With the TFL network being so welcoming to dogs, many of The Dogvine’s readers will have travelled on the tube, buses, boats, and even cable cars – but have you ever set your paws on a sleeper train before? When our roving reporter Pie was offered the chance to check out the Caledonian Sleeper train, she jumped at the chance for a magical holiday north of the border. Read on for Pie’s Caledonian Sleeper review and top tips for getting the most out of your trip to Scotland when travelling with your canine companion…
But hang on a minute, what is a sleeper train, exactly? The idea is that you board a train late at night, sleep as it makes a long journey, and wake up fresh as a daisy, ready for a full day at your destination – rather than wasting time travelling during the day when you should be having fun. In Caledonian Sleeper’s case, the service links London and many Scottish towns and cities – opening up a world of possibilities to London dogs and their humans.
What’s on board the Caledonian Sleeper?
The Caledonian Sleeper has a mix of individual seats (the cheapest option for tickets) or private rooms – understandably, dogs are restricted to the latter. Up to two dogs (or cats – with other animals considered on a case-by-case basis, apparently!) can travel for a supplement of £30 per room per single journey, which is charged to cover additional cleaning costs.
There are two room layouts available – bunk beds in ‘Classic’ and ‘Club’ rooms, with ‘Caledonian Double’ rooms offering double beds. We were in a Club Room, which was fully equipped with an en-suite toilet, shower, and sink, along with comfy Glencraft mattresses and very fluffy pillows and duvets. It was a very functionally-designed space, with plugs/USB charging ports and dimmable lights/blackout window blinds making it easy to settle down to sleep. There was also a thermostat to ensure things didn’t get too hot or cold.
There is also a fancy dining cabin on board; sadly this is off-limits to passengers with four paws – but it was great to have room service available, with dinner, drinks, and breakfast just the push of a button away.
What should I bring on the Sleeper Train for my dog?
There are a few things you’ll need to bring for a dog. First and foremost, as dogs are not allowed to sleep on the human beds, you’ll need to bring a bed if they do not like sleeping on the floor.
Going to the toilet was a bit of an issue, considering we were on the train for more than 12 hours for our outbound journey. We put puppy pads on the bathroom floor; a combination of checking if Pie needed to go and her telling us that it was the time, meant we avoided any accidents. Each dog and their living situation is different, so others may need another strategy, but this approach worked for us.
We all got a good night’s sleep on both trips, and it was amazing to pull up the window blind in the morning and look out to see the Scottish Highlands rolling past, enjoying breakfast with a view.
Where do the Caledonian Sleeper Trains Take You?
On the platform at London Euston, it was great to see a number of other dogs also boarding our train. Apparently one of them had been on the service many times before, and it’s easy to understand why when you think about the range of possibilities the train opens up.
The trains run up a central line to Edinburgh before branching off to the West through Glasgow to Fort William or out to the East on separate lines to Inverness or Aberdeen. All three of these lines also stop at many places on the way, so a huge number of options open up to you and your dog.
This means you could have a city break, head to the countryside, or, as we did, do a bit of both.
Tell Us About Pie’s Holiday…
Before we find out the verdict on Pie’s review of the Caledonian Sleeper experience, we asked Pie to tell us a bit the rest of the trip to Scotland, here are Pie’s top tips…
Fort William – We kicked things off with a trip on The Jacobite – a steam train that takes you over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, as seen in the Harry Potter films. Pie was welcome in the town’s Travelodge, and the next morning ate breakfast at trendy new bakery Rain in the high street.
Loch Ness – We were driven 1 ½ hours East to Loch Ness by local company Greyhound Taxis. The firm is run by dog lovers, and our driver kept us entertained with a number of stories, from his wariness of local paranormal sites to his famous passengers, including Dame Judi Dench. We took a boat from Dochgarroch Lock, taking in the scenery, ruined castles, and wildlife (but sadly not the famous monster).
Inverness – We walked five miles down the Caledonian Canal to Inverness, on the East coast. It was a scenic countryside stroll, with Pie taking dips in the water to cool off along the way. Inverness is very characterful, and we enjoyed our evening trip to the Black Isle Brewery bar, which served a range of local brews and fancy pizza. Inverness’ Dolphin Spirit boat company allows dogs onto its ‘Moray Firth and Inverness Boat Cruise’; it should be noted that dolphin sightings are only likely on the company’s faster boat, which dogs are not allowed on.
Pitlochry – Finally, we took a 1 ½ hour train journey south through glorious countryside. The reason for our visit to Pitlochry was a stay at Saorsa 1875 – billed as the UK’s first fully-vegan hotel. We were welcomed by the hotel’s resident dogs and enjoyed our walks exploring a dam and waterfalls in the surrounding area.
Heading From Scotland to London
When it was time to head home, all we had to do was turn up at Pitlochry station just before 11 pm, board and then go to sleep! They leave a good 5-10 minutes at each station along the line for people to find the correct carriage and board. As we’d walked pretty far that day, we were sound asleep before long, and the next thing we knew, breakfast was delivered to our door as we rolled past Milton Keynes. Arriving back at Euston at 8 am, we had a head-start on the rest of London, with a full day ahead of us.
Travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper with a dog – Pie’s Review
Overall, we would highly recommend taking your dog on the Caledonian Sleeper. It really feels like a blank canvas to create the kind of holiday that works best for your pack – whether you’d like to take in the sights of a new city like Edinburgh or Glasgow or head for the countryside. We really felt like we’d made the best use of our time and saved ourselves from spending on hotels, which left us free to spend our time and money enjoying ourselves to the max!
Thank you, Pie for your London to Scotland Caledonian Sleeper review and for sharing your top travel tips!
Don’t forget to check out the Caledonian Sleeper website for more inspiration on things to do north of the border when travelling with your dog.