Recommendations for a Two Week Trip to the UK

I too always use the National Rail website, usually after comparing a few others. I always check the offer to pick my tickets up from a machine at a departing station, but that’s a personal preference and having them on your phone or device could be a better option for you.

British Rail was the colloquial name of the state-owned company that operated UK rail transport from 1948 (when it was nationalised after being owned by 4 private companies) to 1997 (when it was again privatised). I guess a company using ‘British Rails’ is trading on that history. Historically-speaking, Britain has been proudly a part of Europe for many centuries - Brexit wasn’t about leaving Europe, but I digress.

@RickG , in my experiences on German and Italian railways, the ticket inspectors are a lot less ‘enthusiastic’ in the UK (more forgiving, if you will). My personal anecdotes of course do not make for data; that’s just how I’ve experienced traveling in the 3 countries. In central Italian train stations the food will be leagues ahead of those in the UK, while in Germany the prices are much more reasonable. YMMV, of course.

There’s no need for a 3rd party site to buy rail tickets. They always appear at the top of a Google search so be careful. Start with www.nationalrail.co.uk and then that will take you to the appropriate train operating company to buy tickets.

It’s been my experience after 8 trips to the U.K. that a rail pass won’t save money unless you’re doing a lot of travel by train and need complete flexibility.

The ‘two together’ pass work well for us, although we let ours expire during the pandemic. You do both have to be together to use it. I see they’re now digital, which must be fairly recent as we had physical ones with our photos on.
In general, if a conductor finds you’ve got the wrong ticket, you won’t be fined but just have to pay the balance (although that could be quite a lot on some journeys)

Tourists like you can get a good deal from “Visit Britain”, The Official Shop of the British Tourist Board.

If you’re exploring Britain by train a BritRail pass is the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel. Forego the stress of sorting out a booking for every leg of your journey, sticking to rigid timetables, and sifting through multiple train companies - for a single fixed price, you can make unlimited train journeys around the whole country, or a region of your choice.

I would happily pay a premium to avoid sticking to rigid timetables, and sifting through multiple train companies

perhaps, but I have now seen how much they are and they seem incredibly expensive to me.
I strongly suggest giving some thought to how many journeys you need and if a formally planned itinerary allows you to book specific trains then you’d save many hundreds of pounds.

That was my take. I could see doing it if we were backpackers staying a night or two in each location and moving on. But we are middle-aged, middle-class professionals with bad backs and too much luggage. We’ll have accommodations booked well in advance, and I think we’ll be taking perhaps 3 or 4 substantial train journeys. I’m pretty sure we can do all of them booked in advance for a total of around £100/person. The BritRail passes for 2 I saw would be at least double that.

You can buy and use tickets on phone apps in the UK (you can scan in with your phone at the station), but you have to buy them on the apps for the different train companies. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, because in reality that means two or three rail companies.

Like dale says, use nationalrail.uk to find the company you need, then buy via that company. They’re usually pretty upfront about what tickets are cheapest and whether there are cheaper ones available if you change your journey a little.

I can’t work out when you’re coming here, but train tickets are usually only released three months in advance.

Mid-July, so we’re in that window. The National Rail site is definitely showing availability for our dates. Hoping to nail down the itinerary in the next couple of weeks so we can book the tickets.

suggest you do so as soon as reasonably possible.

I just booked travel from London to Glasgow for my daughter for mid-July. I did it last week and got the very cheapest tickets but when doing my research I found that within a couple of weeks of that window opening they do start to rise.

Noted. I’m seeing fares in the low £20s from Glasgow to York and ~£30 for York to London for advanced booking. Edinburgh to Glasgow, which is our other fixed travel, all seems to be around £20 for anytime. I wasn’t even seeing any advance bookings for that route; I assume it’s so heavily serviced and travelled that there’s not much need for fare differentiation.

They sound like reasonable prices to me and are in line with the tickets I just got for my daughter (£17 London-Glasgow but she does have a 16-17 year old saver railcard which gives her 50% off),

The cheapest fares are for specific trains at specific times. If you are unfortunate enough to miss that train you lose your money and have to pay the price on the day.

It happened to me in London. We had allowed an hour and a half to get to the station some 30 minutes away. The taxi we had booked was late and then got stuck in traffic. We were just in time to see the train leave.

That has happened to me sometimes. But I went to to the rail inquires desk and explained that I had a delay caused by a slow incoming service. They were very helpful and a guy from the train operating company just wrote a note on the ticket that made it valid for the next available service.

The train staff are generally pretty helpful in the UK. The standard of the service can be variable. Train carriage substitutions when suddenly all the booked seats are wrong. Lots of delay because if engineering works, especially on Sundays. That sort of thing. The system does not provide for a lot of redundancy. It is a bad day when you see the sign ‘rail replacement bus’ service.

If you’re based in Glasgow:

The Burrell Collection is a pretty spectacular museum showcasing the collection built up by a local millionaire and donated to the city. Lots of medieval tapestries and stained glass, plus works by Cezanne, Manet and Degas.

There’s also the People’s Palace which gives a good social history of the city.

You could also visit the new Clydeside Distillery for a tour.

If you want to get out the city then the Isle of Arran makes a great day trip - train to Ardrossan and then a c.60 min ferry across to the island. From Ardrossan you could also visit Largs on the coast or the nearer island of Great Cumbrae, where Millport is a lovely little seaside resort.

Another good day trip is Linlithgow, about 30 mins from Glasgow by train (on the route to Edinburgh). The Palace is the stand out attraction (birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, home to several James’s) and there’s also an excellent local museum and canal which is good for a pleasant stroll.

For more exciting canal related shenanigans you can go to Falkirk and visit the Falkirk Wheel, an amazing piece of modern technology.which rotates to lift canal barges 35 metres from one canal to another. There are various options for being in the barge as it gets rotated up. (One would be a cruise from Linlithgow to Falkirk.which comes with a bus ride back.

For a distillery trip out of Glasgow, there are two on Arran but another option would be Deanston near Dunblane (40 mins from Glasgow by train) although you would have to get a taxi to the distillery (about 10 mins).