With a journey time just shy of 4.5-hours, the London to Edinburgh train route provides an easy and affordable way to visit two of the UK’s two blockbuster capital cities. Racing across 332 miles every 30 minutes, it’s a popular option for everyone from tourists to business travellers. If you’re thinking about making the journey, we’ve analysed the best train options below.
Direct trains depart from London Kings Cross, one of the best-connected transport hubs in the UK. It’s one of the most interesting too, beloved by Harry Potter fans –who hotfoot to Platform 9 ¾ – and history buffs. Trains arrive at Edinburgh Waverley, which is ideally situated between the old heart of town and the modern city centre. Services run every 30 minutes, from 06:12 to 23:23. The only direct train service provider running between the two cities is LNER.
Of all the British train providers, of which there are many, LNER is perhaps the most comfortable and reliable. The new 125 mph Azuma trains were introduced between 2019 and 2020, replacing all of the older 1990s trains still in use. Azuma trains were built using Japanese bullet train technology, built by Hitachi’s UK manufacturing team in County Durham. Azuma actually means ‘East’ in Japanese, fitting for a line that runs across the eastern length of the whole country.
Carriages feature the standard seat configuration, though for the best views you’ll want to make sure you’re sitting on the right-hand side. All carriages feature free WiFi and power sockets. There’s no luggage limit either and you can store it all on overhead racks or large luggage racks at the entrance. You can also carry bikes on board, but you’ll need to reserve space at the rack area in advance. All trains also have spaces for wheelchair users, with accessible toilets and a dedicated Assistant Travel Team, who can help with changing trains, boarding and arrivals.
There’s a cafe-restaurant serving a range of drinks, hot and cold meals and snacks which you can take back to your seat. There’s also the new ‘Let’s Eat At Your Seat’ app, which enables you to order from a menu via a QR code on the back of the seat in front of you. Your order should arrive 20 minutes later.
There are two classes of service to choose from: First and Second class. The standard second class includes independent tables, free WiFi and plug sockets at every seat. If you need to catch up with work or prefer to enjoy your journeys in peace, you can book a seat on the quiet carriage, generally located in coach B or H. First class offers wider seats and recline for extra comfort, larger tables and more generous legroom. You can also opt for a solo seat. There are power sockets and USB charging points at every seat too. You’ll also enjoy complimentary meals onboard, with free teas, coffees and soft drinks served throughout the journey. Currently, the service only offers the ‘Deli’ menu, which includes hot and cold sandwiches, cakes, wines and beers, but the more upmarket ‘Dish’and ‘Dine’ menus are expected soon.
Currently, LNER offers trains to Edinburgh every 30 minutes. At the time of writing, the fastest train journey is 4 hours 13 minutes, and the longest is 5 hours 22 minutes.
Rates & How to book tickets
You can book tickets up to three months in advance of your travel dates. It’s always recommended to buy tickets in advance, as ticket prices escalate the closer you get to departure. Rates start at £27 for a single journey for second class seats and £66 for first class, but these are advance fares and are only valid for specific trains. If you’re looking for a little more flexibility, you can choose from Anytime (starting from £161.50 one way) or Super Off-Peak (starting at £147.40 return).
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The Caledonian Sleeper
If you’re all for the romance of railway and speed isn’t your priority, you could opt for the Caledonian Sleeper. Trains depart from London Euston at 22:30 Monday – Friday and 22:45 on Sunday, and arrive into Edinburgh Waverley at 07:23 in the morning. Onboard the new Caledonian Sleeper trains, you can choose from Classic, Club and Caledonian Double Rooms. All feature free WiFi, soap, towels and power sockets. Classic rooms feature one or two beds, a washbasin and a toilet on the corridor. Club rooms are almost identical but feature an ensuite toilet and shower. The Caledonian Doubles feature a double bed and an en-suite shower and toilet. There’s also a lounge car, serving up up showstopping Scottish-inspired menus.
Where to stay in Edinburgh on a budget
Edinburgh offers a staggering variety of accommodation close to the train station. If you’re looking for a hotel that won’t break the budget within walking distance of Edinburgh Waverley, we’ve cherry-picked three of the best.
St Christopher’s Hostel couldn’t be closer to the station unless it was built inside it. Located just across the street from Edinburgh Waverley, the hostel features a range of dorm and private bedrooms spread over five floors. Rooms are basic, but clean and colourful, with comfy beds and lockers for your belongings. There’s a small garden too. Guests can head next door to Jacks for haggis or downstairs to Belushis, where they get 25% off food and drinks. There are free walking tours and a roster of events throughout the year too.
If you’re looking for a budget bolthole but want to avoid hostels, the Grassmarket Hotel is an excellent option. It’s a ten-minute leisurely stroll from the station, but the extra steps are well worth it. There’s nothing striking about the building’s exterior, but inside it’s a riot of colour, quirky furniture and kooky design. You can choose from cosy single rooms to Comfy Plus rooms, which sleep up to four people. Rooms feature modern fittings including rainfall showers and iPod docs with speakers in the bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as thoughtful touches like Tunnocks teacakes. Service is sparkling too.
For a mid-range hotel that’s packed with personality, Hotel Indigo is hard to beat. The four-star hotel is moments from Princes Street, the Royal Mile and Edinburgh. Set in a handsome listed Georgian building, interiors combine historic details with contemporary design. Original period features such as the decorative stairwells and cupola are imaginatively paired with striking modern artworks. Rooms are stylish and spacious, some with separate lounge spaces complete with a workspace. The price includes a Scottish breakfast, featuring locally sourced eggs, fluffy pancakes and tattie scones.