It’s 11pm in the capital. London’s Euston Station isn’t high on allure at any time of day, but it’s fair to say that this particular hour doesn’t see it at its best. On the concourse are shuttered-up pharmacies, a smattering of pub-bleared commuters and a small but spectacularly dishevelled queue for Burger King. Little, in truth, to kindle the senses.
But wait. Over on Platform 1, there’s cross-border adventure astir. Among the various late-night trains detailed on the boards – the 23.34 to Northampton and the 23.47 to Watford Junction, departures not destined to thrill – is a service that travels considerably further.
If you squeeze aboard, sir, madam, you can settle into the lounge car and mull over the list of single malts.
It’s up there in lights, with a departure time of 23.50. And if you squeeze aboard, sir, madam, you can settle into the lounge car and mull over the list of single malts.
Overnight sleeper services have been running between England and Scotland for more than 140 years. The current incarnation, known as The Caledonian Sleeper, has survived a number of threats to its existence, but is currently sitting pretty on the back of a fresh £150m investment, which has already led to an on-board overhaul.
The funding will, eventually, see a brand new fleet in place by 2018. I’m travelling to Edinburgh – scheduled arrival at a rather-too-early 7.22 – but my train also goes on to Glasgow and Carstairs.
The Caledonian Sleeper
The Scottish transport minister, possibly after one too many sore-kneed budget flights, has expressed hope that the fresh funding will see the Caledonian Sleeper “become a tourism draw in itself… and be emblematic of the best of Scotland”.
It’s certainly an infinitely more appealing prospect than a low-cost air hop. I’m greeted on the platform by a jolly tartan-tied attendant, who checks my ticket and asks for my breakfast order. Then I’m on, and within the hour we’re off.
Pillow spray? Ha! Take that, the 23.34 to Northampton.
The corridors are tight (you’d be hard pushed to blow your nose, let alone swing a cat) and the berths are of the same fashion, but there’s enough room for a sink, storage space and a full-length bed.
I’ve been left a magazine, a bottle of water and a little pack of designer toiletries, which includes a vial of pillow spray. Pillow spray? Ha! Take that, the 23.34 to Northampton. I’m in a single berth, but doubles are available too, as are very reasonably priced “sleeper seats”.
On boarding, I’m surprised to find a full late-night menu on offer in the lounge car: main courses, Scottish cheese boards, Highland ales and all. I order haggis, neeps and tatties, because it’s on there and because I’m congenitally pre-programmed to make this sort of choice in this sort of situation.