By Rebecca Hay
The Caledonian Sleeper train has long been a great way to travel from Scotland to London overnight.
With routes from Inverness, Fort William, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Scotland to choose from, it is a great way to save on time and hotel costs. You can travel overnight and spend the day in London, before returning up North.
The most scenic and perhaps romantic journey is the one from Inverness to London and back, taking in some of Scotland’s vintage scenery.
The sleeper’s owners Serco have invested £150 m in a new fleet of trains to bring them up to modern-day standards and after some well-publicized hiccups, the service appears back on track.
Years ago, I was lucky enough to have traveled on the old train, with its quirky furnishings and “hang your head out’’ windows and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so I was curious to see if the new boys mustered up as well.
This time, I was joined by husband Kenny and children Ruaridh (12) and Flossie (10) and we ventured out late on a Friday night for our weekend adventure.
Using the Lounge
We were booked to go Club Class, which meant access to the station lounge and in Inverness, this means a dedicated one and not shared with other train companies like in Glasgow and London.
Dundee, Fort William, Leuchars, Perth, and Stirling also have their own base, created with the support of the Scottish Stations Fund, but Inverness also had
funding from the Railway Heritage Trust and it’s a lovely traditional building to relax in and enjoy some complimentary refreshments before you head onboard.
Inverness railway station is in the heart of one of Scotland’s prettiest cities and the sleeper dominates the station with its long tail of carriages snaking down the platform.
The shiny new train oozes with class and tartan clothed friendly staff greet and directs you to your allotted carriage for the night. Many of the staff have followed in the footsteps of their relatives to work on the train and such is its allure, that there are tough tests to pass before securing a job.
Catering for all tastes and pockets from the seat-only carriage to the all-singing, all-dancing club double, the airline seating is the cheapest option and is a good one if you want flexibility and a chance to grab a bargain.
With comfy seats, a footrest, table, lighting and Wi-Fi connections, you are all good to go and refreshments can be bought from the dining car. Lockers are available for storage too, so a safe option.
Sleep and Luxury
For those, like us, who wanted a bit of luxury and sleep while we traveled overnight, rooms are available from the classic no-nonsense room, to the club and the double, which are both ensuite, with the latter having a bigger bed to sleep in, rather than bunk beds.
I shared with Flossie and Ruaridh with his dad and our rooms were snug and comfy, with bunk beds (great to push up for extra space, if you are on your own) with plenty of room underneath for luggage, Glencraft mattresses, favored by the Royal family and cozy duvets and pillows.
The beds have controls for the cabin lighting and temperature and a charging point for the electronics. Wi-Fi is also complimentary along with some lovely toiletries, including pillow spray, to help you sleep.
The ensuite bathroom is neat with a toilet hiding underneath the lid of the shower stand and a rope bag keeping your towels and spare toilet roll dry.
Room Service Available
Room service is available, but the exclusive dining carriage is a better option as it allows space to relax and enjoy the scenery and a chance to try out traditional Scottish sourced foods such as haggis, neeps and tatties, shortbread and of course the popular Tunnocks teacake.
The train is bedecked out in a light golden livery with tartan furnishing and each carriage has an electronic display board giving information on what to do and see at the stops along the way, whether it be Pitlochry, famous for its theatre or Blair Atholl, for its impressive castle.
Breakfast is the best time to spot wildlife, especially on the return journey back to Scotland and waiter-style staff are on hand to serve up porridge, smoothies or for the all-inclusive club or double class passengers, Eggs Royale or a Highlander, consisting of bacon, sausage, egg, black pudding, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
8 Hours, 500 Miles
The journey from Inverness to London takes around eight hours for the 500-mile trip and has been dubbed one of the most romantic and spectacular train routes in the world.
And as we found, the Caledonian Sleeper and all its mod-cons and opulent luxuries make that trip all the more special and memorable and as their slogan says “a journey of a night-time!’’
Check out www.sleeperscot for more information on times, routes and services on board.
The author was hosted by the Caledonia Sleeper, but the opinions are hers alone.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Accompanied by husband Kenny and children, Ruaridh (12) and Flossie (10), the family love to explore new places and see countries through young and old eyes. Follow their adventures on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.