How to get from London to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

From London’s increasingly modern skyline to Edinburgh’s medieval Royal Mile, England and Scotland’s capitals are among Europe’s most iconic, both laying claim to incredible histories, literary masterpieces and royal residencies. Yet despite being less than 5 hours apart, Edinburgh’s charms remain drastically less touristed, with about a quarter the number of visitors as London each year. With four ways to travel from London to Edinburgh and many affordable fare options, it’s never been easier to start your day in Hampstead Heath and end the day atop Arthur’s Seat.

Distance – 332 miles   |   Plane – 1h 20   |   Train – 4h 30   |   Coach – 9h 30   |   Car – 6h 50

How much time do you have to travel from London to Edinburgh?

You could walk the 377 miles between London and Edinburgh – some do – but chances are you don’t have 124 hours to spare. Equally, road travel between the two cities takes longer than you might expect: driving (either on your own or via rideshare services like Bla Bla Car or LiftShare) can take more than 7 hours with traffic, and the coach (serviced by National Express and MegaBus) can take more than 9.

If your aim is to get from pub to pub as quickly and efficiently as possible, then choose either train or plane – both of which take under 5 hours. Pricewise, both options often cost the same (or even less) than the average coach and rideshare prices. So unless you manage to snag one of National Express’s rare £3 fares, the increased travel time is hardly worth the savings.

map of Virgin's East Coast train route from London to Edinburgh
Virgin’s East Coast train route from London to Edinburgh

Train: Most scenic and least hassle 

If you’re the type of traveller who values leisurely travel – arriving just before departure, rolling on your suitcase without removing your liquids, securing a window seat just steps from the onboard bar and walking from the train into the heart of the city – then Virgin’s 4.5-hour East Coast direct service between London’s King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley station offers the simplest and most straightforward itinerary. With WiFi-enabled trains running every 30 minutes and views of seaside towns and the rugged British coast along the route, your holiday starts before you even arrive.

That said, the cost can vary widely, with direct fares ranging hugely depending on date, time and class of travel. Standard and First Class tickets are at their cheapest when they’re released, up to 24 weeks before departure.

If you are flexible with your date and time of travel, Virgin’s Best Fare Finder will show you the most affordable tickets within 7 days of your preferred departure. Note: Some of the options shown may be on Virgin’s 5.5-hour West Coast service from nearby Euston Station, an easy 15-minute walk from King’s Cross.

Book your train ticket from London to Edinburgh

TIP: For the East Coast service, book a seat on the train’s right-hand side for the best views when travelling north (and vice versa on the way south). If you’re travelling with a bike, call 03-445-56-56-50 to reserve a free space.

Plane: Most frequent – and (can be) least expensive 

With more than 45 flights per day from London’s five major airports, flying to Edinburgh Airport offers the most flexibility in terms of location, departure time and price point. The overall journey will still take around 4.5 hours – combining travel to the airport, security checks, the 1.5 hour flight and travel to Edinburgh’s city centre on the other side – but depending on your airline, distance to the airport and preferred mode of airport transport, the trip could end up being cheaper than the train.

Here’s how the flight prices, distances and operators differ by airport, ranked from most number of flights to least:

Airport Distance to central London Available airlines Cost
London Stansted 40 miles RyanAir and EasyJet Average price range
London Heathrow 16 miles British Airways and FlyBe Average price range
London Gatwick 30 miles British Airways and RyanAir Average price range
London City 9 miles British Airways and FlyBe Average price range
London Luton 34 miles EasyJet Average price range
TIP: While carriers like RyanAir, Easyjet and FlyBe do tend to be cheaper, make sure you can comply with their strict carry-on luggage rules. Otherwise, checked baggage fees might negate any savings you’ve found.

Main photo: Pixabay

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