How Far Could a #VirginTrains Adventure Take You?

Scottish Highlands from a Virgin Train
Scottish Highlands

My view was one of the best anywhere in the country. I am biased though. My local rail station, in the city I work in each day, is one of the best for views. People lean over to the side of the train to see our UNESCO world heritage site high on the Bailey, as you pull in or leave. I was starting in Durham City.

A few weeks before, I had been contacted by Virgin Trains East Coast to ask about working together. I have taken these trains along the east coast of England and up to Scotland for years. I’d already had a few great experiences with Virgin and knew what their facilities were like, so I jumped at the chance. I wanted to come up with something other than my usual journeys to London, York or Edinburgh though. I set myself a challenge.

I would go away for a long weekend (part-time travel as always!) and I would go as far as possible. I looked at their route map and knew straight away where I would go. As far north as I could – Inverness in the Scottish Highlands!

View Virgin Trains

The view from my window going north

So last weekend, I pulled away from my home station and set off on my Virgin Trains adventure. I love trains which I’ve mentioned quite a lot on my blog and social media. I find it relaxing to sit and watch the world go by. Great views and travelling through places I wouldn’t usually see is interesting. The tickets can be cheap (if you buy advance in the UK), quick and have great facilities.

I was lucky enough to ride in First Class which is fantastic. Meals, drinks, free wifi, power sockets at each seat and very comfortable seats. You seem to have more room to move and space for luggage. I happened to get a friday afternoon train up to Inverness and by the time we hit Edinburgh, it was packed full! Definitely make seat reservations for this kind of distance.

Food Virgin Trains

Risotto and wine for lunch

The food is prepared fresh and a member of staff takes your order then comes with the hot food to your seat. Real plates, glasses, mugs and cutlery make it feel that little bit more luxurious than standard. I had a glass of wine and risotto for a late lunch. You aren’t on the train for long before a drinks trolley comes around which is great. There are a variety of soft drinks, water and alcohol after a certain time.

Virgin Trains view mountains

Scottish mountains from Virgin Trains

I got some emails done, made a quick video and watched the landscape go by. It was definitely not the worst way to spend an afternoon!

Then before I knew it, there was more food. I had steak and ale pie with mash for dinner and it was delicious.

Dinner Virgin Trains

Steak and ale pie with mash for dinner

We then hit amazing scenery coming through the Cairngorms National Park. This has a station that is possibly my favourite; Aviemore. Set against snow-capped mountains with a traditional small station. You feel in the heart of Scotland already.

Aviemore station in Cairngorms National Park Virgin Train

Aviemore station in Cairngorms National Park

Don’t judge but I also had a cup of coffee and piece of cake! It is 5 hours to Inverness after all. The diet is paused on adventures…

Virgin Trains coffee and cake

Coffee and cake

Just after 8pm, I arrived into Inverness station. It was still light at this time of year and very easy to navigate. It had been a great ride up north with Virgin East Coast.

Virgin Trains

Fancy myself as a Virgin rep!

I spent a day and a half exploring the Isle of Skye (blog post coming) and the city of Inverness. I’d hiked, tried craft beer, eaten great food, met lovely locals and generally had a fantastic weekend adventure in a stunning part of the world. It was time to head back to Durham.

Its a good time to mention a travel hack I’ve used for years but many people don’t do this for trains. Sign up for cheap ticket alerts at Virgin Trains East Coast. You can put destinations in and they will email when the price is lowest. I’ve managed to get £20 Durham to London tickets this way in the past.

Virgin Trains First Class seats

First class plush seats

I boarded my train and was delighted to see it was part of the upgraded new fleet. Gorgeous leather seats that recline and are sculpted to be very comfortable. For a journey of over 5 hours, you need a great seat.

I was on this train all the way to Newcastle where I needed a connection to Durham. I’d been tipped off to try the First Class lounge and it was a much better station experience.

Virgin Trains First Class lounge

First class lounge

Virgin Trains First Class lounge

Virgin Trains First Class lounge

Comfortable seats rather than the metal benches outside. It has a TV, drinks station, toilets and phone chargers. Perfect for any time between connections or if your train is delayed. It is much quieter and warm in comparison to being out in the station. I’d recommend using these if you have first class tickets.

Virgin First Class lounge facilities

Virgin First Class lounge facilities

Virgin First Class lounge air charge

Air charge points

The scenery on the way back down was obviously just as good. I feel like each journey is slightly different because you look up to changing landscapes and new buildings or animals in fields. I saw some highland cows as we got further north and of course its lamb season so they were bouncing around. The sun was shining for much of the weekend so it was beautiful spring scenes.

Virgin Trains UK countryside

Views coming back home

Unsurprisingly, I ate going back down too. I had a few cups of coffee and a cake then they served a lunch of sandwiches, posh popcorn, soft drinks and a Tunnocks teacake. It was a nice lunch and filled me up enough. Drinks were brought through regularly and the staff were helpful and friendly.

Lunch on Virgin Trains

Lunch on Virgin Trains

The verdict

How far can Virgin Trains take you? As far as you want in the UK. I found it such a pleasant surprise to look at their route map and see stations from London all the way to Inverness. Almost the whole length of the UK!

The overall service and facilities of these trains gets top marks. I love the scenery and enjoy taking my time getting to the destination with good food and a comfortable seat. It can definitely be done as part-time travel and I would highly recommend Virgin Trains East Coast.

Have you travelled on Virgin Trains East Coast? Did you experience First Class?

Disclaimer: I was offered a free return ticket from Durham to Inverness by Virgin Trains East Coast. My views are as always my own and I wouldn’t recommend a company or product on here unless I would pay myself

12 Comments

  • LeAnna says:

    We currently live in Germany and just LOVE the train systems in Europe!!! Being able to kick back, have a drink, get some work done and enjoy the beautiful scenery is so much more enjoyable than being stuck in a car. I wish the US had more and better train systems 🙁

  • Amelie Gagne says:

    Oh wow! That’s so fancy! I love train travel too and this gives me some serious travel envy… Such a great way to discovered a country while being able to do a bit of work, look out the window, etc… Do you know if they offered any vegan / vegetarian options on the menu? I’m very tempted now..

  • Mansoureh says:

    I like traveling with trains through European countries, especially in the UK. I used the virgin service once when I went from London to Manchester. I was in first class too. It was a great service

  • lingy0203 says:

    What a great opportunity! First class sounds amazing. I wish we had a decent long-distance rail system in Australia. It would make part-time adventures much more doable here! Enjoyed your review and photos!

  • Darlene says:

    Great experience! I love train travel too! And wow, you rode first class. 🙂 Definitely would love to try that someday and go to Inverness! the views that one can see during train travel is definitely scenic. plus, train travel is an adventure all on its own!

  • Drew says:

    I typically love Virgin trains as a way to explore the UK. However, traveling over Easter weekend this year was a bit of a disaster with really oversold services. But you’re spot on with keeping an eye on deals and sales – with a discount tickets can be very affordable!

  • elizabeth says:

    Virgin Trains do offer great service in the UK. We quickly learned the earlier you book the cheaper it is! I love you choose the furthest place you could go! And a good choice it was!

  • travelwith2ofus says:

    I rode a train from London to Paris in first class and I totally agree with you. Comfortable seats make the trip much more enjoyable. Of course food and some drink won’t hurt a bit. The Virgin Trains East Coast first class ticket seems like a great deal, especially when you get to eat and drink so heartily.

  • I had no idea Virgin Trains even existed. Meals, Wifi and spectacular views? What more could you ask for?

  • We really got hooked on rail travel when we first went to Japan and found out how fast, clean and comfortable it could be as a means of transport. I’ve not used trains a lot in Europe but they look like an excellent option and I’ll definitely look into your travel hack, I think I’m on the mailing list for most airlines but didn’t think of it for the train system.

  • Awesome!! This was newly launched right? Can’t wait to try it next time we get to the UK. I love trains. We just spent a month hopping on and off them around Europe.

  • The food looks delicious. I love trains as a way to take in the scenery in a country. Looks like I’ll have to check this out next time we’re in the UK. Thanks for sharing!

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