This is my review of the Caledonian Sleeper train, from London Euston to Inverness.
There is a fascination about long train journeys, especially multi-day journeys, which I share. Sadly the Orient Express is not on the HfP planning board at the moment, and the Trans Siberian Express is unlikely to make the cut either. I had to settle for a, let’s say, less ambitious – but more relevant for HfP readers – trip.
I seem to have missed out on a student phase of travelling around Europe on cheap ramshackle sleeper trains, but I have been on one before. A few years ago we went from Stockholm to Kiruna in Lapland by overnight train as a family (Rob reviewed it here).
We loved the adventure but it was definitely lacking in luxury, and travelling with small children didn’t help. I was excited to try a sleeper train to Inverness, the most Northern destination that the Caledonian Sleeper trains offer, and experience something a little plusher. What did we get for the £150 million invested in new rolling stock?
Buying my Caledonian Sleeper ticket
I booked a ticket from London Euston to Inverness for a Caledonian Double En-Suite for single occupancy – the highest category of room available.
The one-way ticket price for my trip was £303.70 which included access to the station lounges and breakfast. This represents a 25% discount to the normal price due to a January promotion. The train ticket was funded by HfP and the company did not know we would be reviewing it.
Availability can be limited. My ticket was booked in November 2023 to travel in early January 2024, and even then there were multiple dates where the Caledonian Double rooms had already gone.
I just looked at availability in April 2024 and there is only ONE day, Sunday 7th, when a Caledonian Double room is still bookable between London and Inverness. There are NO days in May and NO days in June, although a couple of days remain in July. You need to book now for August to have a relatively good choice of dates. This is despite the £425 price tag for one person or £500 for a couple. Tickets are refundable which may mean that people book speculatively and cancel later.
The train was due to depart at 21.15 but I arrived early to check out the Caledonian Sleeper lounge at London Euston. Access was included with my Caledonian Double ticket booking. Please see my review here for details of what you get in the lounge and which room categories get access.
Boarding began at 20.30, 45 minutes before departure.
I was welcomed by staff who explained how the train was laid out. Passengers with large luggage were shown to a storage facility but I was travelling light and could go straight to my designated cabin. The corridor is very tight – one person at a time, as you can see above.
This review is based on the top accommodation option – the Caledonian Double En-Suite cabin.
Other options include:
- Club Room En-Suite – effectively the same facilities as my room but with two bunk beds instead of a double (£330 one way for single occupancy, £405 one way for two)
- Classic Room – two bunk beds but no shower, no lounge access, no free breakfast (you can pay) and a lower chance of being able to secure a Club Car dining table (£265 one way for single occupancy, £330 one way for two)
- Seated Coach – a standard train seat, and not something I would necessarily recommend for an 11 hour overnight trip unless you are keen to save on hotel costs in London or Scotland (£55 each way)
Inside my Caledonian Double En-Suite cabin
I received a room card key and was shown to my cabin. In order to lock your room you have to hold your card over the reader – scanning BOTH sides of your key card. Whilst this is described on the card I needed help from a fellow passenger who had also struggled.
Although my room was just a small box room, if you’re being critical, it contained everything you would expect from a midscale hotel. There were two bottles of still water on a shelf above the bed, chocolates on your pillow and snacks on the bed. I also found menus for the in-room or seated coach dining and for breakfast.
The bed was very comfortable but not very long. I am 5″9 and I could just about stretch out on my side of the double bed. I ended up sleeping diagonally – if you are very tall and with a partner you might be forced to curl up!
The other end of my room had a single sink beneath a small window. As this was January, it was dark for virtually the entire journey, so there would be no views of the Scottish countryside for me.
On the left was a mirror, some hand soap, a hand towel, two hangers on the wall, a bin and a pencil for completing your breakfast menu. The floor is carpetted and there is enough space next to and under the bed for hand luggage. I personally liked the checked fabric wall covering at the top and end of the bed – a very gentle reminder that I was on a trip to Scotland.
The cabin is fitted with sockets and USB plugs. WiFi was very patchy and I had to log-in several times during the trip.
On my bed I found a very cute amenity kit containing shower gel, shampoo, hand cream, hand cleansing gel, body lotion and lemon lip balm in large (100ml for the shower gel and shampoo) bottles. These were by the Scottish brand Arran.
I was curious as to how the bathroom would be fitted and here it is. It is certainly very small but functional with a bench to sit on whilst showering!
The bench lid opens up to unveil your own private toilet – so, yes, you’re basically showering whilst sitting on the loo:
The shower control was to the right with two wall-mounted bottles of conditioning shampoo and shower gel from Arran. Large towels were provided in a netsack hanging next to the bathroom door.
The Club Car on the Caledonian Sleeper
I was advised by a friend to head straight to the Club Car after boarding as it can get very busy. There are two Club Cars on the train, the one in the front going to Inverness and the one in the back going to Aberdeen, with the train splitting into three during the night.
The Club Car has a number of seating options. Large tables can sit up to eight if you really squeeze in, and had already been taken when I turned up shortly after boarding. These Club Car photos were taken the following morning.
There are a few tables for two which were also already occupied when I came in – it seems you really need to move quickly, even though guests in Club bedrooms have priority over those in the standard rooms and standard seating part of the train:
For single travelers like me there are bar stools on the side, which were available. I guess this was the most efficient solution given the limited space but I have to acknowledge that they are not as comfy as the table seats.
The menu was quite impressive with two starters, three mains and three desserts including a cheese board. Light bites and savoury and sweet snacks were offered and there is a broad range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
I ordered the prosciutto wrapped pork fillet with black pudding mash with apple braised red cabbage. I thought it was surprisingly tasty and at £15 good value for money.
For dessert I chose a chocolate brownie for £10. I wasn’t too keen on the presentation with the thick chocolate sauce and pea shoot on top but the taste was good. (It was served whole – I broke off a piece so you can see the sponge inside.)
My night on the Caledonian Sleeper
After dinner I settled in my cabin for the night. I was wondering how much sleep I would get being a very light sleeper.
It did not start off very promisingly. The ride is not smooth. On the contrary, it is quite rocky – if you were on an aircraft, the seatbelt sign would definitely have been on for much of the night due to turbulence. However, I slept in at some point, woke up once briefly in the middle of the night and then slept in again, waking up in the early hours on the final run into Inverness, where we were due to arrive at 8.45am.
I think if the train had continued at the same rattling speed it started off in London I wouldn’t have slept much at all, but as there are long passages where it moves very slowly and is even stationary (the journey is 11 hours!) I arrived rested at the other end.
As you can see from the pictures above the shower is not very roomy, to put it mildy.
I felt obliged to try it in the morning, and having said that, it worked very well for me. The water was hot but the supply is understandably on a timer. I had to restart it several times to get the length of shower I wanted, and I didn’t attempt to wash my hair – although someone with a shorter cut would probably be OK. A good sense of balance is an advantage but you can always sit on the bench.
The drain worked well in my shower so there was no risk of water overflow. That said the train tilted quite heavily whilst I was washing and some water gathered in one corner, causing a small leak into the cabin. It was manageable though and I dried it off with a towel.
Breakfast on the Caledonian Sleeper
Having had dinner the night before in the Club Car I thought I’d try the in-room option for breakfast.
I kept my order simple with coffee (from a bag), orange juice and Scottish porridge but I also could have gone for Traditional Scottish Breakfast, Smoked Scottish Fish Frittata, Vegan Breakfast, Sausage Rolls etc.
My breakfast was delivered in a paper bag as you can see below.
As there is no table in the cabin I decided to take my bag down to the Club Car anyway rather than eating on the bed. In addition to milk for the coffee and honey for the porridge I received an oat bar as an extra item. My porridge was very good and even the coffee bag wasn’t too bad.
The Caledonian Sleeper lounge in Inverness
My train arrived in Inverness 15 minutes early at 8.30am. As this is a bit early for sightseeing, especially on a very cold January day, I decided to keep warm in the Caledonian Sleeper lounge in Inverness and have another coffee there.
The lounge can be found opposite the entrance to the train station on the left. I was the only passenger to use it although I assume it is busier in the evening when it acts as a departure lounge. The lounge is of course much smaller than the Euston one but has all the same features and feels very cosy.
What I thought especially noteworthy that if you do not want to use the shower on the train or want to sleep until last minute, the lounge in Inverness also has a shower. It is a good alternative if you can’t face using the small space on the train.
There are also dedicated Caledonian Sleeper lounges in Dundee, Fort William, Leuchars / St Andrews and Perth. There are shared lounges at Edinburgh Waverley (LNER), Glasgow Central (Avanti) and Aberdeen (ScotRail).
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip, but I had a good experience travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. For me, it had a strong sense of adventure that I no longer get from short haul flying and I am keen to repeat it with my family in tow.
The food was good and I got a decent nights sleep. The Caledonian Double En-Suite cabin is well thought through and easily comparable to a good mid-scale hotel room, although a lot smaller of course.
I was travelling in early January and it was not as busy as it could have been, although the Club rooms always seem to sell out. The Club Car seating could be a challenge if you are in a group. The tables seem to go very fast and you basically have to make this your priority immediately after boarding.
Whilst the trip is certainly not cheap, it looks better value when compared to the cost of an extra night in an equivalent London or Edinburgh hotel. It is also a lot more relaxing than getting up at 4am to catch the first flight, something most of us will have had to do far too many times during our careers.