Zipping through the countryside, the world a green haze as you sip on tea and recline in a comfy chair, sounds ideal; that’s something I enjoyed when I treated myself to a first class journey with Virgin Trains West Coast. The trip was the 8 AM service from Glasgow Central to London Euston, due to take around 5 and a half hours and I was looking forward to the journey. I like trains. To anyone who knows me, this will be no surprise. This comes from growing up on them…. not literally.
I picked up my tickets from the self-service machine at Glasgow Central (GC). There is the option to have them sent to you in advance (and they come in a nice, shiny, branded envelope) but that can cost a little to do. Also as this was an advance ticket, I only like to print them off just before I travel in case I need to change the day or time. If I need to amend the journey and I’ve already printed the ticket… it takes longer to fix.
At the point of booking you can choose your seat and seating preference- if you want to sit by the window or aisle, what direction you face and if you want a plug socket- so you’ve got loads of options and I would recommend booking a seat in advance just to guarantee you have one particularly if you plan on travelling at a busy time.
One perk of a first class ticket is access to the First Class Lounge. These are available at most of the bigger stations along the west coast network, including GC. The station itself is quite beautiful; if you’re into rustic industrial structures and hidden platforms then you’ll want to visit.
I was travelling on a Virgin Pendolino service, from the Italian ‘pendolo’ meaning pendulum, because this type of train tilts when it travels around corners in order to continue travelling at a higher speed. It means your trains can go faster without having to build new rail lines to cope with said higher speed. That being said, the tilt is noticeable but does not cause your tea to spill.
Stepping onto the train, it was easy to find my seat. I was given one side of the double seat next to a window with plug and reading light. The overhead racks are spacious and are bigger than the ones I was used to so I was able to keep my coat and luggage directly above me.
As I made myself comfy, a tannoy informed the train that we were on was a ‘breakfast to brunch”service. So anyone who was travelling the entire way would be open to eat from both the breakfast and brunch menus. Initially, you are offered breakfast juices, tea/coffee, toast and whatever main breakfast you’d like from the menu:
Great British breakfast Bacon roll
Gluten-free bacon roll (gf) Sausage roll
Vegetarian sausage roll (v) Smoked salmon & scrambled egg
Eggs Benedict Eggs Florentine (v)
Porridge with optional honey (v)
Fresh fruit salad with optional yoghurt and honey (v)
(The Pendolino menu is different from other trains)
I opted for the Eggs Benedict with tea and toast; it was worth the slight wait. Flavourful and fresh, a smaller portion that I would normally opt for but tasty all the same with a perfectly poached egg. Probably not easy to do while you’re travelling at 125MPH. Hot food served to your seat with a sunny, ever-changing view.
The ride is comfortable. As I mention the seat does recline to a degree (pun intended) but only as much as to make a slight difference. The plug socket is ideal for someone like me- travelling while using a laptop and phone. The complementary WI-FI was easy to connect to and was very fast when the signal was good. That, however, was dependant upon where we were in the journey and how many other people were using it.
Overall the journey was smooth and comfortable. I personally like to work on trains- emails/ editing/ blogging- as it helps me focus (something to to with the ambient noise and movement). So I tend to have productive journeys, but I could have easily gotten a book out and chilled.
Now, train travel is expensive. First Class train travel is more expensive, but there are times when first is not only cheaper than normal but even cheaper than standard. It’s all about when you book and being flexible about travel times. I paid £58 for this ticket because I booked about a month in advance. I could have paid £80 for a standard ticket on the same day If I’d had waited to book later. So if possible, book in advance and be flexible about when you have to travel.
Also If you’re travelling on the weekend with Virgin Trains, you are able to upgrade your existing ticket for much less than booking first in advance.
The service arrived at our destination slightly ahead of schedule. London Euston is right in the middle of the city, so connecting to the Tube or walking further into town is super easy and convenient. It’s not always economical to go first but If you can, I say treat yourself.
Thanks for reading! Just to say, I paid for the above out of my own pocket. I was not asked to write this post or given anything for doing so. It’s just what I thought!