London to Penzance by train

How to take the rail journey from London to Cornwall

There are two options available for taking the train from London to Cornwall (Penzance is the final station call on the Cornish Main Line):
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

Final Destination: Penzance

All trains also call at: Liskeard (connect for Looe); Bodmin Parkway; Par (connect for Newquay*); St Austell; Truro and St Erth (connect for St Ives)

*On Mondays to Saturdays in the summer there are daily direct trains from London to Newquay.

The first trains of the day are scheduled to arrive in Penzance after 11:30 and they begin to travel through Cornwall from around 10:00.
If you need or want to arrive in the county earlier, then on Monday to Saturday evenings an overnight train is available.

The 'Pullman' dining service:

The trains which are usually scheduled to depart from London on Mondays to Fridays at
12:04 and 18:04 (year round) and at 13:04 (summer only) are the only regularly timetabled British trains to convey conventional restaurant cars.

First Class passengers can reserve prior to boarding and ShowMeTheJourney recommends booking your travel tickets and dining reservations together by calling 0345 7000 125.
Standard Class passengers can ask the train conductor if any spare places are available after boarding and reserve a place with the conductor.

Mon-Thurs = 10 x trains per day
Friday = 11 x trains
Saturday =7 x trains
Sunday = 8 x trains
(A higher number of departures per day will available in the summer months)

Tickets

Book Early And Save: Yes

Online Bookings Open: Usually 12 weeks ahead, but this period can be longer if Great Western Railway is running a promotion

If you want to travel at the cheapest possible price, book an 'Advance' ticket - though be aware that this type of ticket can't be refunded if you subsequently change your travel plans.
If the booking period has been extended beyond 12 weeks, it seems as though 'Advance' tickets will be the only type of ticket available if you book more than 12 weeks ahead.

Also worth knowing is that on this route, Advance tickets will only be available until 18:00 (6pm) on the day before travel.

If you would like the flexibility to be able to obtain a refund if you subsequently change your travel plans, it's best to book 'Off-Peak' tickets, though this type of ticket lives up to its name, and may not be available on the most popular departures.

'Advance Tickets;' and 'Off-Peak' tickets are specific to the departure you select when making a booking, but they can be transferred to an alternative departure, though you will incur an 'admin fee' if you have booked an 'Advance' ticket.
(Though the T&Cs of using Advance tickets have been made more flexible for journeys taken before September 30th).

Travelling on Saturday-Sunday

Maintenance work on the railway 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 around 10 - 12 weeks ahead and the cheaper 'Advance' 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 - select 'Great Western Railway' as the operator.

Making an end-to-end journey will still be possible, 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 between departures on your travel date, it's often possible to save more than £20 by taking an earlier or later train - the trains which depart London in the middle of the day tend to be cheaper.

Reservations (pre-pandemic):

When you book an Advance ticket for a London to Penzance train journey online, you will automatically be assigned a seat(s) - because a guaranteed seat reservation is a benefit of using a website to purchase the ticket(s).
If you book an Anytime or Off-Peak ticket ahead of your travel date, you can request a reservation - more info about this.

However, if you buy an Anytime or Off-Peak ticket at the station just prior to boarding, a seat reservation WON'T be automatically included with your booking.
That's because reservations at stations need to be booked by the end of the previous day for morning departures and 3 - 4 hours ahead for afternoon/evening departures - so keep that in mind if you will be using a rail pass, including a Britrail or Eurail pass.

On this route ShowMeTheJourney particularly recommends making reservations when travelling at these times
(1) Any journey on Fridays
(2) On trains departing London before 14:00 on Saturdays
(3) On trains departing London after 14:00 on Sundays

Receiving Your Ticket(s)

The four options for receiving and using your ticket(s) if you book on the Great Western Railway (GWR) website are:

(1) Using e-tickets:

You can opt to have an e-ticket attached to your confirmation email, which you can then download to your mobile device.
Then when boarding you can access your ticket(s) on your phone and use it to open the ticket gates.

Though if you opt to use this service, GWR will prompt you to make a test download prior to completing your booking, so that you can be sure that your mobile device is compatible with using this service.

(2) Opt to 'self-print', you will need then need to print off the ticket attached to your confirmation email.

(3) Collecting from the 'Fast-Track' ticket machines at the station.

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 'Fast-Track' ticket machine.

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 will 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.

(4) Opt to pay an additional charge to have your tickets posted to you (not an option if you book tickets from outside the UK).

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Great Western Railway *

Great Western Railway Guide

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesCoastal views

Good to Know

As is evident from the description of the journey by train from London to Cornwall, most of the highlights of this train ride can be seen from the left-hand side of the train when travelling westwards.

So to increase your chances of making the most of the stunning journey aim to be at Paddington 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 right, you can check to see if any unreserved window seats are available on the left-hand side

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.

Between Newbury and Westbury the Kennet and Avon canal is on the left Between Newbury and Westbury the Kennet and Avon canal is on the left
Travelling through the Somerset Hills near Taunton Travelling through the Somerset Hills near Taunton
Looking over the estuary of the River Exe Looking over the estuary of the River Exe
Travelling by the shore between Dawlish and Teignmouth Travelling by the shore between Dawlish and Teignmouth
The first glimpse of some surf boards near Newton Abbot The first glimpse of some surf boards near Newton Abbot
Over the hills between Newton Abbot and Totness Over the hills between Newton Abbot and Totness
Approaching the Royal Albert Bridge and heading into Cornwall Approaching the Royal Albert Bridge and heading into Cornwall
Looking south from the Royal Albert Bridge Looking south from the Royal Albert Bridge
After Saltash station there views over the Tamar estuary After Saltash station there views over the Tamar estuary
Crossing over the River Lynher Crossing over the River Lynher
Looking down on to the branch line to Looe Looking down on to the branch line to Looe
Looking down on Truro and its cathedral Looking down on Truro and its cathedral
A glimpse of St Michaelu0027s Mount near journeyu0027s end A glimpse of St Michaelu0027s Mount near journeyu0027s end

The route of the Cornish Riviera express is arguably the most delightful journey that can be taken when heading off from London by train.
The routes up to Scotland by the East Coast and West Coast main lines may have more dramatic moments, but when travelling by either of those routes, the initial 2hr 30mins of those train rides aren’t particularly special.

In contrast the charms of this route to the West Country begin to kick in around 50 mins after departure from London and they don’t let up until journey’s end.

This train journey from Paddington station to the end of the line at Penzance is a journey of six distinct phases.

(1) For 50 minutes from London until Newbury, the train reaches its highest speeds of the journey as it uses electric power to travel at up to 200 km/h.

(2) Between Newbury and Exeter the railway follows a route through a pastoral landscape of rolling green fields and woodlands.
Soon after departing Newbury the train will travel parallel to the charming Kennet & Avon canal, which can be mainly seen from the left-hand side of the train when heading west.

(3) A highlight of this journey is the 20ish minutes that the train spends travelling between Exeter and Newton Abbot – it’s probably the most fantastic 20 mins that can be enjoyed when looking out of the window on a British express train.

For on this part of the journey the railway is on shore line of the South Devon coast, so when heading west, the sea views are on the left-hand side of the train.

Whenever a train travelling by the sea is shown on British television the footage will show a train travelling through Dawlish and Teignmouth, two stations that are right beside the beach.
Though when looking out of the train windows, the views over the river estuaries which can be seen between Exeter and Dawlish, and then between Teignmouth and Newton Abbot are even more magical.

(4) The railway turns inland between Newton Abbot and Plymouth, but this area of South Devon is very hilly, so the necessary twists and turns slow the train down, but the views of the countryside are rather lovely.

(5) After departure from Plymouth the journey takes on a different character, as from both sides of the train there are sweeping views over the city.

Then around 7 minutes after leaving Plymouth station come the most spectacular views that can be seen when travelling to Cornwall by train, the vistas that can be enjoyed from the Royal Albert Bridge which conveys the train over the River Tamar and into England’s most westerly county.
The best of the views are again on the left-hand side.

(6) The first five minutes of the journey through Cornwall are the loveliest, if you’re sitting on the left-hand side of the train.
Between Saltash and St Germains there are some utterly charming views down over the Lynher River Estuary.

Cornwall’s primary lure for travellers is its dramatic coastline, but despite travelling for most of the county’s length, the railway through it avoids the coast.
There are some distant sea views on the right near Hayle, but the train won’t travel right beside the shore again until it approaches journey’s end near Penzance station.
After departure from St Erth, look out for the blink and you’ll miss it view over on the left of St Michael’s Mount.

Boarding at Paddington station:

As is evident from the description of the journey by train from London to Cornwall, most of the highlights of this train ride can be seen from the left-hand side of the train when travelling westwards.

So to increase your chances of making the most of the stunning journey aim to be at Paddington 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 right, you can check to see if any unreserved window seats are available on the left-hand side

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.

Option 2: travelling overnight

On this journey

Journey Features

Night

Good to Know

When departing from Paddington, you can board the Night Riviera train more than an hour before departure, so if you have opted to travel in a sleeping cabin, you can be settled in for the night before the train has left London.

Though you don’t have to travel in a sleeping cabin when making the overnight train journey from London to Cornwall, some of the coaches convey seats

This train is usually scheduled to arrive in Penzance at 08:49 on Tuesday mornings and at 07:50 on Wednesday to Sundays mornings, while the first of the daytime trains isn't due to arrive there until after 11:30.
(There isn’t a departure on Sundays).

So if you need or want to be in Cornwall before in late morning then you need to make the journey on this newly refurbished train and forsake the scenic highlights, which are available on the daytime journey.

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