I wrestled the blind open on Tuesday night, turned off the light and lay back on my bed. The great hunter Orion looked down, surrounded on all sides by thousands of spots of light. Through the window everything was covered in white: the Monadhliath Mountains, static on the horizon, the villages and hamlets, the tall pine trees whizzing past the windows.
It would be a cliché to compare the view to one of Narnia, just as it would to describe the scene as "magical" but no other description suffices. This is clearly the best way to end a two-day business trip: the Caledonian Sleeper is by far the most sophisticated way to travel home from the north of Scotland.
My first sleeper experience wasn't quite so good. It started off well with a welcome from my host and a Bruichladdich in the lounge car. I woke briefly as the train rattled through the Haymarket tunnel in Edinburgh but soon fell asleep again. My second waking wasn't so welcome. Two hours short of our destination, my host woke me with an early breakfast to explain the train heating had failed so we'd be transferring to the road at Perth. As it was the coach was colder than the train; I longed for the duvet and blanket I'd left behind. On the plus side I was sufficiently awake to enjoy the drive across the Central Highlands.
All-in-all it was an enjoyable journey. I can imagine how it might facilitate living north of the border and yet still doing an occasional full day's work in London. The rolling stock is a little on the old side but I hope that will change: to lose this service would be a disgrace.
Here are my sleeper tips:
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