The sleeper train from London to Scotland is one of those gloriously romantic British travel moments from start to finish, whisking you away to your highland (or lowland) adventures in an endearingly (yet accidental?) vintage fashion. It’s the Real McCoy and a wonderful way to travel.
WHERE TO EAT AROUND KING’S CROSS & EUSTON
Depending on your destination, you’ll set off from either King’s Cross or Euston. Luckily, they are close to one another and have great accommodation and eating options before you board. If you’re feeling fancy, the night before book yourself into this AirBnB which is literally in the gothic tower of the St Pancras building or stay at the Renaissance, which if it seems familiar is because it was the set for the Spice Girls’ Wannabe music vid.
For food, you’ve even time for a leisurely three course meal before your departure time, since departures time vary from 9pm to just shy of midnight. Dishoom serves elevated Indian food, fit for the British obsession. The enchanting interiors are covered in nods to Iranian cafes in old Bombay, and you’ll be whipping your phone out moments after arrival to snap them all. There’s always a wait at this popular spot but the cocktails, the lassis and all the food (I see you, ruby chicken) are worth it.
The Gilbert Scott is delightfully British in décor and is an educational experience in the food of our land. It’s housed in the grand Victorian dining room of the old station and led by renowned British chef, Marcus Wareing. You’ll pour over the menu but choose anything and you’ll be satisfied.
If you’re just around for a drink, try out Drink, Shop, Do and maybe make a robot or ice a cookie to look like Lionel Richie (no joke) whilst you’re about it. It’s quirky, fun and a great space. Alternatively, sample the local craft beer at Euston Tap.
Heck, you could even check if there’s an interesting evening event on at the British Library or the Wellcome Collection, with its eclectic mix of science paraphernalia. Also, a massive plus of having time on your hands in King’s Cross at this time of night is that you can indulge your guilty pleasure of a selfie at Platform 9 and 3/4s without having to queue your way into old age.
Still a little time? Wander up to Granary Square, stopping for a swing (and your new profile pic) in the huge birdcage outside King’s Cross and to run through the fountains avoiding the water in the Square itself.
It’s probably time to board. You’ll be met at your carriage by a welcoming steward, who will revisit you shortly after pulling out the station to make sure you’re comfortable, introduce you to all the train has to offer and ask if you want a tea or coffee brought to you in the morning. If you’re in first class, your breakfast is complimentary as is a sleep kit including a PILLOW SPRAY. Why did we choose standard?!
Now I must set your expectations, Nomads, this is not yet the Orient Express. However, this Concierge hears plans that from the first half of next year, new look trains will bring more of the “hotel” experience to the line, with double beds, ensuites, keycards and sleek new interiors. Oh and did I mention WiFi? All that to say, the present romance is due to the experience and the mode of travel and that people have been making this journey for 140 years. Though I myself adore the current tartan and plaid accents and the fact that the tickets are actually within grasp (I’m looking at you, Orient Express). Here’s hoping that at least stays the same.
Once you’re fully settled and you’ve decadently unpacked and spread out (who can do that on a flight?), head down to the restaurant car without further ado, as you want to ensure you get a seat. This Concierge cannot resist a Scottish cheese plate and Gin & Tonic (Caorunn to be precise) but midnight haggis and a solid whiskey selection are also on offer. The prices are a welcome surprise after London and we retired for the night contented and slept soundly.
Our destination was Glasgow for a glorious family weekend, including a wedding and two Christenings. But it’s a fabulous city even if you’re not there to see my family, worth a weekend to explore all things Rennie Mackintosh and Art Nouveau. Wander down the famous Buchanan Street and be sure to head to the Willow Tea Rooms, decked out with the Japanese obsessions of Art Nouveau. A personal favourite spot, the Burrell Collection, is undergoing renovations until 2020 but part of the collection is on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and stop by the Mackintosh Building and his other creations.
If you’re tempted by Edinburgh, start with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that looks out over the city and be sure to fit in the castle. Or time your trip for the Fringe festival and experience all the sarcasm and wit that Britain has to offer.
If you’re alighting at Fort William, perhaps it’s to climb Britain’s highest peak of Ben Nevis, to hop straight back on the Hogwarts Express (aka The Jacobite) or to visit the mesmerising Glen Coe. Perhaps it’s your launch pad to island hop from Oban or Mallaig. Whatever your Scottish adventures, Nomads, you’ve begun them with the right way to travel.
Now you’ve got the train bug, how about exploring America by rail? Check out my fellow blogger’s post.