Back in July, I enjoyed my second ever sleeper train journey from London to Edinburgh. I was well overdue a visit to my mum, who lives in Dunfermline, and opted to get the train up and a flight back down.
Why? Because I just love long-distance travel by train.
The first time I did it, the journey was ruined by some ferocious food poisoning, so I spent most of the night curled up in my bed clutching my stomach and praying for death. I hasten to add, it was due to a meal I had before I even got on the train. Not the fault of the Caledonian Sleeper!
This journey was a lot more enjoyable. I love the fact that it leaves to late at night, so you can have an entire day in London and then head to Euston station at bedtime. Unlike flying, you don’t waste lots of time messing about with security and queuing every few minutes.
Once I made my way to Euston, I headed for the platform and boarded the train. The onboard staff were, as ever, super friendly and very welcoming. I easily found my cabin, slightly worried about the heat. Back in July, London was in the grip of an impressive heatwave, so I wasn’t sure how comfortable it was going to be on board. The trains aren’t exactly modern, so I assumed any air was going to be coming via an open window as we sped through the countryside.
This time round, I’d pre-booked a meal – so I could enjoy the dining car. Not only was the dining car staffed by the friendliest people ever, but there was also a table reserved just for me!
And of course, there was no question about it: I had to order the haggis, neeps and tatties. I passed on the whisky and opted for an IPA to accompany the meal. It wasn’t going to win any awards, but was a tasty snack considering it was prepared on a train. The atmosphere in the dining car was great and, even though I was traveling alone, I enjoyed the conversations around me.
I had to wave away offers of more food and drink, as it was well past 12:30am and I’d been on the go since before 6am. I weaved my way back to my cabin, leaving behind quite the party atmosphere.
As for the cabin itself, I had secured a first class ticket, so I had it all to myself. On the Caledonian Sleeper service, if you don’t go First Class, you can share a cabin with someone of the same gender. You save money, but you spend the night with a stranger. And while that could end up being the start of a wonderful friendship, it could also end in murder.
So, yes. First Class. I don’t think my photos last time did the cabin any justice, so here’s a selection I took just before bed.
As you can see, there’s not a ton of room. But it’s fine for one person. I’m not sure how two could cope with the limited floor space. You can possibly just make out the fact that a bunk bed comes out of the wall to lie on top of the visible bed if there’s more than one person there.
And yes, bare legs. I didn’t get under the sheets until almost dawn, as the cabin was very warm. Cooler than my apartment had been, to be fair, and I managed to get a few hours of quality sleep despite the discomfort.
You can also see that while my feet aren’t touching the very end of the bed, you have to remember I’m only 5’4″. So anyone normal-sized might find it cramped. Finally, there’s no en-suite bathroom, so if you need to pay a visit, you have to get dressed and go down the corridor to use a shared convenience.
All that said, there are some new trains arriving on the Caledonian Sleeper service in 2019 and they look delicious. Go First Class and you’ll get an en-suite. They even have cabins with double beds. These images on their website are fantastic and I can’t wait to try it out. I think it’s going to represent an amazing upgrade to the service but I’m also left wondering what it’ll do to the pricing.
It’s not a cheap way to get to Scotland (unless you buy a ticket for a seat in the main seating area and hope to sleep sitting upright – alcohol may help here) but it’s so much more relaxing and interesting than going via an airport.
On the approach to Edinburgh Waverly, I was woken up by a knock at the door. othing sinister, it was my wake-up call and breakfast. Moments later, I was handed my pre-ordered breakfast on a tray, which I enjoyed in bed while watching the scenery go past. Not a bad way to start the day at all.
Incidentally, I have to apologise to commuters in Edinburgh’s Waverly station who I inadvertently flashed when getting dressed in the morning. I hadn’t closed the blind all night, so several people got to see my everything before I lunged at the window and pulled down the blind.
It’s now five months later and there’s been no police at my door, so I think I got away with it.
Would I do it again?
Yes, definitely. As I said, I think it’s an excellent way to travel. I’m looking forward to trying out the new trains next year, but might even squeeze in another journey on the old stock before it’s all replaced. I’d even be up for sharing a cabin to cut the cost, but I think it would need to be with a very good friend!
Got any tips for how to manage actually going to sleep on a moving train? We’ve done a few sleeper trains in Europe, and despite comforts like lovely en-suite compartments, nice dining card, comfy beds, the actual motion of the train made sleep impossible… queue two very tired and cranky passengers next morning!
Bizarrely, given my (hopefully cured!) insomnia, I sleep well on the train. I think it’s combination of getting to bed late – so I’m quite tired – and the rocking motion. I find it quite relaxing. Plus there’s a lot of “white” noise, which blocks out any disturbances. I find it the same on planes, now that I think of it. Maybe noise-cancelling headphones might help?
Nah, it’s the motion, and the constant stopping and starting all night. Plus if you do it on holidays, all you can think of is “we mist be going through amazing scenery and we can’t see a blessed thing!
I’d love to know which routes you’ve taken in Europe and which you’d recommend!
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We did Munich to Florence over the Brenner Pass. Sleeper train, no dining car. Comfy beds and our own loo and shower – and about 20 stops during the night, waking me up constantly!
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Milan to Barcelona was a lovely trip – even nicer accommodation and great dining service (this was with Spain’s Renfe) but same problem with constant stopping and waking up… it put us off overnight trains for good!
Great post. Have you seen Mark Smith’s YT channel. He is the guy behind ‘The Man in Seat 61’ website.
Here is his video on the sleeper to Scotland.
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Yes, love his stuff. Makes me want to travel more by train in Europe!