Trains in Scotland operate similarly to those in the rest of the UK. However, navigating the train system in Scotland can be confusing, particularly if you are a foreign visitor. The UK boasts the world's oldest railway network, but it is also one of the most modern and efficient, which is excellent news if you plan to explore the country by rail.

Trainline leverages its expertise to help you comprehend how the train system in Scotland and the UK works. Just inform us of your destination, and we will assist you in making the connections. Check out the map below to discover the many wonderful places we can take you by train—including the filming locations for Braveheart and Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK.

Who runs trains in Scotland?

The majority of train services are run by ScotRail, Scotland’s national railway company. ScotRail manages all train stations in Scotland – except for Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, which are managed by Network Rail – and run the majority of regional train services.

However, there are several other train companies that operate services across the border from England to Scotland:

This list only includes train companies operating under the National Rail umbrella; luxury charter services such as the Belmond Royal Scotsman and the Northern Belle also run in Scotland.

Sleeper trains

If you prefer staying up late or need to save time while traveling, a sleeper train may be the perfect choice for you. These trains typically come with beds, washbasins, towels, and air conditioning, and offer various travel classes to suit your budget and needs.

One of the most popular sleeper trains in the UK is the Caledonian Sleeper, which runs an overnight service from Edinburgh to London, and leaves from Aberdeen and Inverness. To search for Caledonian Sleeper services, check out our Sleepers Search page.

For more information, check out our Caledonian Sleeper page.

Airport transfers

When traveling to Scotland by air, you will arrive at either Edinburgh or Glasgow Airport. If you land at Edinburgh Airport, you can take buses and trams to your destination. The Airlink 100 bus will take you to Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket in just 30 minutes.

On the other hand, Glasgow Airport has a shuttle bus that will take you to Paisley Gilmour Street. From there, you can take a ScotRail to reach Glasgow Central Station.

To see the full list of UK airports with train transfer services and to book online, check out our UK airports page.

On a budget? Travel by coach

If time isn't a factor, or you’re traveling on a budget, we can take you where you want to go by bus instead. There's an extensive bus and coach network in Scotland which makes reaching the most remote and unique locations possible, and we’ve partnered with the UK’s largest bus/coach operator National Express to take you there.

Buses in the UK are usually cheaper than trains, but the journey time can be a little longer. As well as being an affordable option for travelers, most bus companies in the UK come equipped with all the modern onboard facilities that make bus journeys comfortable and hassle-free.

If you’re keen to explore your options, search for UK bus tickets here.

Scottish train tickets explained

There are lots of different types of train tickets available in Scotland, and the UK as a whole, and it can be confusing to know which ones to buy, even for the locals. We've tried to make it as easy to understand as possible and have filtered out the noise to help you understand the options that matter to help you save.

Scottish train ticket types

Ticket typeDescription
Advance tickets

If you know your exact travel dates, book Advance tickets ahead of schedule to reserve your seat.

Find out more about Advance train tickets.

Anytime tickets

Offers complete flexibility. Catch any applicable train at a time that suits you, although seats cannot be reserved and are not guaranteed.

Find out more about Anytime train tickets.

Off-Peak tickets

Travel at less busy times and benefit from reduced fares.

Discover more on Off-Peak train tickets.

Super Off-Peak ticketsLike Off-Peak tickets but only available at the very quietest times of the day. Prices tend to be cheaper too.

Peak vs. Off-Peak travel

If you've got flexible travel plans, then traveling by train in Off-Peak times may save you some money. The main difference between Peak and Off-Peak tickets is all about what time(s) during the day you travel. Peak times vary from train operator to train operator but generally, they tend to be in the mornings and late afternoon times during busy commuting times on weekdays. Off-Peak tickets can usually be found outside of these times, such as in the middle of the day or later at night on weekdays, and on weekends and public holidays (known as bank holidays in Scotland).

For more information, check out our Off-Peak train times and tickets page.


Flexible tickets

If you're a nomad who doesn't like to be tied down by exact travel dates and times, you can purchase flexible tickets to allow you to travel at any point of the day. In Scotland, they are normally called Anytime tickets (either Anytime Day or Standard Anytime). You can get flexible tickets for travel on a certain date or ones that cover travel for multiple dates. They're usually a tad more expensive than fixed-time tickets because they allow you to travel during Peak periods.

Note that if you book a flexible ticket and travel on a train without a reserved seat, you can only sit in a seat if it hasn’t been reserved by another passenger (as noted by a digital display above the window, or a printed paper reserved ticket attached to the chair).

For more details, visit our dedicated page to flexible train tickets.

Need flexibility when commuting to work? Check out our top tips for finding the best-value commuter train tickets.

One-way or return options

Like with airline travel, you have the option to book either a one-way or a return ticket. If you're traveling out of town for a day trip, or you're returning to the same destination within a month by train, you can usually buy a ticket that is cheaper than two single one-way trips by selecting the return option. Selecting the Day Return (Anytime Day Return, Off-Peak Day Return, etc.) option will allow you to take a trip to and from the same destinations on the same day, or a standard Return (Anytime Return, Off-Peak Return, etc.) will normally allow you to travel back on your return journey within one calendar month of the date shown on your ticket.

Find out more about Return train tickets.


Standard or First Class

If you're looking for the most affordable train travel options, a standard ticket could be what you're after. Alternatively, if you're coming to Scotland for a well-earned break, you can treat yourself and upgrade to a First Class ticket. Most train companies in the UK offer First Class tickets that come with bigger tables and extra legroom, with some including a meal and free WiFi access. First Class facilities depend on the route and the train company you're traveling with and are sometimes subject to availability.

Discover additional benefits of traveling First Class or check out our guide to traveling from London to Edinburgh in First Class.


Connections to inner-city public transport

In train stations in the many big cities in Scotland, you'll find convenient bus, tram and subway connections to get you to your hotel or to catch another train if you're only passing through.

Bikes on trains in Scotland

ScotRail services

There are two dedicated bike spaces on every ScotRail train. They are vertical bike mounts – comprising a hook from the ceiling for the rear wheel and wall mounts to fasten the bike as it hangs. As such, heavy bikes may be difficult to store: only travel with a bike that you are confident you’ll be able to lift.

Bike reservations are mandatory on some services

ScotRail recommend reserving a spot for your bike for all services, but on certain intercity services bike reservations are mandatory. You must reserve a spot on the following routes:

  • Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen
  • Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness
  • Glasgow, Oban, Fort William and Mallaig
  • Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Inverness, Wick, Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh

To reserve a space in advance, call the ScotRail customer service team on 0344 811 0141 (weekdays from 9am-5pm) or visit a staffed station.

Other train companies in Scotland

Here’s a summary of the bike storage policies on other train operating companies in Scotland. For a full breakdown, visit our Bikes on Trains information page.

Train companyOn-board cycle storage?Reservations
Avanti West Coast4 bike spacesEncouraged
LNER3-5 bike spacesMandatory
CrossCountry3 bike spacesEncouraged
Caledonian Sleeper3-6 bike spacesMandatory
TransPennine Express2-4 bike spacesMandatory

These policies apply to non-folding bikes. Folding bikes are generally treated like luggage, provided they have wheels of no more than 20 inches in diameter.

Train routes and schedules in Scotland

Whether you're going from Glasgow to Edinburgh by train or popping up to Inverness just to cross the majestic Firth of Forth bridge (or check out where the Traitors TV show is filmed), we'll show you live train times and schedules 12 weeks in advance for any National Rail journey in Scotland, all in real time.

Train stations in Scotland

There are over 350 train stations in Scotland, and you can view live departures for all of them using our UK stations picker.

Glasgow Central

One of the two major mainline stations serving Glasgow, Glasgow Central is the northern terminus for the West Coast Main Line and the busiest station in Scotland. Located right in the center of the city, just north of the River Clyde, the station serves Manchester, Liverpool, and London on the West Coast Mainline, the southwest of Scotland, Edinburgh, and East Lothian.

The station is made up of 17 platforms, the main concourse with an Edwardian-era booking office, and plenty of eateries. As a fabulous remnant of Victorian railway architecture, the building is Category A listed. If you’ve got some time to spare after arrival, explore the hidden vaults of the station on a guided tour.

View live departures for Glasgow Central.

Edinburgh Waverley

Sat between the Old Town and New Town, in the shadow of Carlton Hill, Edinburgh Waverley is the second-busiest station in Scotland and the northern terminus of the East Coast Main Line. It’s also the terminus of the Edinburgh leg of the West Coast Main Line. The station comprises 20 platforms and a central ticketing hall, home to several shops and eateries.

Located right in the bustling heart of Edinburgh, the station has four exits depending on where in the city center you’re aiming to visit. If it’s New Town, take the Prince’s Street exit; for the Old Town, take the Market Street exit. The Waverley Bridge exits allow access to both sides of the city.

Check out our guide to Edinburgh Waverley train station if you need more info.

View live departures for Edinburgh Waverley.

Thurso station

Although Thurso station sees just 0.1% of the annual passenger count of Glasgow Central, it’s no less noteworthy. It’s the northernmost station in the country, just a few degrees south of John o’Groats. There are regular bus services from the station to John o’Groats; from there, ferries run to the remote Orkney Islands.

Thurso station is at the end of the Far North Line. The main branch of the line terminates at Wick, which is popular among cyclists attempting to reach John o’Groats for the daunting cycle to Land’s End.

View live departures for Thurso station.

Wemyss Bay

Serving the village of the same name on the western coast of Scotland, Wemyss Bay is possibly Scotland’s most architecturally striking station. The station is a mass of interwoven steel curves and elegant glass canopies. Since 2009, a group of local volunteers has restored the station to its Edwardian-era splendour, reinstating the station’s traditional floral arrangements, and rejuvenating the First Class Waiting rooms with period fittings.

The station was named the best entry in the 2017 National Railway Heritage Awards.

View live departures for Wemyss Bay station.

Get live train times in our app

By downloading our app, not only do you have your tickets in the palm of your hand, you also get access to live train times. If everything is running smoothly with your train, or it's delayed for some reason, you'll be the first to know. What's more – app users get platform information before those waiting by the departure boards.

Download our app


Live updates at the station

If you don't have our app, you'll find electronic departure boards in most stations' entrance halls, showing live updates, train times and platform information. Find out more in our guide to reading train station boards. All travel information will also be announced on a tannoy (loudspeaker) system in English.

How to buy and collect Scottish train tickets

Buying your Scottish train tickets online or on our app is the quickest way to get onboard. To speed up the process we've also got Mobile Ticket and eTicket options, or have a look at the other collection methods below. For more information, read our guide on how to buy train tickets in the UK

Cheap Scottish train tickets

If you're after cheap UK train tickets, check out the hints below and see how you could bag yourself a bargain. We'll even highlight the cheapest prices!

Scotland by train

There are loads of amazing places you can visit by train in Scotland. Check out the cities and towns below to ignite your wanderlust.


Clachnaharry / Dalneigh / Westhill

It means 'mouth of the River Ness' and you too can discover the length and breadth of Britain's most northerly city. Not only is it known as the capital of The Highlands, Inverness is often regarded as the happiest place to live in Scotland. Take a look at our list of things to do in Inverness, and maybe you'll discover why - it's home to one of Europe's best indie bookstores too! Or perhaps you fancy learning more about the Loch Ness monster, apparently living in the depths of nearby Loch Ness? From Inverness, you can also visit the royal family's beloved summer destination, Balmoral Castle. For more information on getting here, check out our guide on the scenic train journey from Edinburgh to Inverness.

Discover trains to Inverness.


Kelvingrove / Ibrox / Merchant City

Come see for yourself the history and culture that flows in and out of this famous port city on the River Clyde. Whether is a thriving performing arts scene, or some of the most passionate sports fans in the world, Glasgow has a little bit of everything.

Discover trains to Glasgow.


Leith / Holyrood / Princes Street

Edinburgh remains to this day, one of the most popular getaway destinations for Brits and visitors from overseas. There's the Castle, Royal Mile and of course the Fringe Festival, but it's the warm welcome from the locals that will stay with you forever.

Discover trains to Edinburgh.


St Andrews / Aberdour Castle / Firth of Forth

Get your swing on by visiting the historic home of Golf and marveling at the volcanic remains that still surround Fife. For foodies, Fife is widely regarded as one of the best places to sample Scottish beef and haggis.

Discover trains to Fife.

Traveling from Scotland to the rest of the UK

If you're traveling from abroad, you could seize the opportunity to explore other places in Great Britain from your base in Scotland. Check out these incredible UK destinations you can reach by train - and read all about how to see the UK by train with a Eurail Pass.

Scenic rail journeys in Scotland

From chasing references in popular culture to once in a lifetime trips for rail enthusiasts, there are some awesome train journeys in Scotland you shouldn't pass on the chance of taking. Don't miss out on spectacular views you can't see from 50,000 feet up in the air.

The Harry Potter train


If you didn’t already know, trains in Scotland and its rail network play a major part in the Harry Potter films. The Jacobite Steam Train, or The Hogwarts Express as it’s sometimes known, is a real-life steam train that takes passengers from Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain to Loch Nevis. With Trainline, you can take the same journey Harry does, for much cheaper. It even makes our top 10 Scenic train rides in the world!

Search Fort William to Mallaig trains.

The Isle of Skye

Kyle of Lochalsh

From Scotland's major train stations and other regional hubs, you can take scenic journeys to Kyle of Lochalsh, which is the gateway to the beautiful Isle of Skye. Situated off the West Coast of Scotland, the island is home to thriving fishing, agriculture, and forestry industries.

Search trains to Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Borders Railway

Edinburgh / Midlothian / Scottish Borders

Back by popular demand, the Borders Railway takes passengers from Tweedbank through to Edinburgh, and vice versa, in less than an hour. Stopping at rural stations such as Eskbank, Gorebridge, and Shawfair along the way, is a perfect way to marvel at The Highlands at high-speed.

Search Edinburgh to Tweedbank trains.

Good to know

If you haven't already learned enough, we've added these extra handy tips and FAQs to make your life just that little bit sweeter.

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