor- you can take a picture pushing a luggage cart on to platform 9 3/4.

Seat preferences vary. I think there is more leg room at the tables. I do not think one side of the train is more scenic than the other.

This particular question (train or plane between London and Edinburgh) is a common one. Flying is obviously shorter but train stations have less hassle. Edinburgh Waverly station is right in the city center. But the airport is a reasonable taxi ride.

Posted by
16832 posts

While many countries' ticket web sites now offer print-at-home options, I believe that picking up tickets from a machine in the station is still standard practice across Britain. Given the multiple different railway companies in Britain, your choices of pick-up station are limited to the list provided when booking. Tickets are not mailed to the US.

For a family of four, a space with a table is my first choice. It will have two seats facing two, and a pretty accommodating table, great for your picnic or card games.

Posted by
1838 posts

I would go by train. East Coast Trains operate the route but you might wish to consider breaking the journey in 2 for an overnight in York. (Buying one through ticket might not let you do this). http://www.visityork.org

Turn up and pay on the day can be costly - so book in advance. You might find www.nationalrail.co.uk easier at finding fares - but then go to East Coast Trains to make your booking (which may be cheaper).

You will probably want four seats grouped around a table on the east side of the train (right going N). It does not make much difference which side you are as far as Newcastle. Newcastle to Ed is the bit with the coastal views. If you don't like your reserved seats, you can always moved to some that are not reserved.

Anyone travelling southbound from Edinburgh in the morning & sitting forward facing on the east (left) side of the train, is likely to have the sun in their eyes.

Posted by
8700 posts

Last summer I traveled London-York and York-Edinburgh on East Coast and printed my own tickets and reserved seats around a table on the right side. By booking 12 weeks in advance I was able to get discount fare tickets. Because there were four of us we got a group rate of 1/3 less than the discount fare.

Your best fare will be around 76 GBP. If you buy your tickets at the station, you wiil pay 503 GBP.

Posted by
8096 posts

Jennifer -

Thank you for asking this question. I will be traveling from Edinburgh to London in September and this information has been great for me.

Have a good trip.

Posted by
8700 posts

If you can sleep on trains, another option would be the ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper which runs between London Euston and Edinburgh Waverley. Book up to 12 weeks in advance to get Bargain Berth fares. Save the cost of a night in a hotel and have more daylight hours for sightseeing. The Sleeper doesn't run on Saturday nights.

Posted by
2081 posts

Jennifer,

I choose to use the train since security was more or less not existent. I also chose it since it was my first time on a train and wanted to learn and see how its done. For me, the scenery wasn't as important as chatting with the locals next to me. the train i got was an early express train and if i remember it was about a 4 hour ? ride but it went fast with the company. just so you know, you're not chained down to your seats either. If you want to wonder around from car to car, you can do that. also, the doors have windows on them, so you can look thru them too. If you care to, wonder up to the food car if there is one and to first class to see how they ride.

as stated, it puts you in town too.

as far as tickets are concerned, you can print them at home (if i remember correctly) or you can get them at the ticket machines too, just like you would at an airport.

if you can, find a table seat since thats what everyone rushed to get. I didn't care what i got as long as i was in a seat. also on that train what i learned was that not a lot of difference in seating between first and 2nd class, but the isle was wider in first since there was one less seat across the row.

also, if you get to the train station early, just note that the train may not show up on the reader board until 15 minutes or so before it leaves. at least thats what i found out.

just a comment. i can see if you're at the airport to fly there, but if you're already in london, i would take the train.

happy trails

Posted by
31256 posts

Jennifer,

I've travelled that route and would also recommend using East Coast Rail from London to Edinburgh. As I recall it departs from King's Cross station and arrives at Edinburgh Waverley. That trip is only about 4H:15M and I doubt very much whether travel by air will be any faster, as you'd have to allow for travel to and from airports, security, check-in, waiting and the usual airport hassles. Travel by air would also involve possible extra charges for baggage, depending on weight.

You may find it helpful to have a look at the excellent Man In Seat 61 website as it covers everything you'll ever need to know regarding rail travel in England and elsewhere.