The Caledonian Sleeper was our transport to and from London for a great foodie, pre-Christmas adventure. Lots of shopping and eating out, a perfect weekend.
In early October we were contacted by the Caledonian Sleeper, offering us a first class return trip to London with them. As neither Michelle nor I have travelled using the sleeper service and we were keen to give it a try. We checked our availability and Caledonian Sleeper booked us our cabins. We travelled down from Aberdeen to London Euston overnight on a Friday night and returned overnight on Sunday night. They also provided us with hotel accommodation in London on the Saturday night.
In general we were not sure what to expect, however sleep was our main concern. The service has only last year been taken over by Serco and they are in the process of upgrading the carriages. In 2018, Serco will be introducing a new fleet of carriages which will offer guests a new experience. These will include a new berth set up with showers and en-suite bathrooms, In addition there will be a new lounge style car. It’s worth noting the photos below are before these upgrades. However, we went with open minds. Our train departed Aberdeen at 21:44 however we were able to board 30 minutes beforehand and get settled in our cabins, finding a seat in the lounge car before the train departed the station.
We were both pleasantly surprised as the cabins are a reasonable size. They had sinks and hanging space, and we had an adjoining door, ideal if travelling with friends or family. We were both provided with a complimentary sleep pack, containing Arran Aromatics products. However more important an eye mask and pair of earplugs, essential for sleep. And sleep we did, better on the return journey as we were used to the trains rocking motion. We found the cabins comfortable, warm but not too hot and the bed was comfortable. I’m 5’8″ and did not have any problems sleeping, which is rare as I often find it difficult to sleep when travelling.
As first class travellers we were offered a large variety of breakfast options, all Scottish produce. It arrived nice and hot in plenty time before our arrival. We were also given access to the first class lounges in both Aberdeen and London Euston. Whilst we did not use the Aberdeen lounge, we did use the facilities at London Euston. On arrival in London we were able to shower (towels were provided at the lounge) and get ready for the day ahead.
The staff on board the sleeper service, who were friendly and helpful. We used the lounge car on both the journey to and from London. On the way to London the lounge car was an older set up, much like the traditional train seating arrangement but with a little more space. The set up was really comfortable, we were able to sit opposite one another, have a drink and work through our plans for the coming weekend on the table between us.
Now to costs, yes on the face of it the sleeper service is expensive. However for two full days we only had one night’s accommodation rather than the two nights we would normally plan for a weekend in London. Also the sleeper allows you to arrive in the centre of London, which means you are out of the station and straight onto the tube network. No need for lengthy and often expensive onward travel. We were able to come off the train, shower, head across London via the tube to our hotel in Chelsea where we dropped our cases. We then travelled back into the city centre and were at Borough Market drinking coffee by 09:45 – impressive!
What the sleeper allowed us was two full days in London itself. We spent Saturday morning in Borough Market, a great place to visit if you are a foodie as you can just graze away a morning quite easily. We then met up with my friend who lives in London, she recommended lunch close by at Cote Brasserie, with views across the Thames. It was then a quick walk to The Shard for an afternoon of cocktails and catching up.
We completed our day with dinner at Medlar in Chelsea. I’ve been there before and knew Michelle would enjoy it. At £46 for 3 courses it offers a very reasonable dinner for central London.
Sunday morning saw us having a lazy start (a luxury for any mother) before dropping cases at London Euston. King’s Cross has seen much investment and regeneration in recent years so we wanted to find somewhere close for brunch. We headed to Caravan for a delicious, fresh brunch. Afterwards heading round the corner to Dishoom to book a table for dinner that evening. We have reviewed both Caravan and Dishoom separately on our blog.
Heading to the Southbank and then onto Leicester Square where we enjoyed some festive spirit. Sampling mulled wine and boozy hot chocolate, at the city’s Christmas Markets. The Southbank is a larger affair altogether, ideal to wander around with the kids as there is always plenty to do.
The Leicester Square market is somewhat smaller, however this is the first year for this particular market and there was still plenty to walk around. After an afternoon’s sightseeing it really was then time to head back for dinner and onwards to our train.
So would we use this service again? The answer is a simple yes! We found the whole experience very relaxing, at no point were we thinking about our departure time. We were able to enjoy a relaxing dinner at King’s Cross, factoring in a relaxed walk to London Euston. No security to contend with, no queues boarding, just simply walk up to our steward with tickets. A real plus point, no restrictions on luggage, allowing you to shop to your hearts content.
Talking to a family with young children on the return journey who were aboard the Sleeper for the first time. They found the sleeper a great way to travel with young children. Using a family railcard which discounted their travel, worth noting. Train travel is an adventure, and we should never tire of those. We both plan to visit London next year with our husbands and children aboard the Caledonian Sleeper.
The views expressed in the post above are entirely our own. Caledonian Sleeper provided first class train travel and one nights accommodation in London. All meals and other expenses were borne entirely by ourselves.