London to Inverness by train

How to take the wonderful rail journey from London to lovely Inverness

There are two options available for taking the train from London to Inverness:
1: Taking the scenic journey by day,
2. Travelling overnight on one of Europe's smartest night trains.

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Routes

Option 1: travelling by day

Travel Information

This train service, which is also known as 'The Highland Chieftain', usually departs from London daily at noon (12:00).

Final Destination: Inverness

The train also calls at: Perth, Pitlochry and Aviemore

Yes it takes more than eight hours to reach Inverness from London by train, but if you can travel in the summer time when days are at their longest, you can experience one of Europe's greatest journeys by express trains.

What makes this London to Inverness train journey so special is the combination of Highland mountain scenery and stunning sea views!
For once the train nears the Scottish border, the East Coast Main Line, which you’ll be travelling by, lives up to its name.

To take in those spectacular sea views you’ll need to be sat on the right-hand side of the train when facing north
So to increase your chances of making the most of the stunning journey aim to be at King’s Cross station, ready for boarding, 30 minutes before departure.
Then if you discover when entering the coach in which your assigned seat(s) is located, that it is on the left, check to see if any unreserved window seats are available on the right.
If there are any free, you can occupy them for the journey, as you don’t have to sit in the seat(s) you have been assigned, for your ticket to be valid.

1 x train per day

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.
So 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.

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.

Reservations (pre-pandemic)

When you book an Advance ticket for a London to Inverness 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 *

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.

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesCoastal viewsMountain views

Good to Know

This daytime train is scheduled to arrive in Inverness just after 20:00, but the overnight train arrives before 09:00; in good time to make connections on towards Kyle of Lochlash and Thurso.

The overall journey time will be around 3hr 30mins 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.

Journey description:

Travelling by train from London to Inverness is a fabulous journey of six distinct phases: 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.

(1) For the first 20 -25 minutes the train will be racing 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

(2) Then between the fringes of London 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.

(3) North of Darlington, approximately 2hr 25mins from London the journey becomes epic!

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.

(4) Then around 30 mins after departing from Newcastle, the village of Alnmouth comes into view on the right, 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.

(5) Other trains heading north from Edinburgh to Inverness take a spectacular route along the Fife Coast, but this train takes an inland route via Stirling, with some pleasant hill views to the south of Perth.

It offers a preview of what's to come once you have travelled through Stirling, because between there and Perth, the railway passes through a rolling landscape.

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 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
By the sea to the south of Dunbar By the sea to the south of Dunbar
Looking towards the Bass Rock near Dunbar Looking towards the Bass Rock near Dunbar
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
Near the highest point on the UK main line rail network Near the highest point on the UK main line rail network
Arriving into Inverness and looking over the Moray Firth Arriving into Inverness and looking over the Moray Firth
Passing by Loch Insh on the right, south of Aviemore Passing by Loch Insh on the right, south of Aviemore
Through the foothills of The Cairngorms near Blair Atholl Through the foothills of The Cairngorms near Blair Atholl
Between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore Between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore
The River Tummel is on the left south of Pitlochry The River Tummel is on the left south of Pitlochry
Heading through the mountains south of Dalwhinnie Heading through the mountains south of Dalwhinnie
Approaching the Highlands between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl Approaching The Highlands between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl
Crossing The River Findhorn north of Carrbridge Crossing The River Findhorn north of Carrbridge
Passing by The River Earn on left to the south of Perth Passing by The River Earn on left to the south of Perth

Option 2: travelling overnight

Travel Information

All trains also depart from: Watford Junction, Crewe and Preston (between London and Scotland these trains take a different route to the day trains).

This train is usually scheduled to arrive in Inverness at 08:42, while the daytime train arrives in the city nearly twelve hours earlier at 20:09.

Connecting trains depart from Inverness at:
08:55 to Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh
10:41 to Dingwall and Thurso and Wick
10:55 to Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh

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;
(1) the cost of making the journey, and
(2) the more expensive accommodation costs of travelling in the cabin.

On these Caledonian Sleeper trains the sleeping cabins  have a fixed price, regardless of how many people are using them, so how the total costs per traveller are calculated, is dependent on how the 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.
The total cost per person is more expensive if you will be travelling individually, because if you travel solo you pay the full cost for the Club Room or Classic Room, plus a cost for making the journey.
But two people travelling together, can in effect split the cost of travelling in the Club rooms and Classic rooms between them, 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 *

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesNightMountain views

Good to Know

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

On departure from London the coaches heading to Aberdeen are attached to other part of the train which will be heading to Fort William.

All trains also depart from: Watford Junction, Crewe and Preston (between London and Scotland these trains take a different route to the day trains).

This train is usually scheduled to arrive in Inverness at 08:42, while the daytime train arrives in the city nearly twelve hours earlier at 20:09.

Connecting trains depart from Inverness at:
08:55 to Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh
10:41 to Dingwall and Thurso and Wick
10:55 to Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh

The romantic vision of taking a night train often stems from a perception of boarding a train in darkness and then waking in the morning to a beautiful world outside the train windows, and that is a reality on this route

For the final 2hrs ins of the journey the train will be traveling along the rather lovely Highland Main Line..

Take the stress out of your journey Everything planned to your specification, so sit back and relax… Try Concierge

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