Operator: Caledonian Sleeper
Date: Wednesday 10th November 2021
After a couple of nights in Inverness and a short adventure to Perth (read about those here and here), we were back at Inverness station with plenty of time until the final leg of our mini break, the Caledonian Sleeper back to London.
Caledonian Sleeper have their own lounges at six Scottish stations, including Inverness, however the classes of travel allowed into each of these differs by location. The lounges at Dundee, Leuchars, Perth and Stirling are open to passengers travelling anywhere on the train (including the seated coaches), whilst those at Fort William and Inverness (along with the ScotRail lounges at Aberdeen, Edinburgh & Glasgow and the Avanti lounge at Euston) are only accessible to those is either ‘Club’ or ‘Double’ rooms.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a ‘Club’ or ‘Double’ room then the lounge at Inverness is actually across the road from the station on the corner of Academy St. and Union St. We were travelling in a ‘Classic’ room and so couldn’t head to the lounge, however the staff at the Ness & Thistle bar within the station kindly let us camp in there for a while after closing whilst they cleaned up, which was greatly appreciated as it was a rather chilly evening in the Highlands.
The check-in and boarding procedure at Inverness seemed a lot less smooth compared to at Euston with the platform having been displayed since before our arrival from Perth two hours before departure. Despite this, access to the platform was blocked until about half an hour before and even then, the train was still locked. Sleeper staff then wandered around the platform trying to determine who they had already checked in and who they had yet to see.
Eventually, and after some fun with our room being locked with the key card inside, we were onboard and able to settle down in our room for a while. As with our journey north, the lounge car is prioritised for ‘Club’ and ‘Double’ passengers for the first part of the journey with us being advised to head down after departure from Aviemore. Despite the boarding difficulties, departure from Inverness was on time at 2045 and we were soon looping our way around Culloden Battlefield on our way south.
With the first stop at Aviemore completed, we headed down to the lounge car to find it quite quiet and immediately got seated at a table ready to enjoy a late dinner. As with our journey north whilst there was a full range of main courses available, lots of the drink and dessert choices were out of stock with us only discovering this when we went to order them. However, despite the lack of choice in some areas, the meal was once again amazing with me opting for the Chicken Breast with Black Pudding Skirlie whilst Beth opted for the Macaroni Cheese.
Having headed back to our room, we settled down for the night full of food, although on this occasion I struggled to sleep and was still awake during the shunts in Edinburgh where the three sections of the Highland Sleeper are joined to make one for the remainder of the journey south to London. Having watched us pass Haymarket Depot I fell asleep not long after and woke up in the English Midlands just south of Rugby.
I’ve always joked that the northbound sleeper is better than the southbound as falling asleep in Watford and waking up in the Highlands is much nicer than falling asleep in the Highlands and waking up in Watford and now that I’ve done the journey in both directions I realise there’s an element of truth to the joke. Added in the end of holiday blues, I didn’t enjoy our southbound journey quite as much as the northbound, however very little of that is actually due to the experience provided by Caledonian Sleeper.
With another naff breakfast provided around Milton Keynes (seriously, this needs to be looked at!), we packed up our stuff and we soon watching the last stretches of the West Coast Mainline fly by. Arriving into Euston four minutes early, our latest Scottish adventure was brought to a close and we were soon on our way across to Kings Cross in search of a decent breakfast and our train home.
Overall Rating 14/25 (read about my rating system here!)