There is something romantic and timeless about train travel, and Edinburgh’s Waverley Station has been a part of the magic for nearly 200 years. Join us for our latest ‘explore and discover’ mission as we head into the capital city’s historic railway station to learn a bit about its history, take a wee virtual tour, and uncover a few fun surprises along the way.
Edinburgh Waverley is nestled between the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh. It is surrounded by some famous ‘neighbours’ including Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens, and North Bridge- all of which are overseen by the imposing fortress, Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Waverley is named after the novel, Waverley, written by one of Scotland’s most famous authors- Sir Walter Scott. In fact, it is the only train station in the world named after a novel. Waverley is considered the first historical novel and celebrated its bicentenary in 2014. As part of the commemorations, The Great Scott! event helped to remind station visitors about its namesake. The occasion involved peppering quotes from Scott throughout the station which are still inspiring visitors today.
Welcome to Scotland
When people arrive at Edinburgh Waverley, it is often their first introduction to Scotland. Each year, the railway station welcomes millions of visitors many of which are originally coming from international locations. On our walking tours, we often get participants from around the world who have taken the train to Edinburgh for their Scottish holiday. While Edinburgh Waverley is sometimes their only stop, for others it is just the first of many planned throughout Scotland.
Arriving in Scotland via Edinburgh Waverley is a classic experience that we highly recommend. There is something magical about taking the lift from the platforms up to Princes Street as the iconic Edinburgh skyline comes into view.
Speaking of magical, one popular route is to travel from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. Harry Potter fans from all over the world take the train to Scotland to feel a ‘connection’ to the famous scenes in the books when Harry, Hermione, and Ron travel on the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts. After all, there are some fascinating connections between Edinburgh and the Harry Potter stories, and we recommend you join us on one of our Wee Golden Walks to learn more.
Edinburgh Waverley has evolved a great deal over the centuries since it first opened in the mid-1800s, but it still retains wonderful Victorian charm from the rebuild that took place between 1892 to 1902.
Specifically, one of my favourite places in the station is the Booking Hall originally built in 1897. The room is dominated by the beautiful centre dome, surrounding glass and wood ceiling panels. The Booking Hall was renovated for the 1970 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh. According to Canmore (the National Record for the Historic Environment and part of Historic Scotland), as part of that remodelling, the original, wooden central booking office and mosaic floor were removed.
Fortunately, Network Rail (who owns and operates Edinburgh Waverley) points out that, “in 1991 Edinburgh Waverley was granted ‘A’ listing status by Historic Scotland. This meant that any work to be carried out at the station required listed building consent to protect its heritage and architecture”. If you visit Edinburgh Waverley, be sure to take the time to go to the Booking Hall and spend some time taking in the exquisite ceiling.
There is also a wonderful juxtaposition between the old and new architecture throughout Edinburgh Waverley. If you look carefully through the glass in the photo below, you can see the world-famous Balmoral Hotel. As was often the case during the heyday of train travel in the late 19th/ early 20th century, the hotel (opened in 1902) was built by the railway company (at the time- North British Railway) and was originally called The North British Hotel.
Edinburgh Waverley is perhaps most famous for its glass-covered roof that covers 13 acres and was one of the largest in the world when it was built. Most recently, the roof and railway station had a starring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For this next bit of film location trivia, you are in for a special treat because, while we briefly discuss this information on our walking tours, you are going to get a special insider’s ‘look’. In Avengers: Infinity War, Wanda and Vision were hiding out in Edinburgh. In an epic fight scene with the Children of Thanos, Wanda and Vision eventually crash through the roof of Edinburgh Waverley and the fight ensues inside the railway station on the platforms. Most of these scenes were filmed on Platform 2 pictured below.
They are eventually joined by Captain American, Falcon, and Black Widow as they fight their way around Waverley. The scene closes with the Quinjet taking off from the Waverley Bridge entrance ramp which you can see below. By the way, Edinburgh isn’t the only Scottish filming location chosen for the MCU. Check out our article on New Asgaard/St Abbs for more.
All this action and drama has got me quite exhausted and thirsty. Fortunately, there are numerous food and drink options within Edinburgh Waverley. In addition to these options, there is also a convenient shopping centre- Waverley Mall- attached to Edinburgh Waverley. While the version we see today has a more modern look with chain stores and a food court, its history goes back to the late 1800s.
Waverley Market was originally built at this location in 1874- selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers (the very first Waverley Market was originally situated under North Bridge but had to be moved to its current location when Edinburgh Waverley was built). As you can see in the photo below, the Market’s roof was at street level with a lovely roof-top garden. Inside, was a large market hall space built in the Victorian Arcade-style with cast-iron and glass features that were typical of that era. Waverley Market held fairs, exhibitions, and circuses until the space was renovated to its more modern incarnation as a shopping centre. Unfortunately, almost all its original features were removed during the 1970s/1980s renovations.
Before we conclude this visit, please scroll through and enjoy more photos of Edinburgh Waverley (click the black arrow to navigate through the slideshow):
I hope you have enjoyed our virtual tour of Edinburgh Waverley. Even if you don’t arrive in Edinburgh via train, we highly recommend that you ‘explore and discover’ this historic station that deservedly holds a special place among the Edinburgh landscape.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!