It relaunched earlier this year to much fanfare, highlighting its new £150-million fleet of trains. And while it has not been a smooth journey since, with hurdles including delays and cancellations, I was intrigued as to what a trip on the new iteration entailed – having last travelled on it as a child.
One major attraction for me was the fact that sharing a room with a stranger is no longer an option.
It also scores major points for convenience, without the need to embark at the crack of dawn or go through the hassle of travelling by air.
The ability to go out in London in the evening and head back north that night was also very appealing.
On looking into the Sleeper’s history I learn that former first minister Donald Dewar once travelled on the Sleeper five times in one week – and understandably couldn’t remember which direction he was going in at one stage.
I arrive at Waverley on a Friday night, suitcase in tow, and am checked in via a hotel-style reception on the platform.
My “club solo” room is functional, decorated with brown fabrics including tartan, and the top bunk above my single bed is folded away. There’s an in-room washbasin and an en-suite toilet and shower. It’s almost worth booking a journey for the delicious smelling Arran Aromatics toiletries alone, while there are plenty of power points and room service is available. The bed itself (which has a Glencraft mattress) is smaller than I expected, and if I was even just a little taller or wider I would have found it a squeeze. I make a mental note to book one of the cabins with a double bed next time.
However, it’s pretty comfy once I’m tucked in. And although it’s not the most restful night’s sleep I’ve ever had, with the carriage moving around more than I thought it would, I still get a good few hours’ kip. On my return leg I try to have a shower not that long before we pull into Waverley, but there doesn’t seem to be any water left. Best to get in there early, I guess.
Wining and dining
The menu promises a “true taste of Scotland”, with options when I travel including a venison charcuterie platter; haggis, neeps and tatties; macaroni cheese; and the less artery-clogging sounding udon noodle broth with sesame sautéed Asian vegetables. Scotland’s reputation for unhealthy eating is however upheld further by snacks including Tunnock’s teacakes and caramel wafers and Reids shortbread, while there’s also a very respectable selection of wines and whiskies.
But to me the highlight of the whole trip is breakfast in the Club Car on the return leg. It can be brought to your room, but I enjoy my eggs royale in blissful silence in the space furnished in vivid blue and russet, the work of Edinburgh-based designer Ian Smith – as the countryside whizzes past, illuminated by the golden early morning sunshine, harking back to a golden age of train travel.
Worth getting out of bed for
The in-house free magazine has some pretty good off-beat recommendations, but while in London I stick to the more high-profile attractions such as the V&A and Leicester Square. I head to the theatre on my final night in the Big Smoke, then back to Euston, with a stop-off to collect my suitcase from my hotel, meaning I arrive at the station just as boarding begins.
These include being able to bring pets (“we regularly welcome dogs and cats on board, but we will consider carrying other pets too”) if you have your own room. There is also station lounge access if you’ve booked a Caledonian Double or Club Room.
Budget or boutique?
If you get a cabin, this is not a cheap option, but you can justify it as combining the cost of a train ticket and a night in a hotel – including boutique touches. However, the reclining seat option is priced highly competitively.
With the Sleeper still experiencing teething problems, its promise to give you “a night you’ll never forget” may on occasion be true for the wrong reasons. Otherwise, it trumps alternative means of travelling to and from London on many levels – not least convenience and style.
Rates for Classic Rooms start from £140 for Solo or £170 for Shared, Club Rooms from £205 for Solo and £250 for Shared and Caledonian Doubles from £335 for Solo and £400 for Shared. Accessible Rooms are priced separately. Prices for the Caledonian Double and Club Rooms include breakfast