Sleeper trains hearken back to a golden age of rail travel which blossomed in Europe during the 1920s. They’re often considered a more romantic way to travel, offering luxury, glamour and leisure.
In the UK, there are two sleeper trains. One of which is the Caledonian Sleeper. Hailed as one of the world’s greatest train journeys by Lonely Planet, the Caledonian Sleeper offers a greener way to travel too.
In this Caledonian Sleeper review, I share what it’s really like to travel on this iconic train.
I was fortunate enough to ride it twice with my partner from London to Fort William and from Edinburgh back to London. On both occasions, I stayed in a Classic Room. The sleeper train’s entry-level guest rooms.
What is the Caledonian Sleeper?
The Caledonian Sleeper is a sleeper train that connects England with Scotland. First launched in 1996, it has become an icon the world over and a symbol of train travel at its best.
The line technically has two routes – the Highlander and the Lowlander with the train splitting into sections depending on where it’s going.
The sleeper train travels from London to Scotland every night except Saturday and gets you to your destination in time for breakfast.
Currently, it’s one of only two sleeper trains in the UK. The other one is the Night Riviera Sleeper from London to Penzance!
Read more: Get My Complete Scotland Travel Guide
Caledonian Sleeper accommodation types
The sleeper train to Scotland has different accommodation types to suit a range of budgets and travel styles. These are:
- Seated Coach
- Classic Room
- Club Room En-Suite
- Caledonian Double En-Suite
Here’s a table of what’s included with each one:
Free sleep kit
Food and drink menu
Twin bunk beds with Glencraft mattresses
Breakfast available to purchase
Free sleep kit
Interconnecting room option
Keycard entry system
Twin bunk beds with Glencraft mattresses
Ensuite toilet and shower
Free sleep kit
Station lounge access
Priority Club Car access
Keycard entry system
Double bed with Glencraft mattresses
Ensuite toilet and shower
Free sleep kit
Station lounge access
Priority Club Car access
Keycard entry system
Editor’s tip: All rooms are available for shared or single occupancy. Family room and accessible room options for wheelchair users are available.
What else is on the Caledonian Sleeper?
Aside from rooms and seats, the sleeper train has shared toilets. For those staying in rooms, there are Club Cars, a lounge car which serves drinks and hot food.
Priority access to the Club Cars is given to Club and Double Room guests.
The Club Car isn’t always open though. If you board the train at 23:00 in Edinburgh, for example, there’s a strong chance it will be closed.
Off the train, Club and Double Room guests also have first-class lounge access at the station while they wait to board the train.
However, I can’t comment on it as A) I booked a Classic Room and B) the lounge was closed anyway…
Where does the Caledonian Sleeper train go?
The Caledonian Sleeper route goes from London right up to the Scottish Highlands. Its northernmost station is Inverness.
Scroll down to the FAQ section to learn more about routes, popular stops and how long it takes to travel to each one!
Caledonian Sleeper price list
In 2024, these are the typical ticket price starting points. As with any UK rail service, take them with a pinch of salt as they’re subject to change. Prices are generally higher during the summer too.
Seated Coach – from £50 (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £55 (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow)
Classic Room – from £190 for solo travellers or from £240 if you’re sharing (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £195 for solo travellers or from £245 if sharing (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow)
Club Room En-Suite – from £250 for solo travellers or from £320 if you’re sharing (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £270 for solo travellers or from £330 if sharing (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow)
Double Room En-Suite – from £360 for solo travellers or from £425 if sharing (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £425 for solo travellers or from £500 if sharing (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow)
Accessible-friendly accommodation is available at the same prices as the above room and seat types
Family Deal Classic – from £250 (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £270 (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow). Includes 2 adjacent berths which sleep 4 in total
Family Deal Club – from £320 (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £355 (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow). Includes 2 adjacent berths which sleep 4 in total
Family Deal Double – from £850 (London – Edinburgh or Glasgow) or from £1,000 (London – north of Edinburgh or Glasgow. Includes 2 berths which sleep 4 in total
Editor’s tip: These are one-way fares. For a return, the price is simply two singles. The price is by the room. If there are three of you, book two berths adjacent to each other. If you put in three guests, it should do it automatically.
As of 2023, the Caledonian Sleeper was nationalised by the Scottish government. It doesn’t look like prices are much cheaper though, sadly!
My Caledonian Sleeper review
Finally the review! Here is my honest review of riding the Caledonian Sleeper in a Classic Room.
I was so excited to book the Caledonian Sleeper up to Fort William for my trip to the Scottish Highlands. I had never ridden on any form of sleeper transport, so it was a first for me in many ways.
I should add that I didn’t book the tickets myself. I had arranged my travel through Byway Travel who handled all the bookings for me.
So, did the sleeper train live up to my expectations? Read and find out!
Boarding the train
Our train was due to depart from London Euston at 21:15 so we got there an hour before. It meant waiting on the station concourse (which isn’t the nicest!) for about 20 minutes before we heard the announcement.
Before we could board, we had to join a huge queue. I was worried we’d be stuck there for ages but luckily, the train staff checked our tickets pretty quickly.
But then came the tricky bit.
We had to make sure we were in the right section of the train as it was going to split at Edinburgh.
The inspector told us to walk down the platform to our carriage where a colleague would check us in, and give us keycards for the room and a menu for our breakfast orders.
The train was long. It was a good while before we found our carriage, but eventually, we bundled through the door and looked for our room.
It was a good thing we found a carriage from the platform rather than walking through the train as the corridor was very narrow.
You had to go single file – and good luck if you had large luggage items with you!
The Classic Room
Narrow was a theme that carried right through to our room. Inside the compartment was a bunk bed, a sink and a hand towel in the far end with a window above it and a small table that could be pulled out.
The back of the door at a floor-to-ceiling mirror which gave the illusion of more space in the room.
The wall opposite the bed had a locked door which led to the neighbouring room. This is a handy feature if you’re booking as a group.
Although small and simple, the room was clean and comfy enough for a night. Two people couldn’t be in there wearing backpacks though!
One thing missing from the Classic Room is an ensuite bathroom.
The toilet was a couple of doors down from us and pretty similar to your typical plane or train facilities.
Mercifully it was a bit cleaner as you’re sharing with other people in your carriage rather than the whole train.
I would still bring flip-flops or wear shoes if you’re getting up in the middle of the night!
There were no showers though. For that, you’ll need to book a Club or a Double.
Inside the room, there were handy control panels above each bunk which had a USB charging port, a reading light, a thermostat, a room light and a dimmer.
There wasn’t a standard plug so if you want to use electronics like laptops on the train, make sure you bring a lead or power bank with you.
If you’re wondering about WIFI, yes there was but it wasn’t particularly fast when we tried to watch a film. Have your films downloaded before you travel.
The Club Car
After dropping our bags off in the room, we went to get a seat in the Club Car. There are a few on the train, each catering to wherever the section of the train is going. That means you don’t have to go far from your room or worry about spaces filling up.
I would recommend getting there in good time to guarantee a seat as it’s not huge. Club and Double Room guests are meant to get priority over Classic but we were still allowed in.
We started with a sandwich platter (four sandwich quarters), mac ‘n’ cheese and a vegetable soup with crusty bread. The food was delicious, but it was expensive and the portions were a little on the small side.
I haven’t included a menu here as it changes frequently depending on the season!
We were keen to try the cheeseboard, but it was sold out sadly! So instead, we had a couple of Scotch whiskies to toast our Scottish adventure. Not a bad compromise.
As we wined (or whiskied, in this case) and dined, the train slid out of Euston station and sped northbound.
If I’m being honest about the food – if you’re on a budget I recommend bringing your own such as snacks and sandwiches rather than eating in the Club Car.
The only downside is you don’t have much space in your room and there’s nowhere else to go.
Arguably, the most important part of the review. Did I sleep? Admittedly, I’m not the best sleeper so no, I didn’t. It wasn’t an issue with the facilities. The bed was comfortable and cosy. The Glencraft mattresses were nice and firm too.
I made use of a pair of earplugs and an eye mask that came sealed in a sleep kit on the bed. I still use the sleeping mask today – it’s pretty good quality, to be honest!
The problem for me was the subtle movement and the noise of the train. I normally need quiet and stillness.
One thing which made it 100% worth the sleepless night was the dawn light breaking as we sped through the Scottish Highlands. It was utterly magical and encapsulated the romanticism of train travel for me.
Arriving in London on the return was less fun though. It was painfully early and there were no pretty views to enjoy.
The Caledonian Sleeper breakfast was arranged by ticking the items that we wanted off a paper menu after boarding and hanging it on the door outside to be picked up.
It’s worth noting that Club and Double get a free cooked breakfast but the Classic room and seats have to pay extra. We did get free tea, juice and a biscuit though!
Breakfast was delivered to our rooms early the next morning – about an hour before we were due to arrive in Fort William.
I had a small tub of porridge and my partner had a sausage bap all packaged up in a paper bag. I was able to pay by card.
Although it was nice to have hot food, it was expensive and a little on the basic side. I would again recommend bringing your breakfast rather than paying for this one.
The Club Car wasn’t open for breakfast during my journey which was a shame as it would have made the experience more enjoyable.
About an hour before we were due to arrive, the cheery train staff member knocked on the door to make sure we were awake and ready for breakfast plus our imminent departure.
It was a bit of a scramble making sure we had packed everything up – hint, don’t unpack all your belongings in the tiny room! – but we made it to Fort William in one piece.
We arrived at the leisurely time of 9:57 am, so it wasn’t an early start!
Is it worth upgrading or downgrading from the Classic Room?
The Classic Room suited our needs perfectly at a reasonably decent price point.
The one big downside was the lack of an ensuite bathroom which you can get if you choose the Club Room. That being said, I don’t think I would upgrade unless it were for a special occasion.
If that were the case, I would skip the Club Room and go for the Caledonian Double – upgrade from a bunk to a double bed! However, I’ve heard that even those rooms are a bit cramped (I overheard a tall man complain about it in the Club Car!).
Would I downgrade to the Seated Coach? In all honesty, no. Not if I was just travelling from London to Edinburgh. I would book the LNER or Lumo trains and get there much quicker and for a cheaper price.
This London to Scotland sleeper train is more about the experience than the destination. In an ideal world, I would rather have a bed than a seat even if I were travelling alone.
However, none of the cabins are economical for solo travellers. The price of a Classic Room for a solo traveller is £190 compared to £240 split between two people (£120 each).
While I would much prefer a bed, for budget’s sake, Seated Coach is still a convenient option if you’re travelling north of Edinburgh by yourself. In fact, I did just that on a solo trip to Inverness in April.
Read my Caledonian Sleeper seat review to compare both accommodation options.
Pros and cons of the Caledonian Sleeper
Pros of the Caledonian Sleeper
Cons of the Caledonian Sleeper
Caledonian Sleeper train FAQ
Here’s everything you need to know about booking and travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper.
Is the Caledonian Sleeper comfortable?
It depends on your personal preferences and what accommodation type you choose. The train is certainly comfortable – for a train.
While space isn’t one of its strongest points, the train’s beds are comfy and have cosy Glencraft mattresses.
While I’ve mentioned a few times that the train is a little cramped, I’m aware that it’s making do with what’s available. The train can’t be wider as it has to operate on standard train tracks.
The Club Car has a range of different seating types from booths to small tables. It’s a great spot to have dinner or get a change of scene from the rooms. It’s only available to guests staying in rooms though.
How early can you board the Caledonian Sleeper?
Rooms / seats are available 30-45 minutes before departure. That’s the absolute minimum time you’ll want to get there though.
Try to get there at least an hour before departure to board the train as smoothly as possible!
How long does the Caledonian Sleeper train take?
That all depends on where you’re going. Here’s how long it takes for some of its most popular destinations if you’re travelling from London. Times may differ on return and from weekdays to weekends.
London to Edinburgh – approx 8-9 hours
London to Glasgow – approx 7-8 hours
London to Aberdeen – approx 10 hours
London to Fort William – approx 13 hours
London to Inverness – approx 11 hours
In terms of the Caledonian Sleeper timetable, most trains depart at around 21:00 or 23:00 and terminate at the above stations between 07:00 and 10:00 – just in time for breakfast!
What is the route of the Caledonian Sleeper?
The sleeper train technically has two routes:
Caledonian Sleeper – Highlander Route
Northbound from London Euston, the train splits into three at Edinburgh Waverley and each section travels to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William with stops along the way, for example.
The Aberdeen train stops at Montrose, Stonehaven, Leuchars and Dundee.
The Inverness train stops at Stirling, Gleneagles, Pitlochry, Perth and Aviemore.
The Fort William train stops at Helensburgh Upper, Rannoch, Corrour and Crianlarich.
Southbound, the train starts in thirds from Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William and heads down towards Edinburgh.
Caledonian Sleeper – Lowlander Route
Northbound from London Euston, the Lowlander Route takes the Caledonian Sleeper to Carstairs where it splits off and travels to Edinburgh Waverly and Glasgow Central.
Southbound, the train departs from both Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverly. The Glasgow train stops at Motherwell before joining the Edinburgh train at Carstairs.
The now conjoined train travels down to Carlisle and Watford Junction before arriving at London Euston.
Confused? When you book your tickets, you’ll only be asked about where you’re departing from and the station you want to arrive at.
You don’t need to worry about which half of the train is going where, as the staff will do that for you when you board.
If it isn’t clear – no you don’t need to change trains if you’re travelling past Edinburgh or Glasgow (e.g. London Euston to Fort William)!
Can you use a railcard on the Caledonian Sleeper?
Yes – well, some. 16-25, Disabled, Disabled Child, Friends & Family, HM Forces, Senior, Two Together and Veteran are accepted. Sadly my 26-30 railcard didn’t make the cut :(.
Can you take bikes on the Caledonian Sleeper?
Yes. There’s secure storage space for up to six bikes in the Seated Carriage. There’s an option to add a bike when you book your ticket.
Can you take dogs on the Caledonian Sleeper?
Yes, you can take up to two pets with you (including dogs and cats) but it will cost you extra. Let them know ahead of time if you’re travelling with an assistance dog.
When should you buy your tickets?
Like all trains, it’s recommended that you buy your tickets as far in advance as possible. For the Caledonian Sleeper, it’s not necessarily because of the price – but rather availability.
If you try and book two weeks before you travel, there’s a very good chance your ideal accommodation won’t be available.
Caledonian Sleeper tickets go on sale up to 12 months before you travel so book them as early as you can!
Can you book a room on the sleeper train as a solo traveller?
Yes. You book rooms like you would in a hotel. This means they’re available for single occupancy as well as sharing.
Don’t worry, if you book a Classic Room for yourself, you won’t have to share it with another solo traveller!
The one big downside is that although you get a slight discount on the room overall, the cost is still much higher than if you were splitting it with someone else. A seat on the sleeper train is more budget-friendly.
Caledonian Sleeper train review: My verdict
So, is the Caledonian Sleeper worth it? In my opinion, yes it is.
Rather than a train getting you from A to B, this sleeper train is part of the experience of travel. It’s also a more leisurely, sophisticated and sustainable way to travel.
I recommend doing the trip at least once.
But it is expensive.
I justify it by seeing it as one night’s accommodation and transport rolled into one. However, the food is overpriced. I suggest bringing your own if you want to keep costs down.
I have done the Caledonian Sleeper again since but on the second time, I only booked a one-way ticket to the Scottish Highlands. Watching the sunrise over the passing hills was one of the highlights of my trip.
However, arriving in London at seven in the morning was not the one. It would have been much better, cheaper and quicker to get the LNER for the return journey.
So, book it if you’re interested in the experience of sleeper train travel from England to Scotland.
Book another train if you just want to get from A to B as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Looking for more Scotland travel tips? Check out these posts!
- Complete Scotland Packing List: What To Wear For Every Season
- 9 Best Scotland Small Group Tours You Need To Book (2022)
- Isle of Skye 2 Day Itinerary: Amazing Things To Do
- 12 BEST Day Hikes In Scotland You Need To Experience
- 20 Best Things To Do On The Isle Of Mull
- Caledonian Sleeper Seat Review: What Is It Really Like?
- How To Get To Glenfinnan Viaduct From Fort William (A Complete Guide For 2023)
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