Train tickets in the UK
Whether you plan to visit England, Scotland or Wales by train, or choose a rail and sail option to Northern Ireland, visitors to the UK will find diverse landscapes, a hefty dose of cultural and sporting prowess, as well as a fierce national pride within each of the four countries that make up its United Kingdom.
Train travel in the UK has increased rapidly over the last two decades with new routes and more frequent services. The UK has over 20 rail operating companies, all of which have their own distinctive identities and procedures. However, integrated ticketing and timetabling means it's possible to make seamless changes between trains operated by different rail operators.
Eurostar provides a key link between England and mainland Europe, not only to Paris and Brussels but also to the Alps (in winter), the Rhône Valley and Provence (in summer). In 2018, a direct link from London to the Netherlands was launched. Train travel in the UK can be expensive if you want to make long-distance journeys without booking in advance. Early birds, however, are rewarded by cheap train tickets to the UK called Advance fares, which offer large discounts. There's also a good range of railcards that help to save you money, as well as our Pricehack split-ticketing facility.
Allow time for exploring rural routes to discover some of Europe’s finest rail journeys. Some of the best UK train journeys are in the Scottish Highlands, the Welsh borders and in south-west England.
England has over 16,000km of railway network run by various different train operators depending on the routes, making it easy to visit England by train. Taking you to all the major cities including trains to London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool as well as into the heart of regional greats such as the Cotswolds, Devon and Cornwall, these historic rail tracks still serve the country well. England is also the main connection for international train travellers, with London’s St. Pancras International (also known as Kings Cross), Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International stations all hubs for Eurostar trains which connect with France, the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond.
With such extensive train connections, many dating back to the dawn of rail travel, you can travel on journeys that cling to the south or east coasts, to national parks such as the Lake District, Peak District or the New Forest, or to peripheral paradises like the Isles of Scilly or the Isle of Wight. There are also great gardens, Glastonbury and glamping sites to grab a ticket for. England is many things, and one of those is most definitely eclectic.
Travellers in England, like the rest of Britain, are able to benefit from split ticket fares, otherwise known as Pricehack at Rail Europe. These can reduce normal fares by as much as 50% in some cases, especially on long, cross country routes which avoid large cities. These include the likes of Durham to Bristol, or York to Winchester, both great routes for exploring England by train. Read more here for information on cheap train tickets in England, and look out for Pricehack fares on your journey searches when booking.
Scotland is a bit like one of its finest flowering plants: heather - perennial, pretty and pure. It is also prolific, as are its railway stations, making train travel in Scotland surprisingly accessible and easy. In fact, this small country boasts some of the world’s most celebrated railway journeys, with timetables that allow you to visit its purest and prettiest landscapes all year round.
When it comes to choosing train travel in Scotland, the wild landscapes of the Highlands and Islands are reachable on the West Highland Line between Glasgow and Mallaig Glasgow and Mallaig on the west coast. The Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness Line is by far the best way to travel coast to coast, or the Far North Line to Thurso opens up the country’s peripheral paradises. Two of the other best things to do in Scotland when it comes to train travel and outdoor adventures is to seek out its national parks: Cairngorms which is accessible from Aviemore and Kingussie, or Loch Lomond and The Trossachs with a gorgeous gateway station at Balloch.
There are also excellent connections between Scotland’s historic and culturally rich cities of Edinburgh, trains to Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. When buying train tickets to Scotland, you will come across several companies operating there: Scotrail, CrossCountry, Transpennine Express and LNER. LNER runs the high-speed Azuma train from London to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. For cheap trains tickets to Scotland, keep an eye out for our Pricehack split ticket fares.
Wales is a proud and patriotic nation with a rich cultural heritage of language and literature, and a nirvana of natural heritage to match. Over a quarter of Wales is protected landscape, from Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia National Parks to the extraordinary 1,400km Wales Coast Path. Take the train to Wales and book more time than you think you need, be it to hike its myriad trails, join its surfing and sea kayaking sets, enjoy food or music festivals, or seek out some superb places to stay.
The main railway companies within Wales are Transport for Wales, with Great Western Railway and Avanti West Coast also running services from England. As well as the main cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, don’t miss a visit to Bangor, the country’s oldest city which is en route to the Isle of Anglesey. Anglesey is accessible via Britannia railway bridge, with track that ends at the port of Holyhead, and stations along the way where people still put their hand out to request the train to stop. The journeys between Shrewsbury, on the border with England, and either Swansea or Pwllheli, are particularly pretty.
Wales is packed with history. There are over 600 castles in Wales, in fact, from Chepstow to Cardiff, Conwy to Caerphilly, just a few that are accessible by train. Wales also has a very cool and contemporary living culture where sustainability, the arts, local food and conservation are the main focus, as well as ensuring that local communities thrive in modern times. Responsible tourism is one of the best ways to explore and support these, and visiting Wales by train is most definitely the way to go. For cheap train tickets to Wales, keep an eye out for our Pricehack split ticket fares.
The best train journeys in the UK
What are the main train companies to travel with in the UK?
UK rail map - click on map to enlarge
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Airport train stations in the UK
England’s main airports are in London, where there are six in total: London Heathrow Airport (LHR), London Gatwick Airport (LGW), London Stansted Airport (STN), London Luton Airport (LTN), London Southend Airport (SEN) and London City Airport (LCY). Of these six, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Southend have train stations within or right beside the airport. London Heathrow is also connected to central London by the main Underground system which can be included in the price of any UK train ticket. London Luton has a train station (Luton Parkway) within a few minutes by shuttle bus. In other parts of England, airports with their own train stations are Manchester, Birmingham, and Southampton Airport Parkway.
Scotland’s three main airports are Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick both of which are easily connected to by train.
Wales’ main airport is Cardiff Airport train station, which is just 10 mins by shuttle bus from the airport.
See our detailed airport guides