Train travel in the UK can be a bit foreign to us Americans, but it is delightful. If you haven’t already stumbled upon the website seat61.com then I would suggest you head over there. It answers a wide range of travel questions for the UK and continental Europe.
I chose to go by train because with two young children my main concerns center around food and toilets. When traveling by train you can bring food with you (and hopefully score seats with a table) and there are toilets on board as well. No scrambling to find a restroom or hoping to find a place to buy snacks lends itself to a much happier mother. Added bonus, map reading/GPS skills are not needed.
I think the most confusing choice to make is what type of ticket do I want to purchase and deciding on whether to purchase a rail pass. Again, ahead over to seat61.com for more details on these decisions. For us, I chose to purchase a Family and Friends rail pass at our first station (Edinburgh). It gives us great discounts on all tickets and easily paid for itself (£30) within the first two trips. If you don’t like to plan ahead at all then you may be better saved by buying a rail pass in the US before traveling. It may be more expensive than when you add up your individual fares, as it was for us, but if you want great flexibility as to when you travel then it probably can’t be beat.
The one thing that I found that really surprised me is that you are allowed to break up your travel if you have a particular type of ticket. For example, when traveling from Edinburgh to Inverness you can get off in Stirling, sightsee for a bit, and then hop back on another train to finish your journey. This doesn’t work with advance tickets, but most other types of tickets will allow you to do this. Also, i found it odd that no one really checks your tickets. Of course they could if they wished, but we have yet to have our tickets inspected.