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(Australian Associated Press)
Britain’s ScotRail may be missing out on a valuable marketing.
The railway company’s Caledonian Sleeper trains run overnight between London and Scotland and are advertised as a way to arrive at your destination “refreshed and ready to start your day”.
The focus is on taking in the landscape at the window and the service on board. Enjoying the journey, not just the destination.
Avoiding airport hassle is a huge incentive, as are benefits such as more space, fewer luggage restrictions and a lounge car.
But there’s something the website doesn’t mention – the Caledonian Sleeper is a baby whisperer.
I had some serious doubts about taking our 10-month-old on the London to Inverness trip.
Where would she sleep? Would she sleep? Would I sleep? Would other passengers accidentally on purpose nudge me and my screaming child on to the tracks?
But it turns out the train brings together the perfect combination of white noise and gentle rocking.
Each time she stirred and fought to wake, the train’s motion and sound hypnotised her and she was out for the count again.
This aspect of the journey was a bonus for us, but the real star of the show was the scenery.
Taking the journey in summer was particularly beneficial because the light lasted well into the evening and the sun came up early, giving us more time to soak up the views.
From our sleeper cabin, we watched as London went by, rows of joined brick houses against a backdrop of an unusually sunny sky for Old Blighty.
The windows were filled with English fields, trees and flowers as we left the city and the dark set in. We woke to endless photo opportunities as we motored through the Highlands.
The rolling green hills, the stretching lochs, and a significantly more moody sky than what we had left behind hours earlier.
For anyone headed to the Highlands for a holiday, the train ride is a good indication of what you can expect while you’re there.
Inverness is considered the Highlands capital and a gateway to the entire region. Thanks largely to its old town with a towering 19th century cathedral, Inverness retains a traditional market town feel, but also has the convenience of restaurants, museums and shops.
You don’t have to go far from the city to find some of the best bits of the Scottish landscape – a two-hour drive southwest takes you past the famous Loch Ness, and to Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.
One of the Caledonian Sleeper services, running from Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, has been dubbed one of the world’s best railway adventures, and it’s without a doubt the landscape that makes the journey.
The trains themselves are sufficient, but, with 40 years service behind them, pretty dated. The cabins are tiny, there is no wi-fi, and we had problems with the air-conditioning.
However, a new fleet of trains is set to turn things around next year, with new cabins featuring ensuites, double beds as well as remodelled lounge cars.
Currently, sole passengers can book a standard berth and share a cabin with a stranger, but as of next year the practice will disappear, so those travelling alone can book private cabins.
The cost of the journey sets you back further than many flights, but for me the ease and enjoyment of train travel makes it worth the money.
IF YOU GO:
Caledonian Sleeper trains depart from London’s Euston Station six days a week.
Tickets are available for standard seats, standard cabins (two-person berth), and first class (sole-use berth).
For more details see www.sleeper.scot
* The writer travelled as a guest of VisitScotland.