Sleeping Your Way to Scotland

The Caledonian sleeper heading into the Highlands. (image courtesy Caledonian Sleeper)

Geoff Moore has a snooze on the Caledonian Sleeper

Taking one of the longest regular journeys by rail in the UK involves sleep plus nearly one million sleepers too. Travel north from the UK capital some 450 miles on this protracted overnight route which has been running for over 100 years. The Caledonian Sleeper train service will carry you from London Euston to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, at a leisurely average speed of just over 40mph.

I calculated that the overnight sleeper service journey meant crossing over some 920,000 sleepers on the tracks. And one of my iphone apps measured a speed of over 85mph at one point in the early hours. The most recent version of the service was launched under the branding of the Caledonian Sleeper and started running in 1996. Having had a full rolling stock revamp in 2019, it now operates with Club Rooms, Double Bedded rooms, a Club Dining Car plus many rooms have built in toilets and showers. So, no more early hours trips down the corridor for those comfort breaks! This most modern version of the sleeper service is certainly a step up from its earlier incarnation.

Once in your snug and comfortable bed, you’re not quite rocked to sleep. The train’s motion is not as smooth as that of a boat on a calm sea. It’s a little more jolty, however the rocking movement does certainly aid falling asleep. Personally, I am a fan of this style of sleeper train travel and especially this London to Inverness route.

The train heads north through Crewe, Preston, Stirling with passengers finally stirring from sleep by the time the train reachs Dalwhinnie, with your first sight of a whisky distillery which lets you know that you are truly Highlands bound.

Pre Order Breakfast

Once awake you have options of a pre-ordered bagged breakfast delivered to your cabin or a more formal sit down meal in the Club Car and perhaps a Highland Breakfast.

The national park you are now traveling through during breakfast takes you through the towns of Newtonmore, Aviemore and Kingussie.  Aviemore being the major tourist base for exploration of the Cairngorms National Park, offering summer and winter outdoor activities. In this region, there are many lochs, ancient forests, hiking trails and climbing. In winter time it is home to some of the UK’s best skiing. The Cairngorm Mountain ski area is certainly Scotland’s winter playground. Its 22 miles of pisted runs are located just 11 miles from Aviemore.

Can You Join The Clan?

At Newtonmore where you can track your Scottish roots in the Clan Macpherson Museum.  Even some unrelated names can be linked to this clan, for instance; Archibald, Clark, Clarke, Carson, Clarkson, Ellis, Ellison, Pearson and Parsons may give you a link to the clan.

Passing on from here, there’s just over an hour to run through forested hillsides, steep valleys and heather covered colourful moorland until the final destination of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.

In Spring, places like Carrbridge station are bursting with displays of blue lupins that contrast with the wild yellow gorse blooms.

Finally, the train arrives at Inverness. The city has a compact and very walkable centre with riverside paths and parks. Numerous bridges make for an interesting circular route as some of the contents of Loch Ness flows under them and out to the North Sea. And if you fancy going truly Scottish, get measured for a kilt or pick up Scots souvenirs in the city.

Meet the Animals of Alladale

For an inspiring natural experience, travel out of the city on the much improved A9 trunk road, over the Kessock Bridge and finally to the remote peace and quiet of Alladale, a wilderness reserve. It’s located just 35 miles further north from Inverness near Ardgay down a 12 mile long single track road which leads to the estate itself and a lodge.

This is a reserve where a million trees have been planted in the last 20 years by its custodian, Paul Lister, who also wants to bring wolves back to the Highlands. He has been re-wilding the 23,000 acres estate with native plants and animals such as red squirrels, pine martens and also wildcats, for which  they have been running a breeding project for a number of years as part of a nationwide Scottish wildcats programme. It’s also home to the majestic Golden Eagle too. And no wilderness would be complete without the gorgeous Highland Cattle or ‘Hairy Coos’ as they are often referred to. 

Find out more

To arrange a trip on the Caledonian sleeper train and time exploring the Highlands. Call our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678.

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Geoff Moore

Experienced travel writer, photographer, blogger & videographer

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