This post may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

Last Updated on 01/03/2021

Discover No-Fly Holidays, a series of features aiming to inspire you to travel well without ever needing to book a flight. Next in the series is my experience travelling by the new LNER Azuma train from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. Is it the best train from London to Edinburgh? Here’s what I found out: 

No-Fly Holidays: Why I Chose to Travel by Train 

London to edinburgh by train review

The LNER Azuma train is a more reliable way to travel

I visited Edinburgh last year on a brief weekend city break a few days before Christmas. Time was of the essence so I took a flight thinking it would be cheaper and quicker… Or so I thought. 

I was wrong, of course, and both my flights ended up being delayed and it looked like there was a real danger that I would spend Christmas Day in Edinburgh Airport.

So, when the opportunity arose to take a second trip to Edinburgh, I was determined to do things differently. Edinburgh is my favourite city in the UK (after London of course…) but it’s far – not travelling internationally, far but still a trek in its own right. Even so, flying was not an option for me. I couldn’t justify it. Not with the possibility of reliving unapologetic delays and the needless negative impact on the environment. 

Up until very recently, flying has reigned supreme in being the most cost-effective and convenient way to travel from London to Edinburgh. Historically, trains were expensive and time-consuming, and when you’ve only got a small amount of time to spare on your mini-break, the last thing you want to do is spend most of it travelling to and from the destination. 

Launched in the summer of 2019, the new LNER Azuma trains promised travellers a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to travel to the Scottish capital. Since I was already planning to go, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test it and see if it really was the best train from London to Edinburgh. 

READ MORE: No-Fly Holidays: 10 of the Most Epic Train Journeys in the World

No-Fly Holidays: The Tickets 

London to edinburgh review

The train tickets are reasonably affordable in comparison to the flight

I bought my ticket directly from the LNER website to keep things simple. If booked well in advance (a month, say), LNER promises that you can get as much as 52% off and a standard single ticket from London to Edinburgh could cost you about £27. 

I didn’t manage to get quite such a bargain, instead, paying £96.85 for a standard return with a railcard included. It was still a reasonably good deal and as a bonus, there were no added booking fees. 

For luxury travellers, an advance upgrade can cost you as little as £68 for a First Class single, and for that, you can get super comfy seats, hot food, drinks, booze and snacks galore. 

Click here to find out more about the LNER Azuma and book your tickets. 

No-Fly Holidays: Highlights 

London to Edinburgh by train review

Newcastle views

The journey from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley was a scenic one. The train raced through the country in record time (about 4h 23m) as it headed northeast. The best views were saved until last as we sped past the historic city of Durham and spotted the cathedral and castle rise up above the rooftops. Next, we snaked through Newcastle and caught a glimpse of the city’s famous Tyne Bridge before getting a close-up of Newcastle Castle on the way out.

Skirting the east coast of England, we made it to the picturesque town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, the final frontier before our journey up into the Scottish Borders and onwards to Edinburgh.

With less than 5 hours spent travelling, the journey could not have gone better. I sat back and relaxed with a book in hand and a cup of tea in the other as the world sped by my window. 

You could argue that a flight is quicker in the air (about 1 hour) but once you’ve factored in the commute to and from the airports, the time waiting before your flight and the stress of luggage allowances, a fraction of time more if indeed at all just doesn’t seem worth it. 

Infographic of best train from London to Edinburgh.

Virgin Trains have been replaced by Avanti West Coast (more details on that below).

READ MORE: No-Fly Holidays: London to Barcelona by Bus (REVIEW)

 No-Fly Holidays: Alternative Routes 

The LNER Azuma was a game-changer for me but it’s not the only choice on the tracks. So, is it the best train from London to Edinburgh? Here are 2 other popular services listed below to compare: 

The Caledonian Sleeper 

London to Edinburgh by train review

Train travel has a romance to it

The Caledonian Sleeper hearkens back to the romantic age of slow travel. It’s more of an iconic luxury experience than your average train journey. The journey from London to Edinburgh is a fair bit longer (about 8 hours) but if you’re taking the Caledonian Sleeper simply to get from A to B then you’re doing it wrong. 

Passing through the night, it’s designed to be a chance for passengers to really relax and indulge. You have a choice of sleeping arrangements from cabins with a double bed and ensuite to reclining seats with a personal locker each. 

The Caledonian Sleeper is slow travel at its core so don’t try to rush. WiFi and charging sockets are available throughout the train and passengers have a choice of menus offering a selection of seasonal Scottish dishes to tuck into.  

Accommodation and Ticket Prices 

Prices are based on booking a single ticket 1 month in advance and are subject to change: 

Accommodation Type: Food & Drink: Ticket Price:
Caledonian Double  Breakfast included From £335
Club (twin ensuite) Breakfast included From £150
Classic Breakfast available for purchase From £160
Seat  Dedicated food and drink menu From £48

Click here to find out more and book tickets for the Caledonian Sleeper. 

Virgin Trains (Now Avanti West Coast)

UPDATE: As of Sunday 8th December, Virgin Trains has been replaced by Avanti West Coast. The new operator has promised to introduce a range of passenger improvements, including 263 more weekly services by 2022.

There’s also be improved onboard catering and WiFi and new environmentally-friendly trains. An advance single ticket from London to Edinburgh is currently about £30. 

Virgin trains

Virgin Trains have been replaced by Avanti West Coast

Avanti West Coast is the other popular train service that can take you from London to Edinburgh. A slower train than the LNER Azuma, it takes about 5h 57m with departures from Euston every 2 hours at normal operating times. Note: the last train is 16:43 so try not to travel in the evening!

Comfort is very much how you make it onboard an Avanti train. Passengers can either go fancy in First Class or pick Standard Class with the option of the Quiet Coach if necessary. 

Food and drink services are available throughout the train as well as free WiFi.  

Accommodation and Ticket Prices 

Prices are based on booking a single ticket 1 month in advance and are subject to change: 

Accommodation Type:  Food & Drink:  Price: 
First Class Complimentary dining From £100
Standard Class Food and drink available to purchase From £30

Click here to find out more about travelling with Avanti West Coast and book your tickets.

No-Fly Holidays: Comparison 

Scotland train

So, now that you’ve seen what each train offers, here’s a quick comparison below to help you decide which the best train from London to Edinburgh is based on speed, comfort and price: 

  LNER Azuma: Avanti West Coast: Caledonian Sleeper:
Speed: 4h 23m  5h 57m  7h 22m 
Comfort:  First and Standard Class, Quiet Coach and WiFi First and Standard Class, Quiet Coach, WiFi  Beds, WiFi, lockers and reclining seats 
Price (single):  From £27 From £30 From £48
       

As you can see, LNER Azuma stands out as the cheapest and fastest train service with the same comfort as Avanti which makes it the best train from London to Edinburgh if comfort isn’t your main priority.

The Caledonian Sleeper is in a league of its own. As one of the top luxury train experiences in the UK, it can’t really compare. Ride the Caledonian Sleeper FOR the journey itself. Plus you have the added benefit of travelling through the night. 

READ MORE: How to Save Money On a Festive Winter Mini-Break

No-Fly Holiday: Best ticket Providers and How to Use Them 

Planning your train journey

Buying your tickets in advance is always the cheapest option

You can, of course, book your tickets directly via each website – I recommend it if you choose the Caledonian Sleeper. But, if you want to find competitive rates, there are three main ticket providers I use: 

Trainline: It’s one of the most popular train ticket services that give you an overview of the best train routes and prices. You can download your tickets directly onto your phone if you want to go paper-free or get a code to collect your tickets via the machine at the airport. 

Trainline is useful if you want to get train tickets for the UK and mainland Europe but it’s best if you book them well in advance if you want the benefit of saving a few pennies. Booking fees are also an unavoidable fact of Trainline, charging you £0.75 when you book.  

You can download the Trainline app for both iPhone and Android. 

National Rail Enquiries: Much like Trainline, National Rail Enquiries gives you a breakdown of train times and prices, offering the cheapest routes. Once you’ve chosen your tickets it redirects you to the train service website so you can carry out your purchase there. 

You can go online at National Rail Enquiries or download the app for smartphones. 

TrainPal: It’s a similar service to the first 2 but it’s by far my favourite one to use. You can always find a cheap ticket and there are no extra added booking fees to deal with.

Owned by Ctrip, the parent company of the fan favourite flight booking platform Skyscanner, TrainPal also has another trick up its sleeve: the ability to calculate and provide split ticketing options.

This means that passengers will be able to save money by booking separate tickets for different sections of their journey, rather than just one ticket, even if they don’t need to change trains. 

You can download the TrainPal app for both iPhone and Android. 

London to Edinburgh by Train: Verdict 

London to Edinburgh by train review

Travelling by train is the best way to get from London to Edinburgh

If you’re travelling from London to Edinburgh it’s time to say adios to air travel. It’s no longer the fastest, cheapest or most convenient way to travel now that LNER’s high-speed Azuma trains have entered the ring. 

If I compare both my journeys to Edinburgh, it’s fair to say the train won but it would be wrong to say it was completely perfect. There were slight delays on the return journey but it was more favourable in comparison to being stuck for 4 hours at Edinburgh Airport the night before Christmas Eve (now THAT’S a fun story for another time). 

The Caledonian Sleeper is a bucket list train journey of mine. You get your travel and your hotel rolled into one and the pleasure of waking up in another part of the country. But if we’re talking about fast, cheap and convenient then the LNER Azuma is by far the best train from London to Edinburgh. 

 


 

Pinterest pin for best train from London to Edinburgh.
                                                                 
 Inspired? Pin me for later!