Sometimes the journey is as good as the destination. Such journeys rarely involve a plane, they’re more lilkely to be in the form of a road trip, boat trip or, more often, a memorable rail journey. This was one of those journeys. As I stood on the platform at Euston just before midnight, I was serenaded by bagpipes. It felt as though I was already in Scotland. The kilted bagpiper drew to a close to rounds of applauses as we boarded the Caledonian Sleeper train to Glasgow.
For us Brits, the journey to Scotland from the South of England can feel like a million miles. In reality our island is rather small and Scotland can be reached with a short overnight journey on the Caledonian Sleeper train. The Caledonian Sleeper has been whisking Londoners to Scotland whilst they sleep so they can wake up in Glasgow, Edinburgh or further afield in Fort William, for over 50 years. The Sleeper can sleep up to 500 people at full capacity and is the longest train in the UK!
Thanks to the Caledonian Sleeper you can take the train after work on a Friday and arrive early on Saturday morning ready for a whole host of adventures in Scotland before catching the train back on a Sunday evening ready for work on a Monday!
But what’s the Caledonian Sleeper like? Is it comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep?
About the Caledonian Sleeper train
An iconic Scottish railway journey for all – from back-packers to business travellers – the Caledonian Sleeper train has been carrying passengers from London to Scotland for over 50 years. The next few years will see some exciting developments as new oweners, Serco, revive and revitalised the train and it’s carriages by introducing everything the modern traveller requires (mainly wifi!).
From 2018 guests of the Caledonian Sleeper will be able to enjoy:
- En-suite cabins for the First Class guests
- Improved Standard Class cabins
- New pod flat-beds for affordable comfort
- Cradle seats for Standard Class guests
- Luxurious new Brasserie Club Car
- Films and TV available via free WiFi
But why wait until then? The Caledonian Sleeper can still provide you with a fantastic and memorable journey to Scotland.
The First Class Cabins of the Caledonian Sleeper are for one person, giving you a little bit of extra room to move about in and worth paying a little extra if you’re travelling alone and would rather not share.
In the cabin you’ll find a wash-basin (it’s secretly hidden away and the counter can be lifted up to give you access), complimentary Arran Aromatics toiletries, a towel, a sleep pack and you’ll also get complimentary breakfast either in the Lounge Car or delivered straight to your cabin.
While the cabins are pretty small (as you’d expect), they have enough room to store your luggage and the beds are surprisingly comfortable. My head melted into the pillows (perhaps helped by the whisky from the Lounge Car) and I drifted off into a deep sleep with thanks to the pillow spray included in the sleep pack.
The only down side to the cabins as they are at the moment is that there’s nowhere to charge a phone. For anyone with a smartphone you’ll know your phone requires charging every evening so not being able to charge my phone while I slept on the Caledonian Sleeper was slightly annoying. However, there are power sockets in the Lounge Car so I was able to charge it up over breakfast and by 2018 the cabins are set to include power points.
Whilst a night’s sleep on the train is never going to be perfect, I was surprised at how much I managed to sleep on the Caledonian Sleeper. Whilst a little bumpy in places the train runs smoothly for the majority of the evening, I failed to even notice when the two trains – one going to Glasgow, the other to Scotland – were split!
If you struggle to sleep due to noise or light then you neededn’t worry. The sleep pack provided in First Class comes with an eye mask and ear buds to help you drift off into a deep sleep and dream of all the adventures to come!
Food & Drink On-Board
Aside from bringing the train up to a more modern age, Serco are also making the most of Scotland’s produce and have brought a new menu on board. Every 3 months the menu is updated to reflect the best seasonal produce on offer from across Scotland. With 2015 being the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland, there’s no better time to see what the clever chefs on the Caledonian Sleeper train are cooking up!
I’d already eaten by the time I boarded the Caledonian Sleeper, but the smells from the kitchen in the Lounge Car were incredible. Other travellers dined on Award-winning Cockburn’s Haggis, neeps and Docharty Tatties, and Clunes Lamb, new potato and mint casserole with spring greens. The Scottish cheeseboard for dessert looked particularly tasty!
If you’d rather a night cap, there’s an impressive whisky list on board the Caledonian Sleeper train including whisky from Glenfiddich, Laphroig and an Old Pulteney.
There’s not much better than a bacon roll in the morning for a breakfast treat and the Sleeper’s chefs serve up a great Aryshire bacon roll. You can also go all out with a hearty Highland breakfast (sausage, bacon, beans & scrambled eggs) or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Fancy keeping breakfast light? Opt for a creamy porridge or crunchy granola and yoghurt.
Prices range from £15.00 for a Standard Sleeper Seat to £95 for a First Class Sleeper Cabin (with a young persons railcard), or from £24 to £140 without, leaving on Friday evening and returning Sunday night. You can book up to a year in advance so cheaper tickets are probably available if you’re organised!
I’d definitely use the Caledonian Sleeper to travel to Scotland again. The bed was far comfier than expected, service friendly, food tasty and it looks like the upcoming improvements will only see facilities improve further. For less than the price of a hotel you can travel quickly through England and up to Scotland all while you sleep allowing for a full day in Scotland to explore some of the brilliant moments it has to offer!
Have you ever travelled by sleeper train? Where?