Taking the Train from London to Edinburgh

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

After flying over the ocean in British Airways business class, spending a few great days in London at the Hyatt Regency Churchillplaying in Hyde Park, taking the tour inside Buckingham Palace, eating in the Disney Cafe at Harrods, and more, we headed to King’s Cross Station to catch our train to Scotland.

img_6714.jpg

img_6716.jpg

It was really a toss-up from a price standpoint between flying or taking the train from London to Edinburgh, but we opted for the train to eliminate some of the stress and hassles of going through Heathrow. We have also found train rides to be a pretty fun way to travel. Seeing the countryside between London and Edinburgh was an added bonus, and it did not disappoint!

 

We booked on a Virgin East Coast train with the “small group discount” with Josh and me, grandma, our six year old, and the baby. Up to two kids under the age of 5 can travel for free in a family, so our one year old did not require a ticket as long as she didn’t need an assigned seat. We did get an additional discount on the child’s ticket for our 6 year old. I found that prices vary wildly based on which train you selected and how far in advance you booked. Our first class bookings came to £64 for each adults and £32 for our daughter. Some trains were much less than that and some were more, depending on the time or day and length of the ride.

First class gave us assigned seats together at a table (in a car with a restroom!), food/drinks for the duration of the journey, and access to the lounge before departure. I’m sure coach/standard would have been totally fine, but I’m happy with the price we paid for what we got in return to make the journey as comfortable as possible. If you want to use points, this would count as a travel charge you could easily redeem points for on a favorite card.

The Virgin First Class Lounge was thankfully easy to spot even for us King’s Cross newbies with its large sign.

img_6719.jpg

Inside the first class lounge there were plenty of seats as well as soft drinks, waters, and light packaged snacks. There were also clean and relatively empty restrooms!

img_6720.jpg

We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but I love having a place to re-gather ourselves and our things before moving on to the next part of the journey. The Virgin First Class lounge provided all of that, so we were happy to have made the visit.

About 15 minutes before departure we headed down to board the train bound for Scotland.

img_6799.jpg

The cars were well marked, so we were able to easily find our seats based on the tickets we had printed at home.

img_6784.jpg

It wasn’t long before the train was loaded and we excitedly pulled out of the station.

Thankfully it also wasn’t long before the littlest decided to take a much needed snooze. The lulling rocking motion of the train certainly didn’t hurt!

img_6798.jpg

In the first class cars they came around multiple times offering included soft drinks, waters, etc. and packaged sandwiches and wraps. My understanding is that the weekday offerings are more substantial than the weekend offerings that we had.

img_6796.jpg

The sandwiches and snacks weren’t amazing, but it was nice to have food just appear without having to plan ahead or seek it out…especially with the sleeping baby!

What was truly amazing were the views from the large windows, especially on the second half of the journey. It was as impressive as you would imagine heading through England and into Scotland with green hills, grazing sheep, towering structures, and more.

img_0584.jpg

img_6807.jpg

img_6825.jpg

There was included WiFi with our first class tickets, as well as power plugs that helped keep everyone well entertained when they weren’t staring out the windows. WiFi is also included in “standard” class if you book directly with Virgin. Otherwise, it is free for 15 minutes and then £5 for the rest of the journey. We had a slight delay when the train lost power about an hour into the journey, but very thankfully that was short lived…it freaked me out a bit.

Roughly on schedule, after about 4 1/2 hours from leaving London, we arrived safely at Edinburgh Waverley Station. We then went up the steps at the station, and stepped out into beautiful, windy Edinburgh ready to experience Scotland.

img_6888.jpg

I’m very pleased that we chose the train as it was a low-stress way to travel and it gave us the opportunity to really see the terrain between London and Edinburgh. There was no security screenings, and our stroller, bags, and more were right with us in the car making it a simple on and off experience. If you have traveled between London and Edinburgh, did you opt for the train or the air? What made you pick one over the other?

Comments

  1. Your family train ride looked great. Two years ago on a solo trip to Ryder Cup near Edinburgh, I flew RT to Heathrow and had a day in London on each end of the week. I decided to take the Caledonian Sleeper rather than the Virgin train. Although that meant little visible scenery until the last couple of hours each way, the benefit of saving a couple of hotel nights for a solo traveler were worth it. Did get access to that nice first class Virgin (I think) lounge in London, especially nice for the shower and breakfast upon returning to London after Ryder Cup.

    No wifi on Caledonian Sleeper but I was enjoying the disconnect that week.

    Planning a trip back to Scotland next year with my wife and likely will take the day train at least one way. Thanks for the helpful review.

  2. My wife, 8 year old son, and I are making the reverse trip at the end of September

    Did you keep your luggage in the car or put in the Pullman car?

  3. Hi Summer, I have travelled 1st with Virgin Eastcoast many times in last 4-5 years. From city centre to city centre it is quicker & less hassle than flying London to Edinburgh. Free wifi (when it works!) and Mon-Fri the menu does indeed include hot food which is very good. And a fine selection of booze too. Glad you chose the train over plane.
    Can’t wait to hear how you got on in my home city, Edinburgh……
    If anyone is coming here soon, check out my website http://www.edinburghwalks.com for guided walks of this beautiful city.

  4. While we were living in N Wales, we took the train a few times to London. Air wasn’t much of an option unless we took two hours’ worth of trains to Manchester just to get to an airport! But we would’ve taken the train anyway, as it’s SOOO much more relaxing to travel with kids by rail than by air. We never bothered with first class, as second class was plenty comfortable (including tables and power and potentially sitting close to a toilet). Wifi would be a nicety, but I always get a local SIM and tether anyway. Of course food wasn’t included in second, but we found it easy enough to pop into a Sainsbury to pick up a few things.

    In any case, the real key that you’ve hit on here is that train travel in the UK and (most of) Europe is spectacular, especially when you’re traveling with kids.

  5. I second the recommendation regarding the Caledonian sleeper – it’s fun and yes it does cut out the cost of a night’s accommodation if that is a consideration. It’s also very easy to fly back from Edinburgh – the tram goes straight to the airport, and the flight to London is quick. I think you got very good prices if they were return fares.

  6. I just did this trip a month and a half ago with my wife and mother in law. Our per person fare came out just under £50 for coach, which was plenty comfy, and the wifi, though slow, was a nice bonus. Taking the train from King’s Cross was just so much more convenient than trying to find a way to Heathrow (or any airport), and then getting from EDI to the city center where we were staying. Since our lodging was walking distance from both train stations, saving on cab/train fare to/from the airports, not to mention travel time, was pretty invaluable.

  7. I did this commute twice monthly for a number of years on business and experimented with all sorts of variations. Bottom line, for speed it had to be flying, even allowing for slower airports in the current age.

    In those days you could arrive 20 minutes before your flight and it was a true shuttle operation out of LHR. Today, you would need to add an hour to that at LHR and 30 minutes at EDI. But still, if you are near Paddington or the Piccadilly Line for LHR, or Victoria, Blackfriars or the Victoria Line or District Line for LGW, or the DLR for LCY, you’ll be much faster flying.

    Also, when things go pear-shaped, airlines are MUCH better at looking after you than the railways – I know from bitter experience.

    Incidentally, in those days even MAN was faster by plane, but I think the arithmetic on that will have changed.

  8. We also traveled first class on a Virgin East train when we went from London to Edinburgh in May – it was great! Even better, when they have a delay of over 30 minutes, you get at least a portion of your ticket refunded. Our train was delayed by 62 minutes due to some work being done on the tracks ahead of us. That put us 2 minutes past the time when you’re entitled to a full refund. I put in my claim when we returned and received my refund check a few weeks later. Of course that was right around Brexit, so I lost a little due to currency exchange since the check is made out in pounds. For only an hour delay, though, I was thrilled to get a complete refund!! I’ve had much longer delays on Amtrak and didn’t get so much as a free drink.

  9. Well, your trip was certainly one of our favorite ways to travel in Europe. I think you made a very smart choice instead of flying.

    We went to Edinburgh for a week back in June 2004. We flew in to Heathrow to connect on British Midlands (are they still around?) to Edinburgh. Of course, we had to clear immigration on arrival in LHR, so we got on the line with 90+ minutes for our connection. After a while several of us noticed that the line hardly seemed to moved and we noticed the immigration guys were chatting up each person (looked more like casual conversation than questioning). People started panicking and yelling about having connections – turns out there were a bunch of people connecting on our flight. At this point, we were less than 30 minutes from departure. They ended up rushing us through and then we were all sprinting to the connection gate. My husband and I were pretty fit back then, so when we arrived gasping for breathe at the gate, the gate agents greeted us by saying, “Ok, good, I think there are still a few more of you coming so we’ve been holding the plane.” We collapsed into our seats in sheer relief!!
    Definitely not stress free – but all worked out and we just loved Edinburgh.

  10. Great review…..Virgin trains are quite good and the first class car is comfortable, especially while enjoying some good tea. The sad thing is that a similar US trip is to go from New York Penn station to Montreal on Amtrak. It’s the same number of miles yet takes over 10 hours in the US versus the little over 4 hours in the UK. It’s better to drive that distance in the US whereas it is not as good to do so from London to Edinburgh.

  11. We felt like royalty when last year we took the train from Edinburgh to York and then after a few days from York to London. We sat in coach which was fine but had assigned seats. Having the staff at the Balmoral where we stayed escort us and luggage to Waverly station which is connected to hotel was memorable. Felt like celebrities–everyone watching. And then a week later, the Queen tied up the whole station when she arrived during her anniversary. So glad we weren’t there then–wouldn’t have gotten into Holywood.

  12. The Kings Cross area is a lot nicer these days. When I lived in London 20 years ago, Kings X was considered a “dodgy” area. We took the train from London to Edinburgh Waverley in Aug too, Did not know about the group discount but took advantage of getting a Friends and Family railcard to save some pounds. We went standard class which was comfortable. On board we had free wifi and was able to reserve a table for the 3 of us.
    The train was great but the London Underground and buses were confusing. Did you get an Oystercard for London? We didn’t buy one before we left and we were told a visitor Oystercard can’t be bought in London. We wanted to take the tube more but without an Oystercard, it was cheaper to take taxis. The cash price for a single fare was 4.90 GBP! We couldn’t even jump on a London bus because they don’t take coins anymore. In the past, we were able to buy cheap day Travelcards in tube stations that would work on both tubes and buses. The cheapest Travelcard we found was about 12 GBP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *