We caught the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Fort William in Scotland. Here’s what it’s like!
As a Londoner who’s constantly tired and frequently sozzled, I’ve often woken up on a train somewhere far-flung: Morden, Penge, Sevenoaks, Bexleyheath. But nothing quite rivals coming to at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain range.
This is the joy of catching the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston. Quietly rolling out of London around 9pm each night, you can pass out in your very own bed and then wake up, as if by magic, in the Scottish Highlands. (It variously heads to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, and, where we went, Fort William.)
The beds are surprisingly comfy, although the get-up is admittedly a bit retro – and not in an Orient Express sort of way.
You basically have a single bed in a little cube, and if you’re travelling with a mate, you can either pull down a bunk bed…
…or, for more money, book an adjoining room and keep an interconnecting door open for a chat.
Yes, this is more like having a sleepover as a kid than a super-romantic option. But, in spring 2018, the trains will be replaced with these brand new designs, with, yes, double beds! That’s more like it.
Although you’ll arrive just before 10am, it’s definitely a waste to only wake up when you arrive, because the views are so awesome. I set an alarm for sunrise and this was the vista I came round to:
I typically hate mornings, but this was worth it, even if I had drunk All The Train Wine the night before. That said, in the summer, you could just get the sleeper back to London, and enjoy the view in the evening light, as the train departs 7pm.
Anyway, morning has broken, you’ve had your on-train fry-up and marvelled at the view. You are either well-rested or hungover ‘tae fuck’. Onwards!
This is a trip that could arguably be enhanced by hiring a car, all the better to go ‘proper exploring.’ For Londoners without such skills, you can try and catch the not-so-frequent buses, or do as I did, and simply get All The Taxis.
There is a whole eyeful of beautiful scenery to marvel at and explore.
It’s all a bit bloody Skyfall.
At the right time of year, you can walk up Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. If you’re lazier, like me, you can head to Nevis Range where a gondola will dangle you up the mountain.
If the fancy strikes and the season’s right, you can do all sorts of active things here, like hike, bike, ski and climb.
Alternatively, just gaze for miles from your all-seeing-eye.
The views are pretty gorgeous.
On the way back you could stop in at this honest-to-goodness castle.
They do a mean afternoon tea…
Or, if you’re feeling flush, you could stay for twelve-course dinner from Albert and Michel Roux Jr. But we just went to this sparkly little pub in Fort William instead.
There’s no sleeper train on Saturdays, so if you’re heading up for the weekend, you’ll want somewhere to stay! We chose to spend the night at Treetops, cute little B&B just outside the main town, where JJ and Jo took very good care of us.
Here is the view we had of Fort William’s lights twinkling across the loch. Nice, right?
And – not to belabour the point – there are waterfalls, lochs and other sites of huge natural and historic beauty to find.
You’ll be all set to hop on the train back on Sunday night, and you’ll arrive back in London at 8am on Monday morning, early enough to get into work, if you’re particularly keen. (You might feel a bit discombobulated though!)
Find out more about the Caledonian Sleeper train to Fort William:
? The Caledonian Sleeper website (thanks to them for arranging our travel)
? Treetops B&B, Banavie (thanks to them for accomodating us)
? Nevis Range website for mountain activities (and checking the gondola is running!)
? Visit Fort William for a useful area guide
? West Coast Railways for travelling on the Hogwarts Express
? The Man In Seat 61’s Caledonian Sleeper Guide for everything you could want to know about the journey