Sorry for the recent silence: I’ve been on the road a bit – or rather, on the rails. First, a dash around the country, taking in Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh in the space of 4 days, and then a week later, I took the Caledonian sleeper to Fort William, which was a first for me, and highly recommended.
Oh it’s very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there’s not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light – you can make it dark or bright;
There’s a button that you turn to make a breeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
`do you like your morning tea weak or strong?’…
[Poem: TS Eliot’s Skimbleshanks, of course]
And this is what you wake up to the next morning:
[The following is from a mail I wrote to someone who asked how I’d booked it and what it was like]
There are four sleeper services to Scotland that I know of, between London and:
— Fort William
The Glasgow service leaves London very late – 11.15pm or so, I think – and arrives into Glasgow around 6.40am. This is a bit of a problem because then you’re stuck in Glasgow before breakfast, so if that’s where you’re going, I’d recommend taking a daytime train. London – Edinburgh is about 4 hours, and Lon-Gla is about 5 during the day.
But if you’re going further north, then the sleeper is a good option, in at least one direction (I took the sleeper up and then a daytime train back down – it’s possible to do the journey from Oban – London in a day, but it’s a lot of sitting on trains!)
The sleeper I took left London at 9.15pm, and arrived in Ft William about 9.45am. Clearly it didn’t take that long to do the journey, but the train was moving (slowly) for most of the time, stopping a few times in sidings for 30 mins or so. It’s one big long train until Edinburgh when it splits into the three sections – Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William. I was asleep for most of it, though I was vaguely aware of waking up at one point, peering out of the window and finding myself at Edinburgh Waverley station.
I think the route is something like: London Euston – Watford – Crewe – Birmingham – Preston – Carlisle – Edinburgh – Crianlarich – Rannoch – Fort William.
I woke up about 8am with breakfast being delivered to my cabin, which I ate looking out over Rannoch Moor – a stunning bit of the world.
In terms of photos, I took most of the pics through the (rather grubby) window of the carriage, either in my berth or in the seating car a little further down the train. The secret is to take lots and lots and lots of shots, and one is bound to come out well eventually.
Related: Night Mail
And Slow Train by Flanders & Swann: