Scotland-a-go-go Land
June 14, 2008 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Travel Slash Honeymoon Filter: Help us coordinate in-country travel options between London and Edinburgh.

Based on previous recommendations, we've decided to do it up right one night of our honeymoon and stay at The Witchery in Edinburgh. This is going to be one night in the middle of a 9 day stay, so we're looking for the best options to minimize time wasted travelling.

Right now, our best option is to book an Easy Jet flight that takes about 1:30 and will only run us about $200. However, we'd have to travel to the airport from (what we assume will be) central London.

What would you recommend?

Here are the essential details:

1. We're booked at the Witchery for October 17th and will be returning on October 18th.

2. We're both 27, so we're too old to apply for the student travel program with Britrail. Looking at Britrail tickets, it seems that a flexipass is going to run us in the neighborhood of $600, which seems nonsense to me.

3. We have no problem with renting a car and driving, except that I have no concept of what gas will cost in Europe. And it appears, according to Google Maps, that the drive will take 8ish hours.

4. Taking a coach, cheap though it might be, seems terribly unromantic and a huge waste of time.
posted by santojulieta to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you have an ISIC, regardless of your age, you can use that to get a Young Person's (and Student's) Railcard, which costs about £20. If used on a return ticket from London to Edinburgh, that would save you money even if you didn't do any other train travel. The train takes four hours from central London to central Edinburgh, with no airport security, no having to pay extra to check your luggage and so on, and the scenery is quite pretty in places. But train tickets have a bizarre and complex pricing structure, and it's not possible to book more than three months in advance so there's no way of knowing what they'll have done with the prices by then. It appears at the moment that a return ticket should be possible on certain trains for about £100 without a railcard, so about £67 with one.

It may well work out cheaper to fly, which is crazy but there you go. www.thetrainline.com is good for train timetable and fare information, for all train operating companies.
posted by Lebannen at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2008


You can get very cheap train tickets far in advance, you just need to buy your ticket now, including picking specific trains. Also look for tickets departing after 9:30am, that's considered off-peak. Flexible tickets are very expensive, if you can pick a train and commit to it you can get a pretty good deal if you buy as soon as the tickets go on sale (I think it will be three months in advance), maybe as low as about 30 pounds roundtrip.

The train ride is very pleasant, has some beautiful stretches, and takes under 5 hours. With getting to and from airports, arriving at the airport early, etc, I don't think a flight will save you a lot of time.
posted by cushie at 3:37 PM on June 14, 2008


Don't under any circumstances take a coach.
posted by fire&wings at 3:49 PM on June 14, 2008


I did the London-Edinburgh trip last fall, and paid about 100 pounds round trip (that's with no discounts, bought the tickets right before getting on the train).
I agree with cushie - taxi costs and time spent waiting around at an airport add up to make train travel look a lot nicer.
The trip is beautiful, lots of rolling green hills and ocean scenery. Honesty probably the nicest train trip I've ever taken.
posted by vodkaboots at 3:53 PM on June 14, 2008


It's a great train ride. Especially if you manage to get seats on the coastal/eastern/right-hand-when-facing-forward side of the train, the journey north after Newcastle, especially, could end up being a memorable part of your honeymoon. This will never be true of an Easyjet flight under any circumstances.

You could also take the Caledonian Sleeper.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2008


Thanks for the suggestions so far.

Here's a related question. Is there a travelocity sort of website for train tickets?
posted by santojulieta at 4:01 PM on June 14, 2008


Reminds me of a joke; what's the difference between a Brit and an American? A Brit thinks 100 miles is a long way and an American thinks 100 years is a long time.

Seconding the suggestion of thetrainline.com - though they only list timetables for the next three months. Based on current prices, a train from London to Edinburgh for two adults runs to £205 without discount cards. If you buy two sets of singles instead of two return tickets, for some reason the price drops to more like £120. Unfortunately the train takes around 5 hours each way - hardly ideal for a one day stay.

This advert claims £30 per person London-Edinburgh fairs, which for two people and return tickets I guess would match that £120 figure.

Looking at easyjet, you'd be spending about £115 for plane tickets (+£20 if you want to take bags in the hold) and about £35 for train tickets to the airport from London. Of course, you've got check-in time and all that junk.

Google tells me you can drive in 404 miles and 7 hours each way. 808 miles / 30 miles per gallon = 27 gallons = 123 liters; at Mike1024's local filling station people pay £1.17 per liter, or £5.31 (~$10) a gallon. So fuel would run to £140, and you'd have to rent the car on top of that.

I've got to say, none of those options appeal to me very much. Were I in your position, I would consider going to a swanky hotel in London instead of travelling all the way to Edinburgh to stay in a hotel there.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:03 PM on June 14, 2008


Following on from Mike1024, and at risk of derail: Edinburgh's an amazing place but you're planning an incredibly short trip. Paris is closer, frankly. Fancy hotels in the countryside around Oxford, say, are much closer. York is about halfway. The Cotswolds. There are many, many options if you want top-end food and a luxurious hotel in a historic building...
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:17 PM on June 14, 2008


Seconding the Paris alternative, though I know that's not part of the question...

If you're going Easyjet from Luton, that's quite a long trip from Central London. Train is probably more expensive, though.

I don't know of a travelocity equivalent for trains, but have booked a lot of UK train trips via thetrainline.com. It's easy to use.

If you go to Edinburgh and are looking for a romantic dinner place consider a restaurant called A Room in the Town. It's in a cellar, very atmospheric, and they have little private nook-rooms with tables for two. Very nice staff. Great scotch selection. Nouveau scottish cooking--they make haggis taste good.
posted by Morpeth at 4:32 PM on June 14, 2008


If you do look at flights, be aware that Heathrow is central in London and easily accessible, but London Stanstead, Luton and Gatwick airports are all quite a hassle to get to and it would be much more worth your while to get on a train. That way you also end up right in the middle of Edinburgh, instead of having to get there from the airport, which is on the outskirts.
posted by Happycat79 at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2008


Looking at booking advance tickets in August, two adults can do the return journey by train for £86 total (not £86 each.) The plane will save you maybe an hour in journey time, if you fly from Luton, although you could investigate flying from London City Airport instead, though it will probably cost more...

...yeah, upon checking, like £262 or over $500, and there's no afternoon flight on the Saturday.
posted by so_necessary at 4:50 PM on June 14, 2008


Can I point out that if you buy singles, you can get cheaper first class on the train - if you get it right you can end up paying about the same for first class as you do for standard, and that means much more comfortable seats, a quieter journey, and they bring you tea and coffee and will fetch you food and drink from the buffet car. The views along the coast are just stunning.

Waverley Station in Edinburgh is about two minutes by taxi from The Witchery (it's uphill though! So you wouldn't want to walk up there carrying luggage unless you're fit). I travel between London and Edinburgh many times a year and this is definitely the nicest and quickest way to do it for me. What the plane promises in journey time, it takes away with security queue nightmares and long and expensive taxi rides to airports.

Also the station is central so you can sight-see up to the last moment before your train departs. The last train before the overnight sleeper service from Edinburgh usually goes about 7pm.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:54 PM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dittoing: Train is the way to go, not plane, and definitely not car. Plane is inconvenient, and it's really far too far to drive there and back over two days. Train is relaxing and if you can follow Flitcraft's suggestion and go first class it's quite luxurious.
posted by anadem at 7:07 PM on June 14, 2008


National Express is the best site for finding cheap tickets for anywhere in the UK. Once you've entered your journey details and dates there is a Lowest Fare Finder that works out best options - cheapest advance tickets are £29 return (yes really!). You can sign up to get an email when booking opens (3 months in advance).
posted by janecr at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2008


Sorry, that should have said cheapest train tickets. National Express used to be just a coach company but have now branched into trains too... Its actually £28 return, I can't add up, either.
posted by janecr at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2008


People go on ad nauseam about how the East Coast Main Line is one of the nicest rail journeys in Europe from a looking-out-the-window point of view, but to be honest you've got to pit that against the fact that it'll take about five hours each way.

By air, starting at King's Cross (or rather St Pancras, next door), you'd need to leave for Luton Airport a little over two hours before the plane departs (£22 return, 35 minute train ride plus up to 15 minutes including wait times for the free bus transfer to the terminal). Plane takes an hour. Directly outside the domestic arrivals exit at Edinburgh Airport, take the airport shuttle bus (£3.50) to its penultimate stop at the top of the Mound. Total travel time is a little more than one hour less than getting the train.

Alternatively you could do what I used to do (I had to make this trip every other month or so when I lived in London). As of right now, Skyscanner.net (forget Travelocity; this site's the canonical budget flight site round these parts) tells me you can get from London City Airport to Edinburgh for £116 per head.

Do that instead. No dicking about with unassigned seating, nobody's charging you another tenner for having the audacity to bring a bag with you, no queues at check-in, and you can sit at the front of the DLR train from Bank and make like you're on a rollercoaster. 22 minutes, standard tube fares.

It's absolutely the fastest way up, and for £120 each including the Edinburgh Airport transfer bus, probably the cheapest air route.

None of the UK posters thus far have mentioned that you may not be able to avail of any of the cheap advance rail fares if you're not actually located in the UK. Last time I tried to book one from Ireland, the online booking system rejected any cardholder address outside the country.
posted by genghis at 11:10 AM on June 15, 2008


Oh, and stay the hell away from Heathrow.
posted by genghis at 11:10 AM on June 15, 2008


Just want to add to what everyone said above. Kings Cross London to Waverley Edinburgh is a beautiful trip.

And the Witchery looks like it's up on the high (altitude-wise) end of the Royal Mile. From Waverley it's a very short taxi trip. Not sure where you're staying in London but you can either tube it to Kings Cross (cheap) or get a taxi, which may not be so cheap but will beat a taxi trip to Heathrow by a long shot.
posted by chimaera at 2:23 PM on June 16, 2008


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