London to Edinburgh by train

How to take the wonderful rail journey from London to beautiful Edinburgh

There are three options available for taking the train from London to Edinburgh:
Taking the scenic journey by day, either on:

  1. A train operated by LNER...
  2. ...A more basic, and much less frequent service operated by Lumo
  3. OR travelling overnight on one of Europe's smartest night trains.
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Routes

Option 1: travel during the day with LNER

Travel Information

Final Destination:
Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow Inverness and Stirling - the new Azuma trains
Edinburgh - the Intercity 225 trains (virtually all services on this route are now by Azuma trains)

All trains also call at: York, Darlington and Newcastle

Most trains also call at: Berwick-upon-Tweed

The London to Edinburgh service has been transformed - on Mondays to Fridays there will now be 2 x trains per hour during the day and after 41 years of service, the 125 trains have ceased operating on the East Coast main line!
They have been replaced by the brand new Azuma trains on all services which continue beyond Edinburgh to serve other destinations in Scotland.
Those trains to destinations beyond Edinburgh are usually scheduled to depart from King's Cross station at
Mon - Sat: 10:00; 12:00; 14:00; 15:00 and 16:00
Sunday: 10:00; 12:00 and14:00
These departures are also all among the fastest services from London to Edinburgh - the departures that complete the journey in around 4hr 20 mins.

The Azuma trains also operate many of the other services to between these capital cities; when you look up the journey on the LNER website, it shows which type of train should be operating each departure.

Why you should take the train

Aside from environmental considerations there are two very good reasons for opting to take the train from London to Edinburgh.

(1) Edinburgh Waverley station has a fabulous location in the heart of the Scottish capital, so you will arrive in the city centre,

(2) Much of the London to Edinburgh train journey is glorious.

It is a journey of three phases:

  • For the first 20 -25 minutes the train is travelling through the London suburbs and the commuter towns which surround it - though look out for the view from Welwyn Viaduct around 17 minutes into the journey
  • Between Hitchin and Darlington the train predominantly travels through pleasant, but unremarkable countryside - though if you are in a backwards facing seat on the right, look out for a view of York Minster as the train departs the station.
  • North of Darlington, approximately 2hr 25mins from London the journey becomes epic!

However all of the best of the views are on the right hand side of the train (when facing the direction of travel).
If you haven't lucked out and have been assigned a seat(s) on the left-hand side when making a booking, see if you can find available seats on the right hand side after Darlington; if you move to a different seat(s) it won't affect the validity of your ticket.

This is the typical journey time, the departures at 00 minutes past the hour are faster than the trains which leave at 30 minutes past the hour.
At weekends maintenance work on the railway line can cause trains to be diverted on to longer routes.

There are 2 x trains per hour for most of the day, there is always at minimum of 1 x departure per hour

Tickets

If you want to travel at the cheapest possible price, look for the 'Advance tickets', though the two key things worth knowing about booking and using 'Advance' tickets are:
(1) This type of ticket can't be refunded if you subsequently change your travel plans, or miss the train in circumstances not to do with a connecting train.
(2) A £10 admin fee will be payable if you want to exchange your ticket to a different departure to the same destination, to that which you selected when making your booking PLUS you will ALSO be charged any price difference with the new ticket you'll then have to purchase.

(Though the T&Cs of using Advance tickets have been made more flexible for journeys taken before September 30th).

What is unusual about booking with LNER is that Advance tickets are now available online up to only 5 mins before departure.
They will have sold out sooner on the most popular trains, and the earlier you can book the cheaper they will be, but before buying walk-up Off Peak or Anytime tickets at a station, just prior to departure, it's worth checking on your phone to see whether Advance tickets are still available, before heading to the ticket counter or machines.

On the least busy Monday to Friday departures 'Super Off-Peak; tickets are usually available, they'll be more expensive than Advance tickets, but will give you greater flexibility with your travel-plans.
You will only have to pay any price difference with the new ticket - if you swap them to a different departure more than  24 hours ahead, there will usually be no difference in price to pay.
They can also be refunded for an admin fee of £10.

Travelling on Monday - Friday:

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date.

However, when you look up a journey you may see dates further ahead on the calendar, but you'll be informed that tickets aren't yet available for those dates.
On the LNER website you'll be prompted to sign up to a Ticket Alert service - if you will be using a PC, over on the right on the screen you'll be taken to, you'll see the furthest date ahead that tickets can be booked for.

Travelling on Saturday-Sunday

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date, but maintenance work on the route is periodically undertaken at weekends and if it is scheduled on your travel date, it can affect when tickets will be released for sale.

If you're looking up a journey less than 12 weeks ahead and tickets aren't available, it can be a good indication that works will be impacting on your travel date.
It can be worth checking this on the National Rail website - enter LNER as the operator.

Making an end-to-end journey will still be possible, so it can be worth signing up to LNER's ticket alert service, though you MAY ultimately have to take a substitution bus service for part of the trip.
It's the confirmation of these alternative travel arrangements which can hold up the release of the tickets for sale.

Choosing a departure

There can be significant differences in prices of Advance tickets between departures on your travel date, it's often possible to save more than £30 by taking an earlier or later train.
The LNER website makes it clear what the cheapest price is available per day.

When heading north, the trains which depart London in the middle of the day tend to be cheaper.

Reservations:

When you book an Advance ticket for a London to Edinburgh train journey, you will be automatically assigned a seat(s), but if you book the other types of ticket ahead, you can request a complimentary reservation - more info on this

Seat reservations aren't automatically included when booking Off Peak or Anytime tickets online, but you can add the complimentary reservation, once you've made choice of departure, either when booking or afterwards.
When booking walk-up tickets at a station ticket counter, if the Advance tickets aren't available for the next departure, confirm whether a seat reservation has been added to the booking of an Anytime or Off Peak ticket, in theory reservations will be available until around 5 mins pre-departure.

If you will be using a rail pass, including a Britrail or Eurail pass, you should be able to obtain a reservation, at no charge, from a ticket counter up until 5 mins before the departure; keep this in mind as it is not the norm when using rail passes in Britain.

Receiving Your Ticket(s)

The four options for receiving your ticket(s) are:

(1) You will receive a booking reference number on your order confirmation email and you can use this reference number to collect ticket(s) from a ticket machine.
Some stations will have dedicated ticket collection machines, but standard ticket machines will also have an option for collecting pre-booked tickets.

You will need to enter your reference number into the machine, so make sure you'll have easy access to it when you are using the machine.
You will also need to insert the specific credit or debit card you used when making the booking, so have that with you too.

Showing the email you have received to staff at the ticket gates won't get you on to the train, nor will this be valid if you can only show the email to the conductor when you are on the train.

If you forget to bring your ticket(s) with you to the station, but do have the card with you that you used when booking, you can use the machines to collect your ticket(s).
Take your time and take care that you have picked up all your ticket(s) and seat reservations.

(2) Print off the tickets you receive before heading to the station - the instructions for doing this are available here.

(3) Opt to pay an additional charge to have your tickets posted to you - not available when booking tickets from outside the UK.

(4) Mobile tickets - if you select this option when making a booking you will need to download the LNER Travel Buddy app so that you can 'Activate' your ticket.

The LNER website states that 'Advance' tickets will be automatically activated, but there's no suggestion on the LNER website that it will be OK to save the ticket(s) you will receive as a PDF to your mobile device.
So download the app to be sure that you can use a mobile ticket.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
LNER from £34

LNER Guide

LNER offers a couple of services which offer additional benefits to how tickets are usually sold for long-distance journeys:
They are:

  • a https://www.lner.co.uk/tickets-savings/your-ticket/price-promise/ service, which enables its customers to claim refunds for the differences in price between LNER and other booking agents for journeys by LNER trains.
  • LNER Perks is a useful service for those who regularly travel by LNER trains.
  • Seatfrog is a service by which those who have book Standard Class tickets can 'bid' to upgrade to First Class seats.
    In effect you can set the additional price you will be willing to pay to travel in First Class and if your price matches the winning bid, you'll be able to upgrade.
NationalRail from £34

NationalRail Guide

In Great Britain each Train Operating Company provides its own booking service for journeys by its trains, but many of their websites also sell tickets for nationwide journeys, regardless of which company operates the trains on the routes you wish to travel by.

The National Rail website is plugged into all of the train operator's booking services, so when more than one of these companies offers tickets for a route, it in effect offers a price comparison service.
It isn't a ticket agent, so you will be connected to the website of your choice in order to make a booking.

RailEurope from £34

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesCoastal views

Good to Know

Travel by these daytime trains and you won't arrive in Edinburgh until after 11:00, but the overnight train is scheduled to arrive Scotland's capital city before 07:30.

The overall journey time will be around three hours longer, but you will be travelling on Europe's newest overnight train service.
Though note that the overnight train departs from Euston station and not from King's Cross station.

Avanti West Coast also operates day trains to Edinburgh from Euston station, but they take an indirect route and therefore have a journey time of 5hr 45mins; and they won't be cheaper than the LNER trains from Kings Cross station.

Journey description:

All of the videos were taken from a train travelling in the opposite direction, when travelling towards Edinburgh, all of these views can be seen from the right.

Around 15 mins after departing from Darlington comes the first highlight of the journey - the stunning views over the town of Durham,
Over on the right before and after the station, the town's stunning castle and cathedral can be clearly seen in all their glory.

After Durham the next highlight of the journey is the passage over the River Tyne, as the train approaches Newcastle Central station and heads over the King Edward VII Bridge.
Looking to the right, five other bridges that span the river can be seen and there are also some great views of the Tyne Bridge as the train arrives in Newcastle station.

Around 30 mins after departing from Newcastle, the village of Alnmouth comes into view on the right, and just to the south of it is the first glimpse of the North Sea, which can be seen on this journey.

For most of the remainder of the journey northwards the route lives up to its name of the 'The East Coast Mainline'.

The next highlight is the view from the majestic Royal Border Bridge as the train sweeps into Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Around five minutes after the train has either passed through or departed from Berwick, it begins to travel across the clifftops as it crosses the border into Scotland - these are the most dramatic coastal views on the journey.

The coast then comes back into view to the south of Dunbar...

...and there are distant glimpses of the sea available until the train reaches the suburbs of Edinburgh.

This video produced by the train operator LNER also showcases the Newcastle to Edinburgh section of the route

The castle and cathedral in Durham from a backwards facing seat to the north of Durham station The castle and cathedral in Durham from a backwards facing seat to the north of Durham station
Crossing the River Tyne as the train arrives in Newcastle Crossing the River Tyne as the train arrives in Newcastle
The view of the Tyne Bridge on departure from Newcastle The view of the Tyne Bridge on departure from Newcastle
The village of Alnmouth with the North Sea beyond The village of Alnmouth with the North Sea beyond
Arriving on the outskirts of Berwick-upon-Tweed Arriving on the outskirts of Berwick-upon-Tweed
Looking left on the Royal Border Bridge just after departing Berwick Looking left on the Royal Border Bridge just after departing Berwick
A glimpse of the ruins of the smugglers bothy at Lamberton Skerrs south of Berwick A glimpse of the ruins of the smugglers bothy at Lamberton Skerrs south of Berwick
Looking towards Lindisfarne south of Berwick Looking towards Lindisfarne south of Berwick
to the south of Dunbar to the south of Dunbar
By the sea to the south of Dunbar By the sea to the south of Dunbar
Sadly there is  no guarantee of rainbows as the train nears journeyu0027s end Sadly there is no guarantee of rainbows as the train nears journeyu0027s end

Option 2: travelling during the day with Lumo

Travel Information

Lumo is a relatively new rail operator which offers a more-basic alternative to travelling on LNER's trains.
If you want to travel in Standard Class and...

  • are happy to take your own food/drink on board with you
  • want access to WiFi during the journey
  • won't be travelling with more than one medium suitcase per person
  • won't be taking a bike
  • and aren't that bothered by seeing the view from the windows (comparatively few of the seats on Lumo trains line up well with the windows)
    ...then travelling with Lumo seems to compare well with travelling with LNER.

The core differences between the Lumo trains and the Azuma trains used by LNER are:

First Class:
LNER = available
Lumo = not available

Bar/bistro car:
LNER = available
Lumo = not available

At seat catering:
LNER = available
Lumo = available, but more substantial items such as sandwiches need to be pre-ordered up to 10 hours prior to departure

Large suitcases:
LNER = yes
Lumo = no

Non-folding bicycles:
LNER = yes, spaces can be reserved
Lumo = no

Monday to Friday = 4 x trains per day
Sat/Sun = no service (for the moment)

The Lumo timetable, note that the final departure of the day from London is at 14:36.

Tickets

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open 24 weeks ahead of the travel date.

Lumo only offers two types of tickets for sale: Anytime and Lumo Fixed, which are its equivalent of discounted Advance tickets.
The prices of Lumo Fixed tickets will be cheaper the further ahead that they are booked and in common with Advance tickets they are departure specific, so include complimentary seat reservations.
They can be changed right up to the time of departure for any future without any admin fees, though any price difference to travel by the different departure will be payable.

Something to look out for is that the cheapest price of Lumo Fixed tickets are lower than cheapest prices of Advance tickets sold by LNER for London to Edinburgh journeys, but these cheapest prices will sell out at different rates.
So it's worth comparing prices on your travel date(s), particularly if you won't be booking months ahead, you may find cheaper prices available on some LNER departures.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Lumo *

On this journey

Good to Know

Final destination: Edinburgh
All trains also call Newcastle and Morpeth
Lumo offers a much more frequent service to Morpeth than LNER

The Lumo trains take the same route as the LNER trains.

Option 3: travelling through the night

Travel Information

Final Destination: Edinburgh

Note that this overnight train departs from Euston station in London, but the daytime trains depart from King's Cross station.

All trains also depart from: Watford Junction (the night trains take a different route to the daytime trains)

When departing from Euston, these Caledonian Sleeper trains are available for boarding from 22:30 (10:30 pm) which is more than an hour ahead of departure.
Then in Edinburgh passengers can remain on board for 37 minutes after arrival.

On Board summary:

More information is available by clicking the 'train details', but if you make this journey you will be travelling on Europe's most modern overnight trains.
You can opt to choose from three different types of sleeping cabin, one of which offers the opportunity to travel in a double bed, OR you can travel in reclining seats.

The shorter journey time applies to Mon-Fri departures

There are no departures on Saturday evenings

Tickets

Unusually for UK train tickets, you can book journeys on the Caledonian Sleeper up to twelve months ahead.
If you want a full choice of accommodation in the summer months or around holiday times, it's best to book at least a month in advance.

When making a journey by these Caledonian Sleeper trains, you can choose from three types of sleeping cabin, or you can opt to travel in reclining seats - If you want to travel in the reclining seats, you will in effect only be paying the journey costs.

In common with how tickets are sold to travel in sleeping cabins on other European night train services, there are two elements to the total cost of the sleeping cabin ticket price,

  • the cost of making the journey,
  • and the accommodation costs of travelling in the cabin.

On these Caledonian Sleeper trains the sleeping cabins  have a fixed price, so how the total costs are calculated is dependent on how the sleeping cabins will be occupied.

If you will be making an individual booking you will have sole occupancy of a Club Room or Classic Room - booking a Caledonian Double isn't an option for solo travellers.
Although the total cost per person is more expensive if you will be travelling individually, because if you travel solo you pay the cost for the Club Room or Classic Room, plus a cost for making the journey.
But two people travelling together pay the same charge for the Club Room and Classic rooms, and the additional cost comes from having to purchase two journey tickets.

Paying a higher price for single occupancy of a sleeping cabin is the norm on European night trains, but this particular pricing methodology makes the sleeping cabins on a Caledonian Sleeper service, a comparatively expensive option for solo travellers.

Travelling as a family group:

The costs of adults and children travelling together will be calculated during the booking process - here is the relevant information.

Using Rail Passes:

If you will be using a valid rail pass you can travel in a reclining seat at no additional charge, but you must reserve a place prior to boarding, by calling the Guest Service Centre on 0330 060 0500.

If you want to travel in a bed in a Club Room sleeping cabin, you need to pay a 'Room only supplement' of £170 if you will be travelling solo, or £200 if two people will be travelling together.
If you want to travel in a Classic Room sleeping cabin, the supplement is £120 for solo travellers and £140 if two people are travelling together.

These 'Room only supplements' can be booked online.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Caledonian Sleeper from £45

On this journey

Journey Features

Night

Good to Know

This train is usually scheduled to arrive in Edinburgh between 07:20 and 07:25, while the first of the daytime trains isn't due into Scotland's capital city until after 11:00 on Monday -Saturdays.

On departure from London the coaches heading to Edinburgh are attached to another part of the train which will be heading to Glasgow.

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