I love train travel. There is something so relaxing about sitting back and watching the world go by (and knowing that I am safely on the ground). I always opt for train travel when provided the opportunity, especially while visiting a place with gorgeous a countryside. While visiting Scotland, it was a given that we would take the train somewhere, anywhere; hence, our adventure on ScotRail. Servicing Scotland’s seven cities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, and Stirling as well as many scenic rail journeys, ScotRail can literally take you anywhere in Scotland. Being an easy and affordable way to travel the country with your family, I’m sharing why you should ride Scotrail with kids.
At a Glance...
- 1 Seven Cities
- 2 Scenic Rail Journeys
- 3 Keep Cost in Check:
- 4 Steam Trains
- 5 Why We Love ScotRail:
Known as “Granite City” many of the old building are built using this material, including the world oldest granite cathedral, St. Machar’s. Beyond the granite, there is plenty of history to be explored and there’s a beach! Yes, Aberdeen Ballroom Beach with tons of amusements for kids!
We took the ScotRail to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, from Glasgow. Departomg from Central Station, we arrived at Edinburgh Waverley. We were warned that maintenance work on the rail would delay our journey, which may have been true for weekday commuters, but our Saturday adventure proved to be no problem. We arrived to Edinburgh in 45 minutes. Riding comfortably, we got to gaze at the beautiful green rolling hills and relaxed. We had a fantastic day exploring the castle and the catacombs, which you read about in more detail, HERE. The kids loved it!
This rail journey offers excellent water views as you ride along River Tay and cut across river Fife. The station is even waterfront. Also, Dundee is a great jumping off point to check out the famous St. Andrews Golf Course.
This was our home city during our two- week stay in Scotland. It is known as the friendliest city and it was! We really loved Glasgow and encourage everyone to visit. The two train stations in the city are Central Station and Queen’s Station, both in downtown and steps for awesome restaurants and attractions. Find out more in my guide to Glasgow with Kids, HERE.
Scotland’s most Northerly city with views of River Ness. Keep your eye out for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.
A small, big city and home to Balhousie Castle. If traveling with kids, check out the Perth Leisure Pool, a fun water-park that is just 5 minutes from the station.
Home to Stirling Castle, we took the train departing from Queen Station in Glasgow and arrived at Stirling in 30 minutes. This short, comfortable train ride not only offered breathtaking views, but coffee service and snacks. We loved visiting Stirling! It is an amazing site and worth checking out. The castle is super family-friendly. After a long day sightseeing, it was nice to hop on a train for an easy journey home. Read more about visiting Stirling Castle, HERE.
Scenic Rail Journeys
West Highland Line:
This is the one I really, really, really wanted to take, but we had taken a tour up to Oban already and didn’t have enough time our schedule to go back this trip. I’ve heard it is the best scenic rail journey in the world and you can bet I will be taking this one day! This journey takes you to Oban and Fort William/Mallaig. It is a 3 hour journey to Oban and a 5 hour journey to Mallaig. From Oban you have the option to take a ferry to the many Scottish islands such as Isle of Skye. Check out The Man in 61 and Trains on the Brain for more about this journey, because they will make you want to take a ride!
This takes you from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness in about 3 hours with views of Isle of Skye.
Far North Line:
This journey goes from Inverness to Wick in 4 ½ hours, which is home to the Old Pulteney distillery.
This is 2 hour journey, which leaves out of Central Station, crossing River Clyde. As the saying goes, Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow. Then you arrive to the history town of Carlisle, where you can visit an 11th century castle built on a Roman fort.
Borders Railway Edinburgh-Tweedbank:
This rail journey won’t be open to the public until September of 2015.
This 2 hour journey takes you south where you are able to not only enjoy gorgeous scenery, but you may also choose to take a ferry to Northern Ireland.
Keep Cost in Check:
Fares are rather reasonable with it only costing about 10 GBP round trip for most rail travel.
For commuters there is an option for a Smartcard, season tickets, flexipass, first class and anytime tickets.
For leisure travel you can save money by:
- Buying in advance, either online or at the station, saves you money and a seat on busy trains.
- Travel Off-Peak (like we did), which puts you on trains that are less busy. You do not need to buy in advance for these tickets, but you can and we did. We liked the flexibility of arriving to the station when we wanted hoping on the next train that was available. Since we traveled on the weekend we could travel at anytime. For weekdays you can’t travel until after 9:15 am and there are restrictions in the evening.
- KIDS under 5 are FREE! Another benefit to traveling while your kids are little is that they are free everywhere in Scotland!
- Small Groups saves you 30% when traveling with a group of 10 or more.
- Railcards are offered with a variety options to help you save money such as the Senior Railcard, the Highland Railcard and more.
- Travel Passes are great for unlimited train travel, buses and ferries!
- Weekend First gets you can get upgraded to First Class on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Rail & Sail tickets help you save when you combine your train travel with your ferry travel.
Take a step back in time and enjoy a scenic ride on a 1937 locomotive. Steam Journeys are offered on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Departs from Edinburgh Waverley and makes stops at Galashiels, Tweedbank. You will have time to explore Tweedbank before returning to Edinburgh Waverley. I love vintage locomotives and although we did not get to take this journey in Scotland, we did take a trip on a 1920’s locomotive while visiting Williams Az, read more about our journey on the Polar Express, HERE.
Cost for Steam Journeys
- First class: Adults and kids are 75 GBP, which includes complimentary of fizz on departure, tea, coffee and pastries, and afternoon tea service on return.
- Standard Class: Adults are 40 GBP while kids (under 16) are 20 GBP, this includes walk-up buffet with sandwiches, snacks and drinks.
- Standard Class Family (2 kids, 2 adults) for 100 GBP
Why We Love ScotRail:
We loved our train travel experience in Scotland. The stations are beautifully maintained and well organized. I’m so used to there being chaos that I tried to avoid hiccups with unnecessary steps. I purchased tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines (there aren’t any and most people by the ticket vending machines). I arrived super early to the station to figure out the schedule and find my around the station. There was no need for all that. The stations are organized with everything clearly laid-out. Train schedules are visibly posted and on time. Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience and easy for families to navigate. I can’t wait to take another adventure on ScotRail.
Do you like traveling by rail?
What’s your favorite rail journey or one you would like to take?