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Is travelling First Class on Virgin trains worth i...

Is travelling First Class on Virgin trains worth it? London Euston to Edinburgh Waverley

Ok, picture the scene. You’re at Carlisle train station. You’re carrying far more than a person should carry. Your wedding dress is piled atop boxes. The wedding cake, a two-tier rainbow cake to serve 30, is on the floor somewhere. You see the train you’re meant to be travelling on, scoop up as much of the haul as your puny arms can manage, and attempt to get through the train doors. Once you’ve hoisted yourself onto the carriage, you find your seat and prepare for the journey to the wedding destination, Edinburgh.

OH BUT THAT’S NOT WHERE THE STORY ENDS, READER.

A train conductor boards and tells you to get off as all trains have been cancelled for the next few hours while the track gets repaired. You see, Britain is a ‘first world’ country, in everything except any public services of any kind. Our water mains are literally Victorian, and our railways are like the weakest of kittens. A stiff breeze and before you know it trains are cancelled left, right and centre.

So. Due to the hours spent wandering Carlisle’s platform being followed by the creepiest of train spotters (another story) and getting to Edinburgh with nary a second to spare before the wedding, we were given free first class tickets from Virgin, to make up for the hassle. Which is lovely.

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Rather than waste them going to somewhere like Birmingham, we decided on spending a few nights back in Edinburgh. Hey, first class for a journey that long wasn’t happening again unless my parents had a child whom they later gave up for adoption to a wealthy barren couple who in turn died and left all their inheritance to my long-lost brother or sister and said sibling planned to donate at least £2,000,000 to make up for lost time, that is.

The trip was booked. Euston to Edinburgh. Five(ish) hours in first class, with all the drink and snacks one could eat. £400 it would have cost us. Worth it? Read on.

So what can you expect travelling first class on Virgin trains?

We boarded the 11 coach Pendelino train at Euston after a little journey from Brentwood to London. We arrived at Euston, found the platform and as we had about 15 minutes to spare, popped into Pret for a soya milk coffee. To our absolute delight, we’d bagged a two person table with a gorgeous window. Sure the little table light wasn’t working, but the paper mat, ceramic mug and stainless steel teaspoon were a welcome difference from standard class, of which we’re only too familiar (sadly). Orange juice was poured ready, as soon as we were seated.

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Before departing, and unlike anything in cattle class, a train steward brought round two tea urns and offered us a cuppa. During the weekday, and partly the reason we chose to travel on a Friday, all drinks and snacks are included in the price of your ticket. Including booze. During the weekend, I believe no alcoholic drinks are included and the food offering is a bit more limited, with a snack box instead of the meals on offer, though you can bring your own bottle and sarnies if you want. Train picnic anyone?

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

After leaving the station, about ten minutes into the journey, the stewards once again brought around the tea and coffee urns, as well as a choice of sausage and bacon baps. These were delicious, and so unexpected. David went back for second helpings, and judging by the woman’s face, we assumed this wasn’t usually done. He is a growing man, train lady.

The best thing about the journey by this point was the relative calm and space. The chairs reclined to a degree, and we had so much footspace. The two person table was great as it meant we weren’t sat next to anyone else at all. Those who aren’t a fan of the general public, and lord knows I fall into that spectrum, should try and get these tables.

Every 30-45 minutes someone would pass through the carriage offering food (which was salads, sandwiches and wraps with fruit, pretzels (avoid), crisps, chocolate and a cheese toastie towards the end of the journey).

Is travelling first class on virgin trains worth it?

Each window seat had its own power socket, essential in this day and age of useless battery life. Free wi-fi was on offer, but seriously, it was almost like pre-broadband dial up times. Remember those? When you couldn’t be on the phone and on the internet at the same time, lest your mum hear the familiar PSSSSSSSSSHH-BRRRRRRRLLL-BRRRRRL-FRLEEEEEEEEEE-WOM-WUM-WOM-WUM-WOM-KKKRRRSSSSHSSSSSH. It didn’t work at all, and that was the only real issue on the five hour journey.

Unlike first class on a plane, which I assume has perfumes, luxury hand lotions, and a butler to provide wiping services if needed, the loos on Virgin trains are the same as those in standard, and, like those in standard, stank.

Overall?

It was a really comfortable journey, if very long. There was mild delirium experienced. If we were planning on getting the train again for such a long journey, it’s something that I’d fleetingly consider. Sadly, the price is a whopper and could easily fly the Mr and me to Europe for the cost of one first class ticket. In fact, we flew from London City to Edinburgh, which took about an hour and cost us both about £68. AND we got free drinks and snacks.

The comfort side of things makes me want it. The practical side of me screams HOW CAN THEY CHARGE THAT FOR TOASTIES AND TEA?

If you have the cash, if you don’t travel much and want it for the experience, or you just hate people and have a credit card, then it’s worth a go. Sometimes, first class tickets are only a few quid more, and in that case it’s worth it. But £400 is far to steep to consider for us.

Here’s hoping my long-lost hypothetical sibling cashes in soon, huh.

Is travelling first class virgin trains worth it?


I'm Laura. I write most of the stuff on six out of ten magazine, as well as other places all over the web and in printed words. I'm a fan of travel (clearly), good cocktails, and anything sweet.

  • Ha love this! I’ve never been in first class on anything so in my eyes you’re living large! xx

  • We loved traveling through Europe on a First Class Eurail pass a year ago. There are stark differences between trains in each country. If this route would be included in a future pass, I’d take it. But like you, I wouldn’t go out of my way to pay that fare if it weren’t.

    • I agree, it just seems so pricey for essentially a few beers and a toastie!

    • Oooh, that sounds interesting. Which countries does it allow?

      • Around 20 I think. France and Poland have specific participation differences as I recall.

  • Brianna @ The Casual Travelist

    First class is always worth it when someone else is paying!

  • Pablo

    Doesn’t sound so bad, if I could afford first class I would definitely take that option. Until then.. I’ll hope for free upgrades or random luck. : )

    • Free upgrades are such a nice surprise, and there are deals about, but sadly not at the stage in my life where I can afford this… yet!

    • I think even if I could afford First Class I’d prefer to fly!

  • Tim

    I have always loved riding trains but this one may be a bit rich for me. I can bring my own toasties 🙂

  • Very interesting article and even at that price I don’t think I would even consider it. However, a free upgrade definitely would’ve been nice.

    • Free, I agree. I don’t think I’d pay again. Or travel that long on a train without it being a sleeper!

  • I’ve just finished a book on Richard Branson where he talks about all the issues with getting Virgin Trains up and running….very nice to go full circle and read your review of them in action!

  • Farrah Kelly

    Best review of a train journey I’ve ever read.

  • I’ve never been on a long train ride and would love to have experienced this. It’s a bit steep in price, but would be fun to do at least once.

  • Robin Rue

    The longest train ride I have ever done was 8 hours and I was perfectly comfortable in coach 🙂

  • Christine Luken

    I think if you are going to take a long train ride that first class would be the way to go!

  • I think I’d have to do this, at least once! I’d feel so special! My parents took us to Florida by train when we were kids and everything went wrong! The toilets all froze, if you can believe that. It was winter.

  • My mom is english and she talks about how much nicer the trains are in England. 🙂

    • Really?! I’m sat on a train with litter and chewing gum strewn all over the place. Me and your mum need to have words!

  • See, for me the journey is half the fun. I love staring out the window and just looking around. Especially if it’s somewhere I have never been before. We are toying taking the train through the mountains so we can see parts you can’t see driving on the road.

  • Pam

    Sounds like an experience you won’t forget! It is a little pricey, but if you travel trains a lot I can see it might be worth it.

  • When your long lost sibling finds you, let them know they have a long lost cousin over here in the US!

  • Trisha Grimes

    I’m not familiar with Virgin trains but know of their airline. I think I would take the train just for the experience, even if it was a long journey.

  • It sounds like they go out of their way to make it a pleasant experience. Traveling like this would be great.

  • Lorane Rhoden

    Wow… I didn’t know the Virgin Brand had Trains.. It definitely sounds like s comfortable trip and experience which is needed every now and again … but that price is for a one time experience ..lol

  • Taralyn

    Am I crazy to have a train trip like this as a bucket list item? Definitely want to go through a picturesque area!

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  • Odinthor

    Go to Britain from Canada every other year and travel on the train. In my humble option Virgin Rail first class is the prime carrier for treating you well and looking after your needs. Also find the staff in first class to be excellent. Not a better way to travel if you have a Britrail pass or advanced ticket purchase

    • Thanks for your comment! It’s been lovely getting such international viewpoints on Virgin’s service

  • Tee Jay

    If you pre book up to 12 weeks in advance, and you book on a pre arranged train, and have a railcard of sorts, you can make massive savings, such as Edinburgh to London for £49 on a railcard on a Sunday. Or on a weekday, £68

  • Shazzaboo

    Why did you not use the first class lounge before your journey?

  • Shazzaboo

    Sounded like a peaceful, relaxing journey.

  • If you time it right, you can get a first class Virgin ticket for just a couple of pounds more than a cattle class ticket. We went to Edinburgh from Crewe a couple of years or so ago, and ordering our tickets several weeks in advance meant that there was only a few pounds in it, so we went for first class… An excellent decision, considering the length of the journey. I’d also recommending using the first class lounge for peace snd snacks before your journey.

  • Peter Skuce

    What I would do and indeed what I am planning on doing is booking First Class Advance ticket London Euston – Crewe, Monday – Friday mornings, on a train offering a full cooked breakfast service, served at seat in First Class.
    I have learnt that the ticket costs £30 one way and the breakfast is as follows:

    * Filter Coffee or Fairtrade Tea
    * Fruit Juices
    * Cereal
    * Bakery Basket
    * A choice of main courses: Bacon Roll, Great British Breakfast, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Fruit Salad, Porridge or Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg

    I have had on occasion a hot breakfast followed by a Fruit Salad.

    However be warned that breakfast is served between start of service to around 1000 and that the range above applies only to Class 390 Pendolino electric trains. The Class 221 Voyager diesel trains offer limited First Class seating and also reduced catering due to smaller kitchen!

    • Thanks so much for the tip. The breakfast was well worth the reduced ticket price!

      • Peter Skuce

        Actually ticket price varies £30 – £40 and also I should have stated that I have a railcard.

        Also I should have mentioned that the breakfast is freshly cooked by chef. All eggs are free range of course and if you are having Great British Breakfast, you can have them either fried or scrambled. Another tip is to sit in the very last carriage, as it has the kitchen, staff serve you quickly and it feels more cosy as First Class only takes up a quarter of the carriage!

  • Mathew Dennison

    Your interpretation of the dial up modem was just priceless!
    It actually made me laugh out loud..!

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face for the rest of the day. 🙂

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