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Train travel in England/Scotland and Paris

Hello! My daughter and I will be traveling together 6/19/18 to 7/5/18. We will not be renting a car and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed as to how to go about and book our train travels (public transportation is poor in San Diego and I don't have much experience!). Should I buy a pass of some sort? or do I go to National Rail, Eurostar, Transport for London as well as Trainline to book our different travels?

We will be staying in Fulham, a day in Bath, a day in Brighton and perhaps the Harry Potter studios, a day to travel to Glasgow then on to Milngavie. From here we will head out on a self guided trek (through Wilderness Scotland) and end up in Fort William. From Fort William we will go to Edinburgh, stay the night and then from Edinburgh, go to Paris and finally, from Paris, back to Heathrow.

I am wondering if I should book all of our train travels now or only certain ones? which sites should I go to to make these bookings? and is there a certain type of travel pass that you recommend?

Thank you!!

Posted by
1242 posts

I'd only use http://www.nationalrail.co.uk to book the tickets inside the UK, that will take you to the individual train operating company's website. Registration may be required. UK rail prices are eyewateringly expensive for longer trips unless you book advance fares. The tickets require you to travel on an exact train and are non refundable.

For travel from the UK to Paris, you'd use the Eurostar. Book early to get the best rates.

You won't need an advance ticket from London to Harry Potter, but you will need to book Potter tickets ASAP as they do sell out quickly.

There does seem to be quite a lot of travel on your itinerary. Keep in mind all the time you lose checking in and out of hotels, traveling to and from train stations, waiting for your trains and, of course, the travel time on the train. Plus, you may find you have some wasted time when you can't really do anything because you have to catch a train later, but it's too early to head to the train station, but not enough time to really sightsee.

Trainline is just a reseller and should be avoided. Transport for London handles transportation in and around London, no tickets are needed, just an Oyster card, Apple Pay, or a contactless credit card.

Posted by
8889 posts

Dale gave you the National Rail website ( http://www.nationalrail.co.uk ) which as he says should be used to buy tickets inside the UK.
"Transport for London" - correct site, but no advance purchase needed for tickets in London. When you arrive, get an Oyster card, put some credit on it and you will be good to go.
Paris to London (or vice-versa) is 2½ hours by Eurostar train. Website: https://www.eurostar.com

Glasgow then on to Milngavie. From here we will head out on a self guided trek (through Wilderness Scotland) and end up in Fort William.

Milngavie why? That is a bit obscure. A self guided trek through Scotland will be difficult by train. It needs careful planning, or a car.

Edinburgh, stay the night and then from Edinburgh, go to Paris and finally, from Paris, back to Heathrow.

Edinburgh to Paris is too far for a train, better to fly.
Why are you coming back from Paris to Heathrow.

I suggest plan B:
Open-jaw flight, into Edinburgh and out of Paris. Do the Scottish stuff first, possibly with a car. Then train to London (4½ hours from Edinburgh). Your stay in Fulham with day trips (Fulham is also not on the usual tourist circuit). Then Eurostar train to Paris, and fly home from Paris.

Posted by
928 posts

Chris - Why Milngavie? Well it sounds like our original poster is going to walk the West Highland Way which starts at Milngavie and concludes in Fort William.

T.overland (OP) - I'd book any long distance rail travel in advance and if you can tie yourself to a specific train for each journey it will be so much cheaper. Tickets are cheapest about 12 weeks from date of travel so it might be a bit early yet to get the best deals. As others have said, use only the National Rail website which should direct you to the relevant franchise for tickets.

We travelled from Glasgow to Milngavie by the city metro - locally known as the 'Clockwork Orange' - more local Scottish posters may advise if this is still the case - and we just bought 'walk up' tickets for that.

The West Highland Way is a fantastic walk and I hope you'll have as brilliant a time on it as we did. Fingers crossed for decent weather. Watch out for the midges though if the weather is fine and the winds low. My memory of leaving Milngavie is calling at a bakers at the centre and buying two large 'Selkirk Bannocks' to eat en route. Don't forget to leave room in your backpack!

Happy Trails!

Ian

Posted by
928 posts

PS. Oyster card in London for travelling by tube and bus is a good idea. There's much detail on this website about how to get one (at the airport!) and how to use it. There's also a short RS video on 'how to do it' somewhere on this site.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for the replies :)

Our self guided trek is hiking the West Highland Way with the help of Wilderness Scotland. We are going to Milngavie because that is where we have been told our trek will begin.

Traveling from Edinburgh to Paris is a lot of travel - it looks like we could take a train at 9:30, arrive at King's Cross at 13:47, then take the Eurostar at 15:31 and arrive in Paris at 18:47. It appears that the prices are less expensive than flying and I thought it would be more fun to travel by train and chunnel.

We are coming back to Heathrow because flying out of Paris was too pricey.

We are in Fulham at an Airbnb, it looked like a nice place to stay and a good base - hopefully it is true! ...

So, it looks like our England day travels will be utilizing an Oyster Card which I will buy at the airport and I will watch RS video (thanks!). For our other travels, I will utilize National Rail, Eurostar and possibly the city metro, Clockwork Orange.

Posted by
3683 posts

The London-Paris Eurostar ride is about $150 US near the end of June (if bought now). You can find a budget flight Edinburgh-Paris for about the same price -- without all the time and money expended on getting back to London for the train. I always look at www.skyscanner.com for budget flights in Europe.

Did you use a multi-city search function to decide that flights to San Diego from Paris were more expensive than flying home from London? Depending on the days of travel, the prices from Paris can be about the same or even cheaper -- especially when the cost of the trip back to London is added. But the multi-destination function is essential; these are not a pair of single tickets. Many airlines and on-line agencies can calculate multi-city itineraries.
Airlines and trains sell their cheapest tickets months before departure, and prices go up nearer departure. That quote for Eurostar, for instance, will be much higher a week before the trip. Ditto for the airline prices. So buy your tickets as soon as you can.

Posted by
27743 posts

It is worth getting your tickets to the Harry Potter studio as soon as you have a firm date and the tickets have been released. It is very popular and you can't just rock up and hope to get in.

Posted by
4668 posts

Fly from Edinburgh to Paris! It's cheap and saves the hassle and expense of going to London to take the train.

Posted by
8889 posts

So, it looks like our England day travels will be utilizing an Oyster Card

No! The Oyster card is for use in London. It is valid for the whole of London (including out to Heathrow, which is on the Edge of London), for tube, trains, bus and tram.
For your trips out of London (Bath, Brighton, ....) you will need to buy normal tickets.
For the long trips (London - Glasgow, Edinburgh - London, London Paris and Paris - London), buy as far as possible in advance to gte the cheapest tickets.
But I still think flying Edinburgh - Paris would be simpler. You will do Paris - London by train coming back

Posted by
50 posts

Have you looked at the Two Together Railcard discount? You don't say how old your daughter is but if she's hiking with you then I suspect she's at least 16 and the two of you are therefore eligible to save up to 1/3 on England/Scotland train tickets with purchase of the £30 discount card. Details here: https://www.twotogether-railcard.co.uk/?_ga=2.49134502.1614559125.1522795752-1136465802.1518319471

For what it's worth, I perfectly understand wanting to use the train rather than flight sometimes. I have fond memories of my train travels and either enjoying the scenery or enjoying the company of my travel companions. We took a train from Kansas City to San Diego and it was an entirely different experience from flying, but different in a good way. And your San Diego public transport was great, getting me and my wheelchair-bound husband where we needed to go with the side benefit of meeting some nice people.

Have fun!!

Posted by
3662 posts

Having once done a similar trip, we flew into Glasgow and home from Paris— involving London airports (twice!) is batty and you will regret it.

There’s a $500 fare SAN>>SEA>>MAN>>GLA June 19 mostly on Thomas Cooke.

Reverse the same July 4 except CDG>>MAN to start is $735, or $614 on Norwegian nonstop to LAX.

Posted by
10 posts

We travelled from Glasgow to Milngavie by the city metro - locally known as the 'Clockwork Orange'

Doubtful. The 'clockwork orange' (no one in Glasgow calls it that - it's an invention of guidebook writers) refers to the Glasgow subway which is a single circular line which only goes as far west as Partick.

A self guided trek through Scotland will be difficult by train. It needs careful planning, or a car.

It's pretty clear OP is doing the WHW, which is much easier without a car - even people who have cars with them have to backtrack on the train!

You want the trains out of the low level station at either central or queen street, which will also pass through a number of the local stations. If you are starting from Glasgow that day, there is no point in buying in advance. If you are coming directly to Milngavie from further afield, just buy your ticket through to Milngavie as it will save hassle.

Certainly book the trains ahead of time. You've already been referred to national rail. You may find that 'split ticketing' is cheaper - an example would be checking for the Fort William - Edinburgh leg whether it would be better to buy a single from Fort William to Glasgow, then another from Glasgow to Edinburgh (making sure that the second leg doesn't leave before the first!) rather than buying a single from Fort William to Edinburgh.

Your schedule looks... pretty hectic. Bath, for instance, is a four hour round trip from Fulham. Brighton's not much better. In Edinburgh, you will have virtually no time to look around - the early train from FW doesn't get in until 1pm, and if you get the second train, you will not be in Edinburgh till 5pm. The train to London takes 4 hours, so unless you get the sleeper, you won't have much time left for sight seeing in Edinburgh if you are only going to stay for one night. You appear to have left little time for sight seeing in London.

I think people on this site are sometimes a bit negative about train travel - you're not going to manage any of these journeys any quicker any other way (with the possible exception of Edinburgh to Paris), and the trains involve a lot less stress in my recent experience! Not least the fact that there are no limits on your liquids!

Posted by
928 posts

Hi Marion -

Thanks for the clarification on the Milngavie rail connection. It was a long time ago and my memory must have been playing tricks (I'm quite old now!) which is why I hoped a Scot would offer the correct information. I have been on the subway though - it must have been at the Commonwealth Games getting to Ibrox for the Rugby 7's maybe? I guess we went overground rail to Milngavie.

I have a friend who supports Partick Thistle, or as he refers to them 'Partick Thistle Nil' (Scots footballing joke!).

Thanks again for the correction,

Ian

Posted by
10 posts

Hi Ian. You would indeed have got the subway to Ibrox for the Rugby 7s - I certainly did!

I think sometimes foreigners expect the Glasgow subway to be rather bigger than it actually is. It has always struck me as being a little unfinished.