The Night Riviera from London to Penzance is one of the few remaining night trains in the UK (the others being the Caledonian Sleepers from London to Scotland). It connects London with Devon and Cornwall overnight six nights per week, offering regular seats as well as comfortable sleeper accomodation. It is operated by Great Western Railway (GWR).
The Night Riviera offers “Solo” and “Twin” sleeper compartments as well as 2nd class seated accomodation. 2nd class seats can be used without a reservation, although it is recommend to get one to secure your seat since it is free of charge at any staffed UK train station. Unlike for the Caledonian Sleeper, it is not possible to make reservations from outside the UK! The seats are all arrangend facing each other with a large table in between and can be reclined just a little bit. I would recommend to take blindfolds with you and get warm clothing as it can get quite cold due to the air-condition.
In between the seated coaches and the sleepers there is a lounge car which offers drinks and light refreshments. Sleeper customers also can have a seat there and enjoy a meal or browse through the newspapers. Passengers in Solo cabins in need of earphones for the VOLO TV system can buy them here.
UPDATE: Starting in late 2017, GWR is starting a refurbishment of the Night Riviera fleet. All coaches will undergo a modernization that will bring newly designed interiors, WiFi, accomodation for persons with reduced mobility and keycard door locks as well as a redesigned bar coach. If you have already travelled with one of the new coaches and want to share your experiences (and photos), please get in touch.
If you are looking for a more comfortable journey, have a look at the sleeper compartments. On the Night Riviera, there are two types, both of them are available for 2nd class ticket holders. Single travellers have to book a compartment on their own, called “Solo” at a price of 70 GBP. The cabin offers a comfy bed plus washbasin and mirror and quite remarkably a TV entertainment system. This is called VOLO TV and offers a selection of drama and comedy series as well as sport and documentary programmes that you can watch on a screen above the bed. Persons travelling together can book a “Twin” cabin which is identical to the “Solo” cabins in size but has a second bunk bed instead of VOLO TV. Sadly, there is also no electrical plug in the cabins (we do not have information about plugs on the modernised trains but hope that they will be fitted), however WiFi is now available (also in seated accomodation). The sleeper supplement for a “Twin” cabin is 90 GBP (= 45 GBP per person).
Included in the sleeper supplement is a small breakfast which is served in the cabin usually about one hour before you arrive at your destination. Rattling through the Cornish countryside enjoying a cup of tea or coffee on a sunny morning can be rather splendid. Sleeper passengers can also use the First Great Western lounge at London Paddington where they can choose from a complimentary offer of newspapers, snacks and refreshments and also use showers.
UPDATE: Lounges will be available in Penzance and Truro from Spring 2018.
Tickets can be bought at all National Rail Stations as well as online from the Great Western Railway website. Fares start from 62 GBP for a single ticket from London to Penzance plus the fixed sleeper supplement of 45 GBP per person in a Twin cabin or 70 GBP in a Solo cabin. Return tickets are available from 107,50 GBP plus the sleeper supplements. If you want to travel in seated accomodation, the seat reservation is free and included in the ticket.
Travellers with a rail pass such as Interrail or BritRail only pay the sleeper supplement of 45/70GBP. The sleeper supplement as well as regular seat reservations (which are available free of charge) can be bought at all staffed stations in the UK.
Good to know
- If you are travelling on the cheap you can use the train as a cheap, in fact free, alternative to a London hostel (keep in mind that the train does not run on Saturday evenings):
- London Paddington dep: 2345 (2350 on Sundays)
- Plymouth arr: 0514 (0535 on Monday mornings)
- Plymouth dep: 0553 (0540 on Saturdays)
- London Paddington arr: 0900 (0921 on Saturdays)
- In fact, you don’t have to get up that early in Plymouth since scheduled departure of the Night Riviera to Penzance is only at 0543 (0628 on Monday mornings). If you want to sleep just a little longer, you could also stay on the train a little longer and change at another station for a train back to London. It is recommend to get seat reservations for the early morning London-bound trains since they are usually full with commuters, especially the 0553 from Plymouth. You can get them for free at all staffed National Rail stations.
- Another nice option would be to stay on the train until Penzance and then make a day trip to some of the Cornish branch lines. What would be possible is to travel from St Erth to St Ives in the morning, then from Liskeard to Looe in the afternoon before returning to London in the evening or again with the Night Riviera overnight.
- When I was travelling with the Night Riviera, there were two 2nd class coaches, but only in one of them the light was dimmed overnight.
- Trains are available for boarding at Paddington from 2230 and at Penzance from 2115 (2045 on Sundays). Passengers can occupy their cabins at Paddington until 0700.
Update: April 2018