Travel by train

Take the train but not the strain

Booking Train Tickets

 

There are currently 23 operators of franchised passenger rail services in the UK and numerous booking websites available so it is difficult to know how best to book your train tickets and ensure you are getting the best possible deal. Let us help.

 

All train operators sell tickets for all operators' trains at exactly the same price from the same database so you can buy train tickets for any journey throughout the UK from an official operator such as Great Western Railway or Virgin Trains, for example, at the official price with no booking fees added.

 

However, some operators may offer an occasional discount on their own fares when booked through their own site so it is best to pick the relevant train operator if you can.

 

This begs the question how do you know who the operator is?


Your first port of call should be www.nationalrail.co.uk.

 

National Rail does not actually sell tickets; instead they list all options and link to the relevant operator's website to enable you to complete a ticket purchase. This will also allow you to look for any unique offers.

 

Online ticket retailers such as Trainline and Take the Train, for example, are perfectly good but you will notice at the bottom of their home pages that they are National Rail accredited so it is evident that you might as well just run with National Rail as your first port of call.

 

The other thing to consider is the type of ticket you are purchasing.

 

Tickets fall into three categories - Anytime, Off Peak and Advanced.

 

Anytime fares are valid any day, at any time on any train, regardless of the operator. They are also the most expensive and, if unused, they are refundable although there will be an administration fee.

 

Off-Peak fares are valid on any train, any day, but only outside of Monday-Friday business peak travel times, which vary by route and destinations. It is safe to assume after 10:30 in the morning is okay but be extra careful about trains leaving London in the afternoon.

 

You must make the outward journey on the date shown on the ticket and you can return any day within one month.  You can use any operator's train and travel via any permitted route unless a specific operator or route is shown on the ticket.  Unused Off-Peak tickets are also refundable, less an administration fee.

 

Some operators have another version called Super Off-Peak which are even less expensive but more restrictive so always check before you book.

 

Advance fares are the cheapest option and are valid only on the specific train you have booked. Advance tickets are priced as one-way fares only so you must combine the cheapest fare for your outward journey with the cheapest fare for your return leg. 

 

Advance tickets are similar to budget airline fares in the way the price rises as departure date approaches so do book early. There are no refunds and usually no change of travel plans permitted.

Penzance is easily reached by rail from most major cities and there are direct trains available from as far north as Edinburgh. It is, however, the London to Penzance route, which is served by Great Western Railway (GWR), that provides two of the greatest treats on offer on our railways, the Night Riviera Sleeper and one of Britain's best kept secrets, Pullman Dining. This is the only UK train that has a fine dining silver service restaurant and it uses ingredients found along the route, which adds a touch of magic to the journey and quite literally whets your appetite for more tasty treats of the South West region. Either experience is a truly spectacular way to start your holiday.

 

Penzance might be the end of the line as far as the rail network is concerned but it is where the adventure begins as your boat or aeroplane awaits to take you across to the Isles of Scilly.

 

If you are travelling by boat you will need to get to the quay which is a 10 minute walk away along the seafront and clearly signposted - if you are in any doubt simply face the sea, turn right and start walking. There is also a taxi rank in the station car park with several vehicles waiting to meet every train so you don't have to struggle with your luggage. 

 

The boat usually leaves around 9:15am and is convenient for those travelling on the Night Riviera Sleeper from London and is not too difficult for those with a short journey to make but for most people the best option when travelling by train is usually to spend an evening in Penzance. The same is true on the return leg as the boat usually docks in Penzance at around 7:15pm.  


If you have a long journey to get to and from Penzance and are not taking the sleeper then our stress-free option is:

 

Book a mid-morning train to Penzance through GWR who have teamed up with Skybus to provide a combined ticket for rail and boat travel. Spend an evening in Penzance with one of our recommended accommodation providers and head for the quay in the morning when you are fully refreshed ready to start your holiday in earnest.

 

On your return do exactly the same - spend an evening in Penzance and book a mid-morning train for the following day. Remember you are still on holiday at this point and should be relaxing rather than fretting about getting to wherever it is you need to be by a certain time. Plan accordingly and eliminate the stress altogether.

 

 

If you are flying from Land's End you can book a collection from Skybus from Penzance station at the time of purchasing your flight tickets - if you have already booked your flights and not arranged a collection then do so by giving them a call on 0800 888888. Pop that number into your mobile phone or diary so if for any reason the train is late you can contact Skybus to rearrange your time of collection.

 

Trains can sometimes be delayed so if you are travelling from far afield and scheduled to arrive late afternoon then it might be prudent to book an overnight stay in the Penzance area and arrange your collection from the station by Skybus for the following day.

 

Similarly, if you have an early return journey then it might be equally prudent to book an overnight stay for the night before.  

 

This would certainly fit in with our stress-free option:

 

Book a mid-morning train to Penzance through GWR who have teamed up with Skybus to provide a combined ticket for rail travel and flights from Land's End. Spend an evening in Penzance with one of our recommended accommodation providers and head for the station in the morning where you will be collected by the Skybus shuttle.

 

On your return do exactly the same - spend an evening in Penzance and book a mid-morning train for the following day. Remember you are still on holiday at this point and should be relaxing rather than fretting about getting to wherever it is you need to be by a certain time. Plan accordingly and eliminate the stress altogether.

Newquay

Exeter

There is no train station at Newquay Airport which is situated 5 miles from Newquay town centre. You can hail a taxi outside the station or order in advance from Coastline Travel, the official airport authorised taxi company.

 

When booking your train, be aware of the flight times from Newquay which are usually at 8:00am, 8:45am, 1:50pm, 3:50pm and 5:05pm. Remember also that you need to be at the airport one hour before your departure time.

 

Trains into Newquay are generally slower than Exeter. It takes over 5 hours from London, for example, so if you have a long distance to travel then we would recommend the stress-free option of an afternoon flight only. Alternatively you could spend an evening in Newquay on your inward journey and book a 1:50pm flight to St Mary's the following day when you are fully refreshed and your accommodation on the islands will be ready for you. We would then recommend a morning flight back from St Mary's at 8:55am on your day of departure.

 

There is no train station at Exeter Airport. The nearest stations are Exeter St David's and Exeter Central which are 6 miles away. To get from your train to the airport you can either hail a taxi outside the station or order in advance from Apple Taxis, the official airport authorised taxi company.

 

When booking your train, be aware of the flight times from Exeter which are usually at 10:40am, 11:25am, 11:45am, 4:15pm and 4:30pm. Remember also that you need to be at the airport one hour before your departure time. 

 

Trains into Exeter are generally fast. It is under two and a half hours from London, for example, so all Exeter flights are reachable on the day of travel but if you do face a long journey then the stress-free option we woud recommend is going for the afternoon flights and returning from St Mary's at either 9:55am or 10:15am on your day of departure.

Say goodbye to traffic jams, sit back, relax and enjoy one of the finest railway journeys in the country no matter where you are travelling from.

Penzance

© All images on this site are either owned by This is Scilly, published under licence or reproduced with kind permission.

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