Trains in Scotland run similarly to the way they do in the rest of the UK. Despite this, trains in Scotland can be confusing to navigate especially if you're coming from abroad. The UK proudly boasts the oldest railway network in the world, however, it's also one of the most modern and efficient.
That's great news if you're planning on exploring this great nation by rail. At Trainline, we use our expertise to help you understand the way trains in Scotland, and indeed, the UK work. Simply tell us where you're going, and we'll help you connect the dots. Check out the map below to see some of the great places we can take you by train.
The Scottish train network may seem a little complex if you're visiting for the first time. First, let us break down how the network works, and the different types of trains you can travel on in a bit more detail.
In the UK, the train network is run by National Rail. All train companies in Great Britain (that includes Scotland, England and Wales) operate under the guidance of National Rail who are primarily responsible for the administration of passenger bookings. National Rail was formed following the privatisation of the British Rail network in 1996, when the network split into 25 separate operating franchises to run trains across the country.
Network Rail is a separate organization that oversees and maintains all rail infrastructure in the UK, from train tracks to major train stations, and is also responsible for timetables and logistics to make sure everything runs smoothly.
There are currently 6 main national train companies that operate within Scotland. They are ScotRail, LNER, CrossCountry, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast and Caledonian Sleeper. Although this may seem confusing for visitors to Scotland, finding the right train to get on is pretty simple.
As most of these train companies also operate routes outside of Scotland, we recommend that you focus on the route you want to travel on rather than the train company to travel with if you are unsure.
To find out about all the different train operating companies who keep all the wheels on track in all of Great Britain, visit our train companies page.
If you're a night owl or want to save some time by travelling by night, then a sleeper train could be just the ticket. Sleeper trains are usually equipped with beds, washbasins, towels and air-conditioning, and have several travel classes onboard depending on your budget and requirements.
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.
For those arriving into Scotland, chances are you're going to land at Edinburgh or Glasgow Airport. Although Edinburgh Airport has no train station of its own, it does have strong transport links by bus and tram, from the 24/7 Airlink 100 bus running every ten minutes to Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket stations with a journey time of 30 minutes.
To get from Glasgow Airport to Glasgow Central, simply purchase a train ticket and take the shuttle bus (included in the fare) from the airport to Paisley Gilmour Street. From there, connect to the rail network by taking a ScotRail service to Glasgow Central station.
If time isn't a factor, or you’re a penny pincher travelling 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 travellers, 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.
If you're currently enjoying the beauty of the English countryside, or wandering in the Welsh valleys, Scotland and its charm is easily accessible by train.
Find out more about travelling to Scotland by train.
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 your options that matter to help you save.
If you know your exact travel dates, book Advance tickets ahead of schedule to reserve your seat.
Find out more about Advance train 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.
Travel at less busy times and benefit from reduced fares.
Discover more on Off-Peak train tickets.
|Super Off-Peak tickets||Like Off-Peak tickets but only available at the very quietest times of the day. Prices tend to be cheaper too.|
If you've got flexible travel plans, then travelling by train in Off-Peak times may save you some money. The main difference between Peak and Off-Peak tickets are 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.
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).
Like with airline travel, you have the option to book either one-way or a return ticket. If you're travelling 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 in 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.
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 travelling with and are sometimes subject to availability.
Discover additional benefits of travelling First Class.
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.
Whether you're going from Glasgow to Edinburgh by train or popping up to Inverness just to cross the majestic Firth of Forth bridge, we'll show you live train times and schedules 12 weeks in advance for any National Rail journey in Scotland, all in real time.
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.
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. All travel information will also be announced on a tannoy (loudspeaker) system in English.
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.
If you've decided where and when you're going, it's time to make your purchase. There are four different ways available for you to book train tickets in Scotland.
If you already know where you're going, you're only a few steps away from securing your ticket. Buying online with us is a great way of looking at Advance ticket options and train times picking up travel tips along the way. Start your search.
Using our app to book your tickets means you've got more control over your train travel. Signing up is simple and we highlight the best prices for train tickets as well as platform information, quicker than at the station.
In the UK you still have the choice of buying printed "paper tickets" from a machine at the station. You'll have to queue, pay on-the-day prices (in many cases more expensive), and you won't be able to see or purchase Advance tickets.
In some rural and quiet areas of the UK, there won't be ticket machines. Trains in these parts of Britain will travel with a conductor who'll be able to sell you a ticket as well as answer any questions you may have about your journey.
Booked your tickets? Well, you're nearly good to go. There are several options for you to pick up them and they're all quick and easy.
Skip the queues at the machine and get your ticket straight in Trainline app. Simply scan the barcode at the gates and you're good to go. (Not available at all stations)
Discover Mobile Tickets.
Print a paper ticket at the ticket machine at the station using a unique collection code. You'll need to bring the credit or debit card you used to pay with you to collect the tickets.
If you fancy a souvenir to hold on to, get your printed tickets posted to you. No matter where you are in the world, they'll be delivered straight to your door. (Additional postage fees apply)
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!
Train tickets in the UK usually go on sale 3 months before the date of travel. Look out for Advance tickets, as these tend to be cheaper when they're first released. Be quick though, as they sell out on busier routes.
Find out more about our Advance ticket alert tool.
When travelling by train in the UK, you can benefit from reduced fares by choosing times of day that are less busy. When searching for tickets with us, we'll display all available tickets and options, highlighting the cheapest ones.
Learn more about Off-Peak train times.
They're types of train discount cards you can buy for £30 for unlimited use. You can get up to a 1/3 off the price of Off-Peak train tickets when using a Railcard. From kids to elderly people, there are great discounts out there to be had.
Find out more about Railcards.
GroupSave is a concession that allows any group of 3 - 9 passengers travelling together up to a 34% discount on Off-Peak tickets on selected routes.
Great for families and groups of friends, you can find this option in the Railcards drop-down menu when booking your train tickets.
There are loads of amazing places you can visit by train in Scotland. Our map above highlights just some of these locations, however, Scotland has much more on offer. Check out these 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.
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 marvelling 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.
If you're travelling 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.
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.
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 all the way to Loch Nevis. With Trainline, you can take the same journey Harry does, for much cheaper. It even makes our top 12 Scenic train rides in the world!
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.
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, this is a perfect way to marvel at The Highlands at high-speed.
If you haven't already learnt enough, we've added these extra handy tips and FAQ's to make your life just that little bit sweeter.
On longer or more popular routes, you can usually reserve a seat if you book a ticket for a fixed time and request a seat allocation when you book. You can't choose your exact seat like you can when booking a plane ticket, but you can request services like an aisle or window seat, forward or rear-facing seat, a seat in the quiet carriage, a table seat, or a seat near a toilet. Please note that these services are requested, but can never be guaranteed. If a seat booking is available, you will see it in your basket on the payment screen on our site I.e. Coach B, seat 48 (Window).
If you book a flexible ticket, you may be given the option to reserve a seat and travel time for your outbound journey, but you won't be guaranteed a reserved seat if you don't travel on the train you've booked the ticket for. Many trains have unreserved sections allocated, so you'll need to board the train and walk through the carriages to look for a seat without a printed ticket slip (usually found attached to the headrest). Some seats may only be reserved for a smaller portion of the journey, so if there's a printed slip on the seat and nobody is sitting in it, you maybe be able to sit there for some of the journey if the passenger is getting on at a later stop.
Children under the age of five can travel for free with a fare-paying adult however it doesn’t always mean they're guaranteed a seat. On busy trains, infants may have to travel on the lap of the adult to make room for other passengers. For 5-15 year old's, there are half-priced tickets available on selected routes but a proof of age may be required when you travel. Be sure to select the "child" option in the journey planner when you're booking.
You can travel with three items of luggage per person on most trains in Scotland. This usually means you can take two suitcases and a piece of hand luggage. Additional articles such as surfboards and bicycles may be taken for a fee and are subject to space availability. For peace of mind, it's best to contact the train company ahead to make sure you can travel with these extra items.
Yes. In some major train stations in Scotland like Edinburgh Waverley or Glasgow Central there may be places where you can store your luggage. While some smaller stations don't have this facility, to find out which stations have luggage storage facilities, visit our UK train stations page.
You can only break your journey provided you haven't bought an Advance ticket. If you're going from say, Glasgow to Mallaig, one of your calling points would be Fort William. At this station, or any others along the way, you'd be free to get off and explore for a few hours. After that, simply hop on the next available train and continue on your way.
For more information visit the National Rail Conditions of Travel page.
If you want to make multiple journeys during your stay in Scotland, you have three options. A BritRail Scottish Highlands Pass, a BritRail Central Scotland Pass or a BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass which covers all of the country. They give you an affordable and flexible way to explore Scotland and can take the stress out of buying individual tickets.
Learn more about BritRail passes.
*All post-sale care and communications will be with the third party booking company.