Discover if it’s worth paying for a Club Room in this Caledonian Sleeper review
Sleeper trains are more than just a practical way of covering a large distance in one overnight journey. They are laden with the promise of excitement and adventure, evoking a golden age of rail travel romanticised by Agatha Christie.
Minus the murders, that is.
A UK staycation gave me the chance to try out the first-class room on the iconic Caledonian Sleeper service from London to Scotland. But was the Club Room worth it?
This Caledonian Sleeper First Class review is based on my journey as a solo traveller between London Euston and Fort William in June 2021.
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What is the Caledonian Sleeper?
The Caledonian Sleeper is a sleeper train service linking London with cities in Scotland. Strictly speaking, it is two services.
Departing London Euston, the Highlander train splits into three at Edinburgh Waverley in the wee small hours of the morning. The three sections terminate at Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.
The Lowlander train dissects at Carstairs and the two halves continue their respective journeys to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
A sleeper train between Scotland & London is not a new thing (there’s been a service since 1873). The Caledonian Sleeper as such has been operating since 1996.
With the help of a total of £110m in subsidies, Serco replaced the ageing carriages with new stock. In 2019, the new Caledonian Sleeper was launched with much fanfare, a ‘hotel on wheels’ featuring en-suite rooms.
Why You Should Travel on the Caledonian Sleeper
The Caledonian Sleeper between London and Fort William has been consistently voted as one of the world’s greatest sleeper train journeys. There’s something very special about leaving the urban sprawl of London at night and waking up in the Scottish Highlands.
There’s a lot to be said for train travel.
For one, you neatly sidestep the hassle of travelling to an airport and queuing at security during these restriction-riddled times. And you can forget being scrunched up in that middle seat on a plane and stressing about the size of the shampoo bottle in your carry-on luggage.
You can also feel safe in the knowledge that your journey on the Caledonian Sleeper is reducing your carbon footprint compared to flying to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Inverness.
Planning Your Caledonian Sleeper Journey
What are your room options on the Caledonian Sleeper?
There are three types of rooms available on the Caledonian Sleeper:
- Classic Room
- Club Room
- Caledonian Double
If you are travelling on a budget, there are also Comfort Seats. These are reclining seats (but not lie-flat) in a standard rail carriage.
Comfort Seats feature a pull-down tray table, a footrest, an individual reading light, a charging point and access to lockable storage. Wi-Fi is available and all Comfort Seat passengers receive a complimentary sleep kit, which includes earplugs and an eye mask.
What are the differences between a Classic Room and a Club Room on the Caledonian Sleeper?
Twin bunk beds
|Twin bunk beds|
|Complimentary sleep kit with Arran Aromatics toiletries||Complimentary sleep kit with Arran Aromatics toiletries|
Breakfast available for purchase
|En-suite with toilet & shower|
|Station lounge access where available|
|Priority access to Club Car|
|Mackie’s of Scotland chocolate|
The most significant difference between the Caledonian Sleeper Club Room and the Classic Room is the en-suite toilet and shower room. No scuttling down the train’s corridor to the loo in your PJs when you book a Club Room.
But the rooms themselves are identical, including square footage. It’s just that the Club Room has this en-suite facility.
What’s the Caledonian Double like?
The Caledonian Double offers the same amenities and facilities as the Club Room but has a double bed instead of twin bunks.
Can you book a room on the Caledonian Sleeper as a solo traveller?
If you are travelling alone, you will need to book a Classic Room, Club Room or a Caledonian Double on the Caledonian Sleeper for solo use. Unsurprisingly, you will pay a supplement for the privilege of having one of these rooms to yourself.
When you book a Classic or Club Room as a single traveller both beds will be in place, which is a pity.
How much does the Caledonian Sleeper cost?
In 2023, travelling from London Euston to Fort William, Comfort Seats start from £55 and Classic Rooms start at £180 for solo travellers and £245 per room if you’re sharing.
Club Rooms cost from £215 for solo travellers and £265 if you’re sharing.
Caledonian Doubles start from £405 for solo travellers and £480 if you’re sharing.
Accessible rooms are priced separately as a twin or double room.
You need to book well in advance to take advantage of the lowest fares.
>>> CHECK TICKET PRICES HERE
Caledonian Sleeper refund policy
With tickets for the Caledonian Sleeper, you will receive a 100% refund for cancellations 7 days or more before travel. If you cancel up to midday the day before travel, you will get a 50% refund.
Find out more here.
How often do the Caledonian Sleeper trains operate?
The Caledonian Sleeper service to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen departs London Euston at 21:15 every weeknight and at 21:00 on Sunday. It is scheduled to reach Fort William at 10 a.m., Inverness at 08:45 and Aberdeen at 07:40.
The Lowlander Service to Edinburgh and Glasgow leaves London Euston every weeknight at 23:40 / 23:45 and at 23:15 / 23:30 on Sunday. This service is scheduled to reach both cities at 07:30.
There are no Caledonian Sleeper services on Saturdays.
You can check current timetables here.
You may have noticed that you will arrive at some of these destinations bright and early. Whilst this is good news in terms of maximising your time away, your accommodation may not allow you to check in until later in the day.
Therefore, you will need to check that you will be able to leave your luggage with them or find somewhere else to leave it.
Booking the Caledonian Sleeper
Book your Caledonian Sleeper ticket online. You can make a reservation up to 12 months ahead of the date of travel.
Tickets are sold as one-way journeys. If you want to book a return journey, you will need to book two one-way tickets.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKET
Caledonian Sleeper First Class Review
First Class Lounge at London Euston Station
The Caledonian Sleeper First Class lounge at London Euston is operated by Avanti West Coast. This is located on the mezzanine level of the station, overlooking the station’s concourse.
I last visited this lounge when I was travelling in first-class on an Avanti West Coast service. It offers tea, coffee, juices, water and a small selection of cold snacks. A charge applies to alcoholic drinks.
There is free Wi-Fi and toilet facilities.
Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper
The cheery train attendant checked my ticket at the carriage door and asked for my breakfast order and if it was likely that I would want room service. She also asked if I wished to be informed if the service was running late. I replied that I would prefer it if this was a surprise.
The corridor of the Caledonian Sleeper is so narrow that I wasn’t able to wheel my rolling backpack along it. Instead, I did a sort of side shuffle to my room.
Caledonian Sleeper Club Room
Clearly, the size of the rooms wasn’t a factor in the revamp of the Caledonian Sleeper. To say the Club Room is compact is being kind.
The space between the bed and the opposite wall is narrow, and manoeuvring and storing a wheeled backpack was a little challenging. There is modest space under the bed but this wasn’t big enough to accommodate my luggage. This and two hangers comprised the total storage capacity of the room.
Thought has gone into the interior design of the Club Room. The Edinburgh restaurant designer Ian Smith has used tartan patterns and rusty oranges as well as grey and taupe tones.
The lighting and temperature controls are also well thought out. It was easy to keep the room at a comfortable temperature and the lighting was dimmable.
Plug sockets and USB charging points were plentiful.
The Caledonian Sleeper WiFi allowed me to check email but not stream audio or video.
Your own keycard allows you to leave your room securely.
Although narrow, the bed was surprisingly comfortable.
Its linen-clad mattress is made by Royal Warrant holders Glencraft and the pillows were plump. Although I didn’t have the most restful night’s sleep, this had more to do with the movement of the train.
Next to the bed, there is a small sink, beneath which is a pull-out table.
It’s the en-suite that distinguishes the Club Room from the Classic Room. This is an interesting design.
Essentially, you pull the cover over the toilet to convert this into a bench seat for the shower. Although the shower wouldn’t be the most powerful in the world, it does the job and the temperature adjusted as expected.
Just make sure that your morning routine is in the correct order. I wouldn’t fancy using the toilet after the area is drenched post-shower.
A welcome Caledonian Sleeper Club Room perk is the complimentary sleep kit with Arran Aromatics toiletries.
Inside the bag, you’ll find conditioning shampoo, hand and body wash, body lotion and an aromatherapy sleep spray. An eye mask, earplugs and a small bottle of mineral water are also provided.
Food & Drink on the Caledonian Sleeper
Due to coronavirus safety measures when I travelled, the Caledonian Sleeper Club Car had suspended its services. This was understandable but a shame.
However, room service was available and I treated myself to a cheeky Macallan as a nightcap.
Breakfast came in a brown bag at the allotted time. This mini-feast of a hot bacon roll, orange juice, porridge bar and cup of tea was an excellent start to the day.
The Caledonian Sleeper pulled into Fort William station a few minutes ahead of schedule at 9.50 am
First class lounge at Fort William station
The friendly lounge assistant in the Caledonian Sleeper’s small but comfortable lounge at Fort William offered me tea/coffee plus biscuits. Self-serve packets of crisps and cold drinks were also available.
The lounge has toilets and showering facilities.
Caledonian Sleeper: Other Useful Information
Taking your bike on the Caledonian Sleeper
Cyclists can take bikes on board for free as long as they fall within the maximum measurements (the bikes that it, not the cyclists).
Bikes require a reservation to travel in a dedicated storage area next to the seated carriage.
Accessibility on the Caledonian Sleeper
The Caledonian Sleeper trains have fully accessible rooms with a double bed or two single bunk beds. Both the Club Car and the seated coach have dedicated wheelchair space
Taking your pets on the Caledonian Sleeper
Cats and dogs are welcome on board the Caledonian Sleeper, provided you are not travelling in the seated carriage. You can take up to two pets on board but at the time of updating this post (August 2023), a £30 cleaning fee per room was levied.
There is no charge for service dogs.
Caledonian Sleeper First Class Review: Is the Club Room Worth It?
A Club Room on the Caledonian Sleeper is not a cheap way of travelling between London and Scotland. I justified it in that it offset the cost of a night’s accommodation in Glasgow.
But is the Club Room worth it compared with a Classic Room? Well, it depends.
Travelling between London and Fort William in 2023, it can cost you as little as £35 to upgrade to a Club Room as a single traveller, less if you are sharing. For this premium, you get en-suite facilities, breakfast, lounge access where available and priority Club Car access.
To me, this is money well spent, especially as it means you don’t have to trot down the corridor to use the bathroom.
However, once the price differential between a Classic Room and Club Room exceeds £50, I would think twice.
Other than the presence of a toilet cum shower, these two rooms are identical. And equally cramped.
The other perks of Club Room travel – namely breakfast, lounge access and priority Club Car access – don’t make an enormous difference to the travel experience.
For a more upscale experience, you could opt for the Caledonian Double which will give you a little more space than the Club Room. But the hefty price tag attached to this room places it out of the reach of many solo travellers.
Setting to one side the pros and cons of a Club Room, everyone should travel from London to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper at least once in their life. The experience of chugging out of the grey suburbs of London at night to be greeted by the dramatic landscape of the Scottish Highlands in the morning is unforgettable.
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