All Articles Three ways to get to London from Edinburgh, Scotland

Three ways to get to London from Edinburgh, Scotland

Here’s how to make the journey between two of the U.K.’s most popular cities by air, rail, or road.

Kate Templin Stahl
By Kate Templin Stahl22 Feb 2023 3 minutes read
Big Ben and Westminster Bridge in spring
Big Ben and Westminster Bridge in spring
Image: sborisov/Getty Images

The capital cities of Edinburgh, Scotland, and London are both must-visit locales on a trip to the U.K. Despite the 650-kilometer driving distance (around 400 miles) that separates them, moving between the two destinations is relatively easy, with options available for every kind of budget, schedule, and travel personality. Whether you prioritize speed or scenery, we have the information you need to make your trip full of adventure, beauty, and ease.

Edinburgh to London by plane

Woman walking towards  Edinburgh airport in Scotland
Image: Thomas Janisch/Getty Images

A plane ride is the quickest way to journey between Edinburgh and London. London has six airports to choose from, and five offer direct flights from Edinburgh Airport, located about six miles from the city center.

While multiple airlines offer service between the two cities, the main players are British Airways, EasyJet, and Ryanair. Since the latter two are budget options, you can expect to find one-way fares for less than $100. Flight times range from 60 to around 95 minutes, though you should estimate a total travel time of around three to four hours, including the trip to and from the airports.

Upon arrival, your journey into London will depend on the airport where you landed. Heathrow, London’s busiest airport, which handles half of London air passengers, is approximately 14 miles from the city and an easy 15-minute ride to London’s Paddington Station via the Heathrow Express train. Or, take the Tube, London’s underground train system. The Piccadilly Line runs from three locations in Heathrow Airport, services all the major terminals, and is by far the cheapest option.

Alternatively, if Gatwick, the second-busiest London airport, is your arrival destination, the Gatwick Express takes visitors to London’s Victoria Station in about 30 minutes. Taxis and rideshare services like Lyft and Uber are also options if you don’t mind spending the extra cash.

Edinburgh to London by train

A profile view of the London North Eastern Railway
The London North Eastern Railway
Image: Teamjackson/Getty Images

Numerous direct, high-speed train routes run between London and Edinburgh on a daily basis, though booking well in advance is recommended to ensure you’ll find the best price and be guaranteed a seat. London North Eastern Railway operates the fastest route up the east coast, though Avanti West Coast and Lumo also offer service between the two cities.

Depending on how far in advance you can book, whether you choose a high-speed or conventional train, and the class of your ticket, fares can range from around $100 to well over $400 for a one-way trip. Rates vary throughout the day and will be higher during holidays and weekends and for special events. Another note: the only way to guarantee a seat on the train is to book at least a couple of days in advance. Same-day tickets often aren’t guaranteed an actual seat, meaning you may have to stand for segments of the lengthy ride.

The speediest trains take a little more than four hours to travel from Edinburgh to London, and the most scenic part of the trip is early into the journey, just north of the Scotland-England border, as the train winds around the rocky cliffs hugging the coastline.

Edinburgh to London by car

Traffic on the M1 Motorway in England
Traffic on the M1 Motorway in England
Image: georgeclerk/Getty Images

While driving within both Edinburgh and London can be difficult and expensive, due to urban traffic and limited parking, driving between the two cities, most of which is on a fast-moving motorway, is an utter delight, full of much to see, do, eat, and explore. (Note: American citizens are allowed to drive in the U.K. for up to 12 months with a valid U.S. driver’s license.)

The most direct driving route is the M1 to the A1, or alternatively you can also take the M1 to the M6 to the A702. Both take a little more than seven hours without stops, but you should budget extra time to make detours.

Speaking of pit stops, make your first 2.5 hours from Edinburgh in England’s Lake District, home to the country’s largest natural lake and The Lakes Distillery, a popular spot that offers gin, vodka, and whiskey made from local produce—just be sure to have a designated driver. (Equally enticing are the distillery’s on-site alpacas!)

Next, head to Liverpool, the home of the Beatles, to check out some of the historic areas granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO, including the Royal Albert Dock and William Brown Street. Then head to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and try some quintessential British fish and chips at a Gordon Ramsay favorite, Barnaby’s Fish Restaurant, located a minute away from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Before make the final drive into London, stop an hour west of the city in Oxford, home to the second-oldest university in the world and many Harry Potter filming locations. (You might recognize Oxford’s famous Christ Church College as the inspiration for the Hogwarts dining hall.)

Kate Templin Stahl
Kate Stahl is a Chicago-based journalist and essayist who has written for POPSUGAR, Chicago Tribune, and various Modern Luxury publications, among others. She also co-hosts and produces a podcast called My Mom Always Says.