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Did you know that blogging is actually a genetic trait? That’s right, and today I’m publishing a guest post from my wonderful blogger mum, Christine, who’s written a Caledonian Sleeper review for Adventures with Nell.
A quick introduction to my mum before we get started: Christine has her own blog over at ginandgenealogy.co.uk where she writes highly informative and interesting pieces around family history research, and gin. This woman can certainly teach me a thing or two about niches! When she’s not blogging, Christine is either writing a book or following the England Cricket team at home and away.
*Looking to book a trip on the Caledonian Sleeper? You can do so on the official website.
Sleeping on the Caledonian Sleeper – A Review by GinAndGenealogy
I love visiting different places and other countries as much as the next person, but getting to my destination can mean moments of anxiety. Most trips I take involving flying, and if anyone tells you they don’t mind going to the airport they are lying. Parking, carrying, checking, queueing, waiting, watching. I’m almost exhausted before I even get through security.
My trip last week was a three day visit to the Shetland Islands. Not just because of my middle aged embarrassing crush on Detective Perez in the Shetland TV series, but the Island scenery looked stunning through the camera lens. Mr ginandgenealogy is an outdoorsy sort of man who was rather taken with my idea of going to such a place and immediately agreed to the visit.
I did have one request though. I had always wanted to travel on the Calendonian Sleeper train that leaves London around 9.30pm and travels up the West Coast of Scotland and across to Inverness arriving some 11 hours later. From there we could take the relatively short domestic flight via Orkney to Shetland from the nearby airport the following morning.
The Caledonian Sleeper: Reminiscent or Rickety?
The brand new Caledonian Sleeper train launched in June 2019, but we were a month too early and so prepared ourselves for the journey on the old rolling stock. Would this be a trip reminiscent of a bygone era? Or a rickety, noisy experience in run down carriages that clearly need updating?
Well it was a combination of both, really. With First Class tickets in our hands we boarded the train that evening in London and then squeezed ourselves, our cases and our rucksacks down the narrow corridor to our single berths. Our rooms were small but there was enough storage and there was a sink if you looked carefully; it was hidden under a surface beneath the window.
The bed felt comfortable enough with crisp white bed linen and there was a plug for charging electronic devices. There was a towel and a complimentary overnight box of wash products, ear plugs, and a rather pleasant pillow spray. A form with breakfast choices was waiting to be filled in and we were asked to hang it outside on our door once completed.
An Evening on the Caledonian Sleeper
There was a choice of meal and hot and cold drinks which could be brought to your room or served in the lounge, and that is where we headed to that evening with an unsteady step and a determination not to gather bruises as we bounced from one corridor wall to another while the train picked up speed.
The lounge was small, just one carriage long, including the kitchen and reserved for first class passengers. We managed to find room to sit on one of the sofas and have a snack and a couple of malts before bedtime, but other travellers were disappointed to find there was no room in the car and would have to return later when other diners had finished.
All food is prepared and cooked in a small room with a couple of microwaves. Not easy to produce a dish that would give Michel Roux a run for his money and a number of menu items were not available. All the same I was happy and enjoying the experience so far. I started to look forward to my bed, although I was wondering if I would be able to get any sleep at all.
Sleeping on the Caledonian Sleeper
My berth may have been old and a bit rough around the edges, but the toilets positioned at the beginning of each carriage really had seen better days.
Meanwhile, back in my little room I changed into my PJs and climbed into bed. The pillows were soft but supporting and the duvet light and comfortable. For a few minutes I lay in the darkness listening to the steely squeal of the wheels on the tracks and the rattling of the old rolling stock as it rocked along on its journey.
Strangely I was soon asleep. I did wake briefly on a few occasions that night including one very noisy moment when the train was being shunted about after its stop at Fort William.
Waking up in Scotland
And then it was morning and the best bit – opening the window blind. The scenery has changed, night is now day and there you are, travelling through the beautiful Highlands with the yellow of the gorse amid the soft colours of the moorlands.
Welcome to Scotland! As I sipped my coffee at breakfast and watched the passing scenery I felt rested, unhurried and relaxed and looking forward to our onward journey to Shetland.
Final Thoughts on the Caledonian Sleeper
The old train seems to be something of an institution among regular travellers, who were greeted like friends by the train staff. The days of this engine and carriages are now very few and the design of the new sleeper looks sleek. I’m sure it will be less noisy and everything will be shiny and new. There will even be ensuite facilities with some accommodation options. I hope the old atmosphere remains.
If you fancy experiencing the Caledonian Sleeper for yourself, you can *book your adventure here!
P.S. for more sleeper train inspiration take a look at my post on why you should take the night train from Istanbul to Sofia!