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Traveling from Heathrow to Cardiff then Edinburgh

We will be arriving the end of April. From Heathrow we will go to Cardiff for a few days then on to Edinburgh. Reading about the different train price options would appreciate suggestions on best way to do this. Do we just purchase ticket to Cardiff when we arrive?
Apparently there is a big savings if train tickets are purchased ahead of time, so do we go online to purchase a ticket for the trip from Cardiff to Edinburgh? Do we go through London on this trip?
Thank you, Jeanne

Posted by
1247 posts

Here's a fun book for train fans: Britain from the Rails, a Window Gazer's Guide, by Benedict Le Vay. Library# 914.1048. ISBN: 978 1 84162 919 3. Including The Nation' Best-Kept-Secret Railways: you might be able to patch work a way north. Cardiff, Shrewsbury, Chester, Carlisle, Edinburgh. Or from Chester, Manchester, Leeds, York, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Edinburgh. But in the end it may be quicker to roundtrip from Cardiff and get a through train from London to Edinburgh. It depends if you would enjoy taking different trains for the adventure. Check train passes available and what they cover.

Posted by
1890 posts

Firstly, you can fly from Cardiff to Edinburgh with Flybe for about £40 id you pre-book. The easiest way to find out who flies where and when is to use Skyscanner. If you click this link, you should see the prices for one way flights between Cardiff & Edinburgh for the month of April as of now.

Beware of baggage in hold charges. Flyby are also known for poor customer service - like you can’t get them on the phone and they don’t respond to e-mails quickly. (I would send them a test question first if thinking of using them). Cardiff Airport is about a 35 minute bus ride south west of the city centre. Buses are usually every 20 minutes and cost about £5.

When you land at Heathrow, the best thing to do is to take the Railair coach link to Reading station.

Between Reading & Cardiff, trains are usually every 30 minutes but may be hourly on weekends. The journey takes 1 hour 30 minutes.
If you just show up at Reading & buy a ticket on the day, it will cost you more than pre-booking. (If did just buy on the day, you may well find it cheaper to purchase split tickets with the split being at Swindon - even though you stay on the same train).

Now, you don’t know exactly when you will get to Reading - so - if pre-booking a train, give yourselves plenty of leeway. If you arrive early, go to the platform and wait where the rear of the next train to Cardiff/Swansea will stop. Tell the guard that you pre-booked a later train but could you travel on this train at no penalty rather than hang about. Usually they will say it is OK but may refuse if it is a busy service running in peak hours.

You can find the train times and fares at The advance cheap fares for specific trains appear on the system about 11 weeks ahead of time. As time progresses, the fares rise - play around and see the differences! Pre-book with (where you should also be able to pre-book Cardiff > Edinburgh even though you will be travelling with Arriva Trains Wales & Virgin). Of course, you may prefer to book separately with each of these companies and sometimes they have special deals on their websites. (You will get a booking number for each leg of the trip. They take the money off your debit card. When you arrive - bring the same debit card & insert it into a Fast Ticket Machine and input the Booking Number. Out will come your tickets. Alternatively, take Booking Number print out to a humanoid at the station. You may be able to pick up all the tickets when you arrive at Reading station).

Go to & put in the CDF to EDB and you will get a ridiculous fare of £175.30 one way. No matter how far out you book, the fare stays the same as the pay on the day fare. This is because you have to switch train companies mid way - at Crewe and they don’t co-operate. So, you don’t go back to London for this journey, but do in fact take a direct route with this one change at Crewe. The total journey takes 6 hours 17 minutes. So, we need to reduce the fare!
Do this:> CDF > CRE leaving on the 10.05 (destination will be Manchester) to arrive CRE at 12.28. You should pick up an advance fare of about £21.50.
Now do this:> CRE > EDB departing Crewe at 13.09 on Virgin to arrive EDB at 16.22. You should find a price of about £12 if you pre-book about 11 weeks ahead. So, that = a total of £33.50 from Cardiff to Edinburgh - thus saving a whopping £141.80 that you would have paid to sit on exactly the same trains. (You can send me my cut)!

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you, James. Will mark eleven weeks on the calendar and make reservations following your instructions. Great information.

Posted by
3 posts

James, your information has been very helpful - thank you.
Question, you suggest going from Heathrow to Reading to Cardiff. Is there a problem with going directly from Heathrow to Cardiff. When we look at national it looks like there is a train for 28.50 leaving at 1:15 and 2:15. We are arriving from Denver at 11:30 so thought we could book the 2:15 and should not have a problem, any reason why this should not work? We are approaching the eleven week point so need to make a reservation soon. Again, thank you for the help. Jeanne

Posted by
1890 posts

When you go on the National Rail website, you will see a grey background for those dates where Advance fares are now available.
I hope you are using the 24 hour clock system as 1.15 could be taken to be in the middle of the night! So, 1.15 = 13.15 etc.

Go back to and put in for HTR > CDF. By doing this, you include the bus link from Heathrow bus station to the trains at Reading -which shows up when you click ‘Details’. You should see fares of £38 (one way) including the bus & train. Then click BUY NOW. What happens then is that you get switched through to the GWR website to make your purchase. (GWR = Great Western Railway = the train company that you will use - which is linked to the bus company). Use your debit card to make your purchase and you will be given a booking number - which I would print off. At Heathrow, you should see fast ticket machines in which to insert the SAME DEBIT card and retrieve your tickets. (You should also be able to get the tickets via a human if you can find a helpdesk at Heathrow). I am not sure if the GWR have a facility for you to print your own tickets.

Also note that if using the trains a lot, it may be worth getting a Railcard. A 2 Together Railcard would cost £30 and give about a third off the railfares for 2 people who travel together. Note that this is not valid weekdays before 9.30am. If you intend to get a Railcard - be sure to read the instructions about bringing a photo. You can make the Booking on the assumption that you have the Railcard even though you won't actually get it until you arrive in the UK. (You will find a tick box in the drop down menu).

Arriving in the middle of the day means that you will be travelling off peak. In the event that you arrive early, I would go to the Railair coach link & try and get on an earlier service. Same at Reading station - but check with the conductor who will be at the rear of the train. (They don’t hang about - so you would need to be quick).