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all Uk BritRail Pass - Seat Reservation optional or compulsory

I plan to purchase britrail pass (8 continuous day) for my travel in UK. I plan to start from London and travel all the way to Aviemore. here I would like to stay for 7 nights and cover places like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Inverness, and Aberdeen by train. I would like to go back to London on 8th day of my 8 day all UK britrail pass.
my question is -
do you compulsorily need seat reservation to sit in any train (except night trains ofcourse ) or is it optional (to make sure you get a place to sit).

Also how much will be the cost of seat reservation for 2 adult and 2 child (13 and 9) if we have BritRail pass. we plan to take seat reservation from London to Aviemore and back. As on this stretch we would like to sit together and we will be carrying luggage.

thanking you
Dr Vishal Udawat

Posted by
1838 posts

You do not have to have reserved seats to travel on trains in Britain. Some trains can be busy so if you were to leave London on a weekday between around 4pm & 7pm - you could well find people standing. Travel say on a Tuesday between 10am & 4pm and you are likely to find plenty of spare seats. Go to and put in the some of the journeys that you plan to take using today's date and select single or return. Up will come the prices and the time it takes & if you click DETAILS - it will tell you of any changes. Then do the same thing for your planned dates of travel and see if the prices are any less. (They certainly will be for long distance trips such as London to Scotland). Now compare these prices with the daily rate of the Britrail Pass bearing in mind that the cheap advance fares are for specific trains whilst the Britrail Pass will let you use any train. Also take a look at the Scotrail site which has several passes on offer:>

Although you are staying in the highlands, most of your trips are to cities and you are actually not using the most scenic lines. You also have to keep returning to your Aviemore base. Most people would think that it is not worth going to Aberdeen. Please note that you cannot open the windows to take photographs. If you are going to use Aviemore and a base, the most scenic line for you to use would be to Kyle of Lochalsh - going via Inverness.

I would have done it like this:> Train from London (Euston) to Glasgow (2 nights); then - Glasgow to Fort William via the west highland line - 1 night. Train from FW to Mallaig and then ferry to the Isle of Skye (1 or 2 nights) - you will need to use buses on the Isle of Skye and to get back to the mainland via a bridge to get the train at Kyle of Lochalsh. Train to Inverness - have a look around and then train to Aviemore (1 night). Train to Edinburgh (2 nights). Return to London via the East Coast mainline and if you have time, I would break this journey for 1 night in York.

This railcard might be of interest:>

Read this:>

Posted by
4 posts

thank you so much for detailed reply. I understand that seat reservation is optional. According to internet search I find that seat reservation is free of cost if done at UK Train station. Kindly let me know if it is correct. I will be reaching London 5 days before I start my journey for Scotland and start using my BritRail pass. So can I book my seats before validating the pass and do I have to pay for it. If seat reservation is free of cost can I plan and book seats for all my trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.

I understand that I have not mentioned any scenic route in my itinerary. For scenic tours to isle of sky I plan to take a one full day tour : wow Scotland tour to isle of sky starting from inverness.
We would be covering Loch Ness, Jackobite cruise and urquart castle on seperate day.

I also intend to take a day tour for Orkney from Joh o Goats to northern most regions of Scotland.

You mentioned Aberdeen as a must place to go in your answer. can you suggest what places we must see as a first time traveller to Scotland in Aberdeen. As I search for train timetable I cannot find any trains to Aberdeen. there are only bus services. kindly let me know if it is dowable in one day as plan to stay at one place only in Aviemore.

Posted by
1838 posts

You should be able to reserve seats on trains by going into any British Rail station once in the UK. I say ‘should’ because I cannot guarantee that this will always be the case. If Nigel on this forum spots this post - he will know for sure.

I did not say that Aberdeen is a must - I said that most people would not consider visiting this city. (I have not been to Aberdeen but it is not considered a tourist destination). The far north - around John O’Groats is rather flat and uninteresting.

Going on and putting in for a journey from Aviemore to Aberdeen shows that it can be done via 2 routes - each taking nearly 4 hours. Now, it would appear that the northern route is showing ‘bus’ for part of the journey because the rail line must be closed for maintenance between Dyce and Aberdeen. (Click ‘details’ and it tells you).
Useful website:>

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, James and Dr. Udawat

First of all, Aberdeen is, for the most part, a beautiful city. It has many parks, many historic buildings, and it's situated between two attractive rivers. It is definitely a tourist destination, and is the gateway to Royal Deeside, the Grampian Mountains, many castles, and many beaches. The only down side to Aberdeen is the Trump golf course, but fortunately, that's outside of the city. Unfortunately, the Aberdeen train station is in a singularly unattractive part of the city.

Most tourist guides, including, unfortunately, the RS guide, do not mention Aberdeen at all, or just in passing. When visitors come to Scotland, if they are unaware of the beauty of the east coast, will only visit Edinburgh, the Highlands, and the Isles of Skye and Mull. There is so much of beauty to see in the northeast. However, it works for visitors like me, as the lack of tourist information keeps the lodging prices low. :)

That said, Dr. Udawat, you are planning quite a lot for your time in Scotland. If you are basing yourselves in Aviemore for your entire time in Scotland, then you are going to be doing a lot of unnecessary traveling by rail. For instance, taking a train from Aviemore to Aberdeen would involve changing trains either at Inverness or Ladybank. To travel to Kyle of Lochalsh would again involve changing trains at Inverness.

In addition, the major cities - Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, need more than a day trip. Also, you have to factor in the fact that you'd have to include the time for the return train to Aviemore.

Unless you have your hearts set on Aviemore, it would be easier to take the train to Edinburgh; head up the east coast to Aberdeen; then overland by train to Inverness. Once you arrive in Inverness, you'd have the option of taking the Kyle line for Skye, or heading down to Aviemore at that point. You can also take the train from Inverness to Thurso for your trip to Orkney, but you have to take a bus or taxi to Scrabster for the ferry, then buses on Orkney. Finally, from Inverness you could then visit Glasgow on your way south, by way of Perth.

My very best wishes for your journey!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
16860 posts

You will have to have the passes activated before first use and could request the free seat assignments at the same time, a couple of days in advance of travel, at a railway ticket office. But before you hand over your rail passes for activation by the ticket agent, be certain that you communicate the exact start date you need for the pass. That 8-day consecutive window is important to you and it's your responsibility to be clear about it before the agent stamps a validity date. (It would also be possible to simply show the pass and then activate it later, but you'd again have to say that right at the start.)

Posted by
4 posts

thank you so much for making things clear about BritRail pass and all your suggestions. I will reschedule my vacations accordingly.

Posted by
1838 posts

Many thanks Mike in Auchterless. The nearest I got to your area was Crathie. Sounds like I should head further east to see the granite city!