London to Inverness by Night Train An iconic journey to Scotland

Scotland onboard the Caledonian Sleeper night train

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Some of the most beautiful train stations in the world are said to be found in London; Euston is certainly not one of them. I stood there on the platform just before midnight on a chilly Friday, waiting for the conductor to check my ticket and get on board the cosy first class cabin of the Caledonian Sleeper night train which was reserved for me. Looking at the legendary train that has been carrying passengers from London to Scotland for over 50 years, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the majority of Brits who feel like the journey from the South of England to the far North is like a million miles. Despite initially being tentative about it, reality proved to be quite different since Scotland can be reached with a short overnight journey on the Caledonian Sleeper train.

Caledonian Sleeper car in London Euston railway station
Caledonian Sleeper car in London Euston railway station

As the longest and one of only two sleeper services on the railway in the United Kingdom (the other one being the Night Riviera), the train runs every night from Sunday to Friday and travels via the West Coast Main Line to Scotland. While two services depart from London, the earlier departure divides at Edinburgh into portions for Aberdeen, Fort William and Inverness while the later one serves Edinburgh and Glasgow splitting at Carstairs. But before I say more about the trip, let’s talk a bit about the station itself. If you prefer jumping right to the booking, here are the links to tickets and schedules on the website of Caledonian Sleeper.

 

London Euston station

 

Being a far cry from the once upon a time utilitarian’s dream, Euston station was and still is only a mile away from the British Museum and Regent’s Park, very close to the British Library and Tube accessible. While it’s not that exciting, it’s the station where our adventure begins. Speaking of, the Virgin First class lounge is quite nice, and as a Caledonian Sleeper adventurer, you’ve got access.

On a given Friday night, Euston station is normally packed. That Friday was no exception. The First Class lounge is located on the first floor to the right-hand side when you are facing the platforms and it’s open 07:00-23:00 Monday-Friday, until 20:00 Saturday and 10:00-23:00 on Sunday.

There’s plenty of seating inside, although it can get pretty full sometimes. Complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers are provided along with free WiFi. You can also enjoy some barista-brewed coffee and spirits (£2.50 for gin), wine and Virgin Trains own Tilting ale and cider (£4). You’ve also got access to showers and some departure screens.

There is also a new Caledonian Sleeper lounge for first class sleeper passengers in Inverness, with free WiFi & complimentary tea, coffee and soft drinks.  It’s just outside the station, on the corner across the road from the main station entrance. You can also find First Class Lounges in: Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley, Aberdeen, Fort William and Dundee.

 

The cabin of Caledonian Sleeper

While there are no unique First Class cabins, per se, if you choose to travel first class you get one of the three-birth cabins all for yourself. There is a sink, a small window (Don’t try to open it; believe me it won’t) and the bed itself. The rooms are very tidy and clean, however, the decor is a bit outdated; I mean, these carriages have been in operation since the ’80s and ’90s. But more on that later on. If you are two, you each get a cabin and the door between the rooms can be opened, provided that you book them adjacent. You also get a sleep-over kit containing some goodies for your trip along with a Companion to the Caledonian Sleeper. The latter contains impressive photos from all over Scotland and general information about the trip.

 

Dinner on the Night Train to Scotland

You can pay a visit to the dining car as soon as you board and if you have a First class ticket then you’ll have a table reserved. You can choose from a wide variety of food ranging from sandwiches and savoury snacks to lighter bites, desserts, drinks and mains, of course. The prices are reasonable and the food is not bad, to be honest. The wine list includes red, white and rosé wine, sparkling prosecco, port & champagne. The separate whisky list includes 14 different types of Scottish whisky, most of which are single malts. You can find sample menus with prices at their website . Normally, a steward takes your order while you are seated at the table or the sofa.

By the time I finished eating, the dinning car was empty. I was feeling very tired and, frankly, a bit tipsy so I retired to my compartment and called it a day.

 

Scenery

The next morning I woke up to some impressive views of the Scottish Highlands flashing by outside my window. I woke up quite early so as to have some time to take pictures of the beautiful scenery before breakfast. Yet, the sun was already up and shining (sort of). The Scottish scenery is absolutely stunning. However, I have to say my hand was freezing while holding the camera outside the window to take these pictures.

 

Breakfast on the Caledonian Sleeper

Don’t forget to fill in the breakfast menu that you wish to have along with your preferred location. You can have breakfast either in your room or in the lounge car. Hang the menu outside on your door so that the steward can collect it later on without waking you up.  Normally, you can choose one of the following: Highland Porridge, Highland Breakfast, Bacon roll or Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs. You can also choose either coffee or tea. I personally went for the Highland Breakfast with tea.

The dining car was very quiet that morning. Most people were just appreciating the scenery while others were reading their newspaper. Next to me, an old lady was talking about her recent trip to North Africa while her banqueter was listening to her, sipping tea from her cup.

 

Arrival at Inverness

After travelling for approximately eight hours, we arrived at Inverness. So sad to leave this train!

 

Tickets for the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland

Normal Fares:
Tickets for the Caledonian Sleeper are available here.

London to or from Edinburgh/Glasgow 

First Class Second Class Standard Class (reclining seat)
Fixed Advance From £130 From £70 From £35
Flexible From £160 From £95 From £55

 

London to or from Aberdeen, Perth, Avienmore, Inverness and Fort William 

First Class Second Class Standard Class
Fixed Advance From £150 From £80 From £40
Flexible From £180 From £105 From £60

For Railcard holders:

You get a 34% discount on most Caledonian Sleeper ticket types. Please note that from October 2018 onwards, your railcard will give you a 34% discount on single-berth sleepers & seats, but not on 2-berth sleepers.

For Britrail, Interrail or Eurail Pass holders:

National Rail Map
National Rail Map

You can travel in a sleeper but you’ll have to pay the sleeper berth supplement online. If you have a standard class ticket or pass, the sleeper supplement is £75 for one bed in a shared 2-bed compartment. If you have a first class ticket or BritRail pass, you pay £75 for a bed in a single-bed compartment, whether adult or child.

Reservations for Caledonian Sleeper (sleeping car) are available online at their website (select “Berth supplement”), by phone call or at a ticket window in Great Britain. It is not possible to buy reservations at stations outside of Great Britain! Seat reservations are free and available only by phone call ( UK: 0330 060 0500 / international: +44 141 555 0888 ) or at a ticket window.

Map of Caledonian Sleeper network - from London to Scotland
Map of Caledonian Sleeper network – from London to Scotland

 

New Sleeper trains from October 2018:

UPDATE: There has been no change to the planned introduction on the Highland route between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William, with new trains to debut from spring 2019. (source)

New sleeper trains are due to be introduced on the LondonEdinburgh / Glasgow line from late October 2018. London-Inverness / Fort William / Aberdeen line will follow at some point in 2019.  These new trains will include Suites with double bed & toilet, Club rooms with single or twin berths & toilet, and Classic rooms with single or twin berths & washbasin, a  club car and reclining seats. Interestingly, the new cabins will be sold per room like a hotel; If you choose a twin then the price covers two people. If you are travelling solo, then you might as well book a single. Club & Suite fares will include breakfast. Stay tuned as we’ll be reviewing these new services in another blog post.

 

Verdict

While Caledonian Sleeper services remain one of the best out there, combining quality, stunning landscapes and a unique experience, we believe that the introduction of new sleeper trains will bring about the much sought after revitalisation to the industry and change the landscape in the Anglo-Scottish railway. This is the proper old-fashioned way of travelling by train. The definition of escaping from everyday life and of new adventures. No one really here is listening to music or constantly paying attention to their phone like most people do on a short commute. This is the sort of trip that allows you to reflect and inspires you in the search of the next destination.  The Caledonian Sleeper survives and it’s still here, ready to carry you deep into the Scottish Highlands. What are you waiting for?

We’d like to thank ACPRail for kindly providing us with a 1st Class Britrail Pass for this journey. ACPRail are an official provider of Britrail. To buy your Britrail pass, please use their website.

Panos
Often found in libraries & on trains contemplating about life. Excessive tea drinker. Travel blogger and linguist.
Panos
panos199776@gmail.com

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