I embarked on the Caledonian Sleeper from Inverness last week. I had booked my ticket to Food Blogger Connect way back in February and I considered all the different ways (and costs) to get from Inverness to London. I took the sleeper train last year and booked relatively last minute, so could only get a seat. It was fine – fine being the operative word as it got me from A to B, just not very comfortably. However, the experience hadn’t totally put me off and so this time I booked a berth in a cabin.
The Caledonian Sleeper has been taken over by Serco this year, and from 2018 there will be a lovely new fleet of comfortable trains with all the mod cons (think plugs and wifi in the cabins, neither of which are available at the moment!). For the meantime, the existing fleet are still in service.
The service from Inverness departs just before 9pm and arrives just before 8am in to London Euston. You can board up to 45 minutes before the service leaves. I was in a cabin that has two bunks, and if you aren’t travelling with a companion, this means that you may end up sharing the cabin with someone of the same sex. This happened both ways, and both of my travelling companions (a holidaymaker from Michigan on the way down, a local from Inverness on the way back up) were good for a bit of a chat before we bedded down for some shuteye. I made sure I booked the lower bunk – I didn’t fancy trying out the top bunk and risking falling out overnight!
On the way down I also spent some time in the lounge car, where there are a limited amount of sockets to charge any phones or computers. I was quite happy with my book and a G&T (extra points to Serco who had Caorunn gin – definitely championing the quality Scottish food and drink scene). I didn’t buy anything to eat but noticed that prices were really reasonable for a whole range of eats.
Back to the cabin and although it’s very snug, it has everything that you need to bed down for the night. Earplugs, an eye mask and a bar of branded soap are provided in a travel pack, and there is enough storage to keep a couple of small cases underneath the lower bunk. Any items of larger luggage need to be stored in the guards van. Each bunk has it’s own reading light and you can adjust the temperature of the cabin. I was expecting to be cold, but it was the opposite, too hot, but the temperature control was effective. The bed was really comfy, firm-ish without feeling too hard on the back. The duvet was lightweight but not too thin and two feathery pillows were provided. I had a really good night’s sleep – I did wake up a few times when the train stopped suddenly but i was so happy to be horizontal on a comfy bed, I fell back to sleep again straightaway! A sink is in the cabin and in the morning, your choice of hot drink and shortbread are brought to you a short while before arriving at your destination.
I didn’t take any pictures on the journey to London, but on the way back I got a couple of snaps of the train. The corridors are quite thin which means that you ricochet like a human pinball between the walls as you make your way to the toilets or the lounge car.
Even though I was excited to wake up in the big smoke, it was even better to wake up and see the mountains and smell the fresh Highland air on the return journey!
Verdict: I loved the Caledonian Sleeper experience, and would choose it over an early morning flight from Inverness to London, as I got a great night’s sleep and arrived right in the middle of London before 8am. The quality of food and drink looked to be excellently priced, and it’s definitely given me the bug to find out what other sleeper train experiences I can have around the world!
I travelled on the Caledonian Sleeper at my own cost (around £120 for a return journey but this was booked 7 months in advance).