Day 3 – Sleeper train to Scotland & Journey through the Highlands
May 16, we spent the night on ScotRail’s Caledonian Sleeper train where we each had a ‘berth’ and woke up to the green landscapes of Scotland. Here’s the deal on sleeping on the move and what to expect :
• From London Euston we had the choice of arriving in either Glasgow or Edinburgh. There is also a sleeper train that ends in Fort William.
• Berths are clean and comfortable, complete with crisp white sheets, blanket & 2 pillows.
• Washroom facilities are shared aboard the train, and note there are no showers.
• The lounge car was great for having a drink, a meal and for meeting fellow travelers.
• Sleeping while the train is en route is not a concern as we both slept well and didn’t feel any bumping or bouncing.
• If you have a tendency to feel motion sickness, come prepared with Gravol or other.
• We had a great breakfast, from a selection of Continental, Vegetarian or American, which we ordered upon boarding the train.
• I highly recommend you leave your window cover open – as waking up to Scotland`s lush green views is absolutely magical!
• If you`re on a tight schedule and don`t want to miss making your way to Scotland, the sleeper train is a great way to cover a lot of distance, without wasting a day on travel. It also offers great value as you save the cost of one nights` hotel stay. Please note, if you’re traveling with a BritRail Pass there is an additional charge for the sleeper reservation.
We arrived at Glasgow at 7:15am. From there we transferred to another train to continue our way to Fort William for a short visit. This journey takes about 4 hours and Fort William is popular among hiking enthusiasts as it has the UK`s highest mountain – Ben Nevis at 4490ft. As the weather was rainy and foggy the views of the mountain were missing so it wasn`t quite as impressive as we expected but the small town of Fort William has some nice walks, cafes and shops, where Jen picked up a pair of purple wellies.
Next it was back to the train station to catch the next train further North, to Mallaig, where we were pleasantly surprised to see the Jacobite steam train. Complete with a friendly train conductor named Bubbles who invited me on board to see the coal engine room.
The train route from Fort William to Mallaig is known for being arguably the most scenic in the UK, as it rolls through the highlands and over the famous Harry Potter bridge – the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Upon arrival in Mallaig we were greeted by Shalimar Bed & Breakfasts’ owner, Ben, who gave us an hour long tour of Mallaig (which he does for all his guests!). Here`s what Ben told us about Mallaig and its neighbouring isles:
• The area has beautiful wildlife, including seals, dolphins, whales, deer, rabbits and lots of birds (we can attest to the presence of birds, as we awoke to a chorus of them in the morning!).
• There are lots of outdoor activities, from scenic walks, sea kayaking, fishing and golfing on the Try Golf Course, with unbeatable views of the coast.
• They specialize in seafood, especially Scottish Salmon, Herring, Prawns and of course fish n` chips, which we sampled at Ben`s suggestion from the Cornerstone Restaurant – delicious!
• Low tide comes about every 8 hours and features large expanses of `silver sands`.
• Perhaps the best kept secret is that Scotland has `the right to roam` so at times travelers enjoy camping on the beaches near Morar.
We love Scotland! Stay tuned for day 4…we’re off to the Isle of Skye!
For more information on planning your trip: Visit Scotland.
Jen`s highlight of the day (by Jen Crane): After a long first day of traveling through the beautiful lush green and soft greys of Scotland, we sat down to indulge in a giant plate of Mallaig’s best fish and chips. With our tummies full and happy and our eyelids getting heavy we wandered up a big hill towards our cozy B&B for the night. As we got to the top of the hill, the sun shone through the clouds and highlighted the spectacular lush hillside and seaside town of Morar.
Angela`s highlight of the day: I woke up on the night train at around 5:30am, sat up in bed and watched the Scottish scenery roll by. Coming from busy London, it`s such a contrast. It`s so green, green, green and beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
By: Angela Guezen
Photos by: Jen Crane