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Breaking Travel News investigates: Caledonian Sleeper

The Caledonian Sleeper is somewhat of a romanticised trip for most Brits; a journey that is simultaneously possible and unlikely.

The route most often enters the public conciseness when it comes under threat, with uproar against cuts to a service most people will never take.

But since being taken over by operator Serco last year its future has been assured.

New rolling stock will be added to the fleet from 2018, as the 400 mile route between the English capital and Scottish Highlands is completely overhauled.

But what’s it really like?

Why do people seek out a 12 hour rail journey when a plane could whisk them to the north of Scotland in a fraction of the time?

Arriving at Euston on a recent Friday night, my first impressions are good.

Liveried staff greet you on the platform and show you to your home for the night.

Having elected a private berth, I am delighted to discover a small but immaculate cabin, complete with single bed, personal basin and window out to the passing world.

While not luxury, there is plenty of space to move around and unwind, giving the train one up over jam-packed economy class flights.

On board service crew also offer a surprisingly wide selection of breakfast options; but that seems so far away.

First I have to get through the night.

After lightly unpacking, I head for the Lounge Car – the highlight of any journey.

Competition for spaces is as fierce as that for top public schools, and I am lucky to snaffle a table near the entrance.

The Caledonian Sleeper attracts a hardy bunch of regulars and the camaraderie is immediately apparent, with regular passengers greeting friends and staff alike.

A menu offering everything from venison to haggis is available, while a wide range of drinks also smooth the journey.

After settling on a bottle of Zonin Pinot Grigio I begin to loosen up and enjoy the ride.

The experience is the polar opposite of flying – relaxed, familiar and casual.

Chatting with fellow passengers the impression is of a loyal band of diehards who relish the opportunity to catch up with family and make new friends as they travel.

Also on offer are two of Scotland’s finest malt whiskies - Old Pulteney and Balblair - as well as the delicious Scottish Speyside gin, Caorunn.

So following a nightcap, it’s off to bed.

In the room guests are offered a sleeping kit – containing ear phones and a sleep mask – but I didn’t find them necessary for my journey.

Once you grow accustom to the noises of the train they become familiar, even comforting, as the engine toils toward the north.

Plugging my phone into the USB ports in the ceiling, it’s quickly to sleep.

And then, in the blink of an eye, the service crew are knocking on the door with your breakfast (a bacon sandwich for me) and advising you will be arriving in Inverness in a 30 minutes.

It’s a strange sensation, having travelled all that distance, seemingly unknowingly.

But it does have its advantages.

I arrive feeling refreshed, well-fed and ready for the day ahead. How often can you say that about a flight?

More Information

The Caledonian Sleeper, operating between London and Scotland six nights each week, sees guests arrive at the heart of their destination refreshed and ready to go.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole