The Caledonian Sleeper and other overnight trains between England and Scotland
An overnight train is the best way to cover a long distance in Europe without wasting any of your precious daytime hours traveling—and getting a reasonably priced place to sleep in the bargain.
Unlike on the Continent, which is criss-crossed by high-speed overnight trains, there really is only two overnight rail routes in the U.K: between London and Scotland ("The Caledonian Sleeper")—and onward into the Scottish hinterlands—and between London and Devon and Cornwall ("The Night Riviera").
What are the cabins like on a British overnight train?
Overnight trains in the U.K. come with both single and double sleeping berths. (Those are the only options; none of those old-fashioned six-person couchettes like you get on the Continent sometimes.)
Each cabin has drinking water, hot water, a wash basin, towels, and bed linens. There's a shared bath down the corridor.
A solo person booking a double berth may share it with a stranger of the same gender.
There is a lounge car for meals; first-class customers get a voucher for it (first class passengers can also order breakfast to be delivered to their cabin).
Reservations are required.
The Caledonian Sleeper to Scotland
- London Euston to Aberdeen/Inverness/Fort William (Sunday to Friday, between 20:00 - 21:15) Departs from London Euston calling at Crewe and Preston for boarding only. At Edinburgh (where no alighting is possible), the service separates into three trains for Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William (known as 'The Deerstalker'), calling at intermediate stations.
- Fort William/Inverness/Aberdeen to London Euston (Sunday to Friday, between 19:00 - 21:40)Three separate trains depart from Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen calling at intermediate stations. At Edinburgh (where boarding is not possible) they are formed as one train to continue the journey calling at Preston and Crewe (both stops for alighting only) arriving at London Euston the following morning.
- London Euston to Edinburgh/Glasgow (Sunday to Friday, between 22:00 - 23:00) Departs from London Euston calling at Watford Junction (for boarding only) Carlisle and Carstairs (both stops for alighting only). At Carstairs the service separates into two trains for Edinburgh and Glasgow Central (also calling at Motherwell).
- Glasgow/Edinburgh to London Euston (Sunday to Friday, between 21:00 - 23:00)Depart from Glasgow Central (calling at Motherwell) Edinburgh and Carstairs where they are formed as one train to continue the journey calling at Carlisle (for boarding only) arriving at Watford Junction and then London Euston the following morning. Note: Seated Sleeper customers cannot board the northbound service at Watford Junction.
Sleeping berths on the Caledonian Sleeper cost:
Single berth cabin: £43 (First Class travel ticket required)
- Twin berth cabin: £38 per berth; Child £19 per berth (Standard Class only, sharing with someone of the same sex)
- Caledonian Solo (exclusive use of a twin berth cabin): £54 (Only available to holders of Standard Anytime and Off Peak returns tickets)
The Night Riviera to Cornwall
The Night Riviera train travels from London's Paddington station through Southwest England, Devon, and Cornwall to Penzance, with early morning stops in Plymouth, Truro, Redruth, and Camborne along the way.
The full ride takes a bit over eight hours, currently leaving London at 23:45 (11:45pm)—though you can board starting at 22:30 (10:30pm)—and arriving in Penzance just before 8am or 9am the next day (it varies by day of week).
- London Paddington to Penzance:
- Sunday: Departs London Paddington at 23:50 and arrives at Penzance at 08:59.
- Monday to Friday: Departs London Paddington at 23:45 and arrives at Penzance at 08:00.
- Penzance to London Paddington:
- Sunday: Departs Penzance at 21:15 arrives at London Paddington at 05:06.
- Monday to Friday: Departs Penzance at 21:45 and arrives at London Paddington at 05:43.
Tip: Your sleeper ticket entitles you to use the First Class lounge by Track 1 at Paddington Station, so make sure you get there early enough to enjoy the free sandwiches and check out the part of the lounge was once Queen Victoria's private waiting room.
Sleeping berths on the Night Riviera cost:
Solo berth: £60
Twin berth: £70 per cabin (£35 per person)
More on train travel in the U.K.
- Nationalrail.co.uk - Covers all of the lines once operated by the (since-privitized) old British Rail, as well as info on all British rail stations, including maps and services. This includes most major British railways, but notably does not cover many urban area light rail systems (such as London, Glasgow, Manchester, Blackpool, Sheffield, and Midland Metro), nor does it cover the Eurostar, Heathrow Express, nor a handful of heritage or privately owned railways. Still, it's the closest thing to one-stop shopping for finding train connections across the mainland U.K. (though not Northern Ireland).
- BritRail passes - Book railpasses good for travel all over Great Britain—or just in parts of all of England or Scotland.Partner
- Eurostar.com - The super-fast train through the Channel Tunnel connecting London with Paris (2.5 hrs.), Brussels (2 hrs.) and—though those hubs—the rest of Europe. » more
- Europetrainsguide.com - General train info from a private site devoted to European rail travel.
- Seat61.com - General train info from a private site devoted to rail travel, including detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to get from London to just about any other country in Europe via rail.
- Traintaxi.co.uk - Search stations to find out whether they have taxi ranks/stands, and the phone numbers for pre-booking a cab. (Not being updated after April 2016, but still handy.)
- Sleeper.scot - overnight train
- Heritagerailways.com - An association of historic, heritage, and narrow guage railways—many operating steam trains on historic scenic routes. The site is pretty bare-bones, but if you click on a railway and then look for the link in the box below the map (not teh name on the map itself), you can get to the website for that heritage rail line, train museum, or tourist train
- Train map - A rail network map courtesy of Nationalrail.co.uk.
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