Taking the sleeper train to Scotland

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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ALL ABOARD

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.

SCOTTISH ADVENTURES

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.

Exploring The Cotswolds without a Car

The romantic Cotswolds are a perfect weekend getaway from London, where you can immerse yourself in all that the British countryside has to offer. By which I mean, long walks, cozy pubs and (you know me, Nomads) a local gin. It’s difficult to pick a spot but as we wanted to travel from London by train, Charlbury seemed a great option and it didn’t disappoint.

The romantic Cotswolds are a perfect weekend getaway from London, where you can immerse yourself in all that the British countryside has to offer. By which I mean, long walks, cozy pubs and (you know me, Nomads) a local gin. It’s difficult to pick a spot but as we wanted to travel from London by train, Charlbury seemed a great option and it didn’t disappoint.

Saturday morning began with a direct train to Charlbury from London Paddington and a cheeky sweet treat from Patisserie Valerie upstairs. The train is quicker than driving – just an hour and a quarter. Our first impressions of Charlbury were entrancing; stone cottages and a train station from other age. After leaving our bags at the delightful Bell Inn, we made our way to Blenheim Palace, the grand familial home of Winston Churchill. The stately home is a 15 minute taxi ride away and also reachable by bus.

 

The exhibits on the house, the family through the ages and Churchill himself were fascinating. The UK really does do museums and exhibitions very well, with lovely interactive touches, and Churchill is an inherently entertaining figure with his wit and achievements. I mean, there’s a weird interlude in the middle featuring mannequins and projected storytellers but that’s amusing in it’s own right too, huh? The grand home has rolling gardens, a mini waterfall and the pagoda where Churchill proposed and the front with its mighty columns is a spectacular view to approach from the entrance.

We dragged ourselves away and back to the Bell for a pre-dinner drink in front of the roaring fire, before moving through to the dining room for an excellent meal. After dinner, we strolled through the quiet streets to The Bull pub with it’s fabulous door knocker, great pastels and mood lighting for a nightcap – Cotswolds Gin, no less.

We were wonderfully comfortable at The Bell. The manager made sure to provide us extra heaters and blankets in case it was a cold night and the room was beyond cute.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we pulled on our wellies and set off on a cathartic countryside amble to the local village of Finstock. We’d found a great website for walking routes and spotted a promising looking pub for a spot of lunch. Sure enough, we stopped in at The Plough Inn to eat and were delighted to find a very upmarket country pub with farmhouse décor and a cheese plate to die for.

And our weekend in the Cotswolds was at an end. We hopped back on the train to London, already nostalgic for the countryside. I heartily recommend this getaway, Nomads, and I’d love to hear more of your ideas for city escapes in the comments below.