London to Edinburgh: Train or Plane?

This post is for visitors to Edinburgh or London, preferably if you are staying in the centre of either of the 2 cities. I am also obliging those who constantly ask me about my preferred route to travel up north. If you live near an airport, you are entitled to skip this post!

The Terrific Train Trip

I have always preferred a smoother train journey as opposed to the hassle of flying. It is a much more comfortable journey, and you travel from the centre of the first city (Edinburgh/London) to the centre of your destination. You can settle down straight away on the train with a book or laptop, order food and drink. There is beautiful scenery to take in travelling up the east coast.

It is easy to imagine the 4 1/2 hour train journey can drag without being broken down into too much activity (walking towards your gate in an airport, browsing the shops) but there is free wifi connectivity if you have work to do. You may watch a film if you fancy, play cards or chat to the friendly stranger beside you if they oblige conversation.

I have had great train journeys with a book, sipping on Prosecco and taking in the wonderful sea views. Hardly any interruptions at all; I do not have to deal with any airline staff requesting me to stow away my hand luggage, I do not have to switch off any digital devices for take-off and I can take 2 bottles of wine in my hand luggage if I so desired. You only have to deal with the ticket inspector just the one time and s/he leaves you alone.

As mentioned above, the train journey takes 4 1/2 hours. Add to this the travel to and from stations. In total it takes around 5 hours. I can entertain myself during the trip, and time passes quickly enough for me. One can always appreciate the free tea or coffee and shortbread offered in First Class if sustenance is required, otherwise there is also the onboard catering service.

My favourite view is emerging from Edinburgh Waverley station onto Princes Street via Waverley Steps because you are immediately treated to full views of Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town, the Scott Monument and the monuments of Calton Hill. As of this writing, these steps have been undergoing refurbishment as a glass roof is being built over the stairway. You can still get the same views, including Princes Street Gardens, by ascending straight onto Waverley Bridge.

I put in a complaint quite some time ago about travelling up to Aberdeen on the train. To cut a long story short, the staff from Edinburgh Waverley put us on the train knowing full well it was going to be delayed due to a non-working train stuck on the track approaching Leuchars. We were given a satisfactory compensation amount, plus a First Class return journey for 2, anywhere on the East Coast line. Needless to say their service was redeemed in our eyes.

The Annoying Airport Journey

I flew to London from Edinburgh recently and it certainly confirmed my view that flying to London spells h-a-s-s-l-e for me.

First of all, one must travel to the airport which is mainly based outside the city, around 30-40 mins. travel time. You have to be at the airport roughly 1.5 hours before the flight. Counting in the time to travel to the airport + checking-in (queues) + going through security (queues again) + waiting around, this can be just under the time it takes to travel via train.

The security queues at London Luton airport were massive during my recent trip, and for a busy Sunday evening I was slowly shuffling forwards in the queue for 45 mins. On the subject of security, we now know we cannot bring liquids over 100ml in your hand luggage and if you are in London for a short spell (like I am most of the time) you would normally prefer to carry hand luggage. Receiving a box of perfume as a present meant I had to leave this behind and take it back with me on my subsequent train journey.

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of an airport + plenty of activity + don’t mind waiting around then by all means, take this form of transport.

I have heard so many horror stories about complaints to airlines unresolved and I sadly have one of my own. KLM issued a travel voucher to me as compensation for a 4-hour delay and I thought, “Great, I can use this for my next trip to London.” When I phoned to make my booking, they suggested the following route: Edinburgh – Amsterdam – London. For a brief weekend trip to London this was certainly not convenient due to the time constraints and they would not entertain my request to travel directly to London (take note this is supposedly to pacify me after having made a complaint already!)

Driving

If you want to experience the drive to/from Edinburgh/London then it takes 6 hours with no breaks to travel, and up to 8 hours with around 2 scheduled stops. Weather-permitting all the time, of course.