Are you considering traveling from London to Edinburgh by bus or train? Good! I used both the train and the coach because I wanted to save some money. What’s more, you are also doing a favor to the environment when you are not flying to Scotland. Slow travel is definitely the next big hit.
I actually used to live in London a long time ago and even once bought a plane ticket to Edinburgh once. But never used it, ggggrrrrr.. How stupid of me! It was time to take back that lost time. I had only a couple of days this time but the good news is that Edinburgh is pretty compact so you get to see quite a lot in just 2-3 days.
London to Edinburgh by Bus (Coach)
The night bus which embarked at 22.30pm from London, and arrived at 8am in Edinburgh, was quite comfy and I slept pretty much the whole way. If you are on a budget, like I was, it’s a good way to remain thrifty. I paid 24 pounds and was very happy with the price. I was considering flying and the train also but the prices and timetables didn’t match mine which made me choose this mode of transport. What’s more, I was able to save some time because I traveled by night.
May I add though, I was really tired and hence, asleep nearly the entire journey. I’m also tiny so can get some sleep with just two bus benches for myself. Remember to bring an extra jumper for a pillow and another one for a blanket on board if you get cold easily.
Sightseeing in Edinburgh: Day One
The cheapest fare is around 10 pounds plus the booking fee but you are more likely to find fares which start from 20. Once again, you are going to find better deals the earlier you book. There are multiple trips throughout the day and 2 bus companies operating. The duration varies a bit, ranging from only 8,5 hours to 12 hours. Check the links below and compare the prices!
It’s good to know that the bus doesn’t make any extra stops besides picking up and dropping off passengers so bring some snacks with you. You can find restaurants and shops at the Victoria Coach Station so no need to buy the tucker earlier than that. And of course, you can find a few pubs in the area, like anywhere in England. A glass of wine (or two) relaxes me nicely so that’s how I spent the extra time I had before hopping onboard.
Tip! Here’s a list of useful travel planning apps for your next journey!
On the first day, I walked along The Royal Mile which is the main street of the Old Town. It has everything for tourists, such as souvenir shops, travel agencies, cafes, restaurants, pubs, and attractions, such as the beautiful St Giles’ Cathedral.
In addition, there are multiple companies offering free guided tours (remember to tip the guide, though). I rarely do any because I want to explore on my own but I have to say, I have heard a lot of good about these tours so maybe you want to look into that.
From there, I continued to the adjacent Princes Street Gardens. The Old Town and the Castle are in the background so prepare to take some scenic photos while you take this leisurely stroll.
Anyway, at the end of the walk, you will find the National Gallery of Scotland. I’m a sucker for arts, so I’d recommend paying a visit. It has marvelous paintings and it’s also free! I had just been to multiple galleries in London, so this time, however, I felt that I wasn’t so thirsty to see everything.
The Afternoon Tea Experience
I decided to make my afternoon tea splurge in Edinburgh, rather than in London because one spot got my attention: Casa Angelina. This cafe is quite close to the New Town so I’d recommend walking there (took me about 10 minutes). It is a small and unique cafe with very friendly service.
When I saw everything that was to be served I really hoped that I wouldn’t eat everything. Otherwise, they’d have to roll me out, haha. Luckily I left a little bit on my plate but it was hard because everything was so tasty.
Next to Casa Angelina, you can find the Mansfield Traquair Centre which is an old Catholic Apostolic Church. Nowadays it’s used for private functions, such as weddings but it also serves as a hub for voluntary organizations. Despite this, you can visit the building when it’s not booked for private events. You could have a look on your own or do a guided tour. It was super beautiful inside so I’d completely recommend having a look.
More info: https://mansfieldtraquair.org.uk/
No Trainspotting Vibes in Leith
Still high on sugar, I knew I needed to keep on going to I started heading to Leith. And if you are as crazy about Irvine Welsh and Trainspotting, as I am, I know, and you know, that a visit to Leith is inevitable. This is where the characters such as Renton, Sick Boy and Spud are based in.
I’m pretty sure the area has cleaned up immensely, though I did manage to see some rebel spirits there (they are very evident in all Welsh’s books). But the Leith that I saw, with its charming waterfront area, was a whole lot different than the image that I have from the books. It makes a beautiful stroll though, and you can see the modern apartment buildings and fashionable cafes around the river.
I did my first ever Couchsurfing hangout here and my local host suggested we try Brass Monkey pub on Leith Walk. It was a spot on choice! It was full of locals, rather than tourists, which you can’t avoid in the Old Town. So, my suggestion is to go to Leith if ye fancy a pint! I’ve read all Welsh’s books in English, meaning Scottish dialect. Can tell ye, took a while to understand the lingo but nowadays couldn’t imagine reading those books any other way.
The Must-See Sights and Day Two
Day Two started a bit grey, after all, it’s Scotland. I had thought about hiking Arthur’s Seat but the rain didn’t really increase my enthusiasm but rather, on the contrary, made me decide on a museum day.
The National Museum of Scotland was just a stone throw’s away from my hostel so it was perfect (and free again). Having just been to the British Museum in London, I felt that many of the displays were a bit similar though and therefore, rushed through some of them. The exhibition about fashion was enticing, however, and I spent a long time, examining the haute couture garments and quirky shoes.
Suddenly the rain seemed to have stopped so I thought I needed to make the most out of it. I climbed to Calton Hill which gives pretty spectacular views over Edinburgh. It was super windy though and picture taking was a bit of a challenge. Alternatively, if you are a keen hiker (and fond of wizards), check out the awesome Harry Potter Scotland tour for some breathtaking vistas and furthermore, Game of Throne fans should not miss the impressive Doune Castle.
The observatory in Calton Hill was under construction but this place has a few other interesting monuments and the whole place is actually a UNESCO heritage site. Hence, I would urge you to make the climb (it’s not too bad), as it doesn’t cost a thing (I know, I’m really on a low-budget at the moment).
For lunch, I went back to the hostel, to make a sandwich with the groceries that I had bought earlier. Seriously, a big loaf of toast was about 70 pence (half-price) and I filled it with cheese (which was on sale), salad mix and half-priced hummus which was getting close to its end date.
You can save a lot of money if you prepare some of your meals by yourself and pay attention to the price tag. Besides I like the whole concept of waste not wanted and hence, endorse zero-waste restaurants and buy foodstuff which is getting close to its “best before” date.
The best was yet to come. The Edinburgh Castle as you might’ve guessed. I mean, if you are very short of cash you could leave it out but if you’ve come this far… What I’d recommend is, that you buy the ticket online, skip the queues and save 1,5 pounds (so it would be 17 pounds)!
The castle area has so much to see. Once again, the vistas are magnificent but the whole fortress is just mesmerizing with different museums, throne halls and so forth. I think I spent around 2,5 hours there.
For dinner, I wanted to try out this small restaurant/takeaway spot that I had seen closeby, the Baked Potato Shop. They make delicious oven potatoes with toppings that suit vegans and vegetarians. In my opinion, this hearty meal suits perfectly to the windy and damp climate of Edinburgh.
The portion is pretty big so come hungry. It costs 5GBP with one topping and the prices go up should you long for some more fillings. In addition, they had vegan haggis and some vegan cakes but I didn’t test them. There is one table for sitting down but most seemed to prefer a takeaway.
Next to the Baked Potato Shop, you will find Southern Cross Cafe. Omg, they have so many delicious cakes and munchies there which are home baked. I treated myself with a cappuccino and a piece of lemon cake and the latter just melted in my mouth! They have cool brekkie sets also and on my next visit, I’m sure to try one of those.
Train Ride Back to London
In the morning, I used all my remaining toast pieces, lettuce, and hummus. It was a good meal to take with me on the train though there is a kiosk where you can buy snacks (and a trolley serving tucker, going back and forth). The 4,5-hour-train-ride didn’t feel long at all (8-12.40pm, 50 pounds). I was typing in pretty much the whole time or watching the beautiful sceneries.
Beware though, sometimes there might be some technical issues and the train might be a bit late. We stopped twice for 15-20 minutes or so because of some technical issues which seemed very trivial (and hence, shouldn’t have happened if you ask me). So make sure you don’t need to rush to the airport in London if you are leaving on the same day or if you have an important meeting.
Anyway, soon we were back at King’s Cross and it was time to get used to the hectic London pace which was the complete opposite of Edinburgh. Oh, by the way, remember to save your ticket to get out of the station. I threw away my paper ticket but luckily it accepted my electronic one.
Why choose London to Edinburgh Train?
You can find super cheap tickets if you know your travel plans well ahead and don’t need a flexible ticket. The prices go up closer to the traveling date and also if you wish to have the freedom to change the dates. I think the cheapest price is about 25 pounds (2nd class) one way bought well in advance.
The journey should take about 4,5 hours permitting the train is running on time. Yes, it seems much, much longer than the 1h 25 min flight but if you are flying, you also need to include the journey time to the airport in London, security check and then the bus to the city center from Edinburgh airport. In that sense, I think they end up taking roughly the same time because, with the train, you arrive right in the city center, at the Waverley station.
What’s more, you are actually being kind to the environment because the train ride produces about 5 times less CO2 compared to flying. More info here. And you get to see the beautiful British countryside. Oh, and if possible, try to procure a seat on the right-hand side of the train going north and left-hand side heading south. It ensures you get the best views!
In summary, I just fell in love with the Scottish capital and next time I’ll make sure to include Glasgow and Isle of Skye in the itinerary. I think I made the right choice by traveling from London to Edinburgh by bus and Edinburgh to London by train, rather than flying. Hopefully, this article gave you some inspiration to use the train more often because it’s better for the environment and teaches us the art of slow travel.
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