The Winter break is almost upon us, and while Christmas is celebrated throughout the UK, nowhere celebrates the New Year like Scotland! Every year some international students head north for Hogmanay, and I am often asked the best way of travelling to Edinburgh. It’s very much a matter of personal preference. Flying is often regarded as quicker and cheaper, but is it really the best option? Here are my 5 ‘c’s for why I prefer to let the train take the strain:
The beauty of the train is that it takes you right from the middle of Bath to the heart of the Edinburgh. By their very nature most airports are some way from the city centres. Whilst Edinburgh Airport is served by a good tram system, it is still a good twenty minutes travelling time to the Princes Street. Bristol is not so lucky with transport links – the Air Decker bus from Dorchester Street to Bristol airport takes just under an hour. Admittedly the train can take around 6 ½ to 7 hours, but when you factor the travelling time to and from the airports, the time sat around waiting for the gate to open and the flight time, do you save that much time? At least once you are on the train, you can relax with a book and not have to spend your time lugging your suitcase from one place to the next. You’ll probably need to change trains at Bristol and Birmingham (or London if you chose that route), but the platforms are quite close by – unlike the gates at the airport; by the time you reach the plane, you feel like you have walked half the distance! Added to which train travel gives you so much choice. With regular trains you can pick a time to arrive or leave that suits you; with air travel you are very much restricted to five times a day – fewer if you want the cheaper tickets.
Another good reason for picking the train over the plane is comfort. There’s not much difference between the seats, but the ability to change places on a train is a real plus. How many times have you been stuck on a plane next to a someone with terrible body odour? Or behind a loud group? On a train you can reserve a seat in a quiet carriage, or if you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, you can just move elsewhere. It’s quite easy to see what seats are reserved and what are available from the overhead screens, or you can ask the guard. If you find the journey is too long, you can always take a break in one of the beautiful cities on route. York is one of the finest medieval cities in England and Durham another city with UNESCO World Heritage status.
If you really want to get to know a country, then travelling through it is so much better than travelling over it. Each region of the UK has a different feel to it, from the rolling hills in the south-west, the flat fields of the midlands, the valleys and bigger hills of the north and the beautiful Scottish coastline. The train gives you a snapshot of the countryside, towns and cities across the country – many of which will be decorated for the festive season. The train whisks you through little villages and large urban areas giving you a glimpse of the diversity that can be found in the UK. There are also some famous landmarks on the route including Durham cathedral, the Angel of the North and Lindisfarne.
For the travel anxious, like me, the train offers much more reassurance, especially if you don’t like being parted from your luggage. How many times have you been one of the last few stood at a carousel in an airport, wondering when your suitcase will appear? Or worse still, what would you do if it doesn’t? If you are travelling on a train, then you can find a seat where you can have your luggage in your sight the whole time. Then there is also the question of delays. Neither train nor plane have a great track record with punctuality, but it is worth remembering that Bristol Airport is one of the highest in the country and prone to be affected by fog or snow during the winter. That’s not to say that you won’t be delayed by the train, but at least if you are booked on to a set train and it is more than two hours late, you can claim a refund on your ticket.
There’s no arguing that the cost of a flight can be cheaper than the cost of a train ticket. The cheapest cost of a plane to Edinburgh between Christmas and the New Year is around £40 for outward and return tickets combined, whereas the cheapest cost of a return train ticket is just over £80. If you want to travel at a reasonable time of day though, the price of a plane tickets rises to around £110 and a return train ticket to about £140 (there are lots of variable depending on time and date). But then for the airport you need to factor in the cost of the bus to Bristol airport (£18 each way) and the tram from Edinburgh airport to city centre (£9 each way). A direct comparison is difficult as there are so many variables and prices change day by day, but it worth remembering the extra costs and considering whether the extra savings are worth it.
So, there you have it! The choice is yours but if you really want my opinion on travelling to Edinburgh for the New Year – well actually there is so much going closer to home, that I’d probably think twice and save my money for a trip for the Spring or Summer when the weather is nicer and there are more hours of daylight.