27 June 2009

Berth of civilisation: How to book Caledonian Sleepers cheap

Scotland's west coast is a fabulous place for a cycle holiday, and the best way of getting there with your bike from London or the south-east is by sleeper train (as devotees of the utterly brilliant train site www.seat61.com will know). (Picture from Rodents Rule's Flickr site.)

Scotrail sells a limited number of 'bargain berths' on its Caledonian Sleeper - tickets between London and say Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh for £19 one-way (compared to the usual £69–£85) – and yesterday I managed to snaffle a couple.

To book yourself a cheap ticket:
1. Go to Scotrail's site on the Friday morning 11 weeks before you want to travel. The cheap tickets are available for Monday to Friday of the 12th week after that. Their 'Buy train tickets' page shows the dates you can book for.
2. The Bargain Berths will probably be available some time mid-morning. You'll just have to keep refreshing the 'Buy train tickets' page until the new purchase period shows. Recent experience suggests this will happen about 11.15am.
3. The £19 berths almost all disappear immediately - literally within seconds - so be prepared to be flexible on dates! Tuesday nights seem to be your best hope for a cheap ticket.
4. There are also £29, £39 and £49 tickets available. You'll find these still available hours or even days after that first Friday rush. You can book more than one ticket at a time.
5. If you want to spend a week there, you'll probably have to do all the above on successive Fridays.
6. To book a place for your bike, you call 08457 55 00 33. An efficient but bored woman in Bombay, who sounds dubious that there is such a place as Crianlarich, will fix it for you.

Good luck.


  1. Is it a bit risky booking the travel ticket and then the bike later? I think one of the sleeper routes (Inverness) only takes 3 bikes, or is that no longer the case? It was rumoured that it was all to do with carriage of fish, but maybe that was just an urban myth!

  2. Hi, very much appreciate the comprehensive tips, had been trying to find these elusive £19 tichets for ages then stumbled across your page. was just wondering if anyone knows if these bargain berths are ones where you get to lie down, or just recline in a seat?

  3. @Ruth - yes, the £19 tickets are proper sleepers, with a comfy bed and sheets and two-person cabin and everything. If you're by yourself you may end up sharing with someone else (of the same sex). If two people book separately but want to travel together, the carriage host will almost certainly be able to put you in the same cabin on the night.

    You can get recliner seats for even less if you book miles in advance at http://www.eastcoast.co.uk - I've done Edinburgh-London with a bike for 11 quid. Don't expect to be 100 per cent awake all the next day though!

  4. Update: last time I booked (Feb 2010) the new seats came online about 9am on the Friday, so beware!

    Also, there are various widgets you can get off the internet to make your page auto-refresh every few seconds, so you can have it on your computer desktop and keep an eye on it easily. I did this to get my latest £19 bargain - I'll post about it in detail when I get some time.

  5. We are trying to book from NZ... does anyone know if bargain berths are available to book online internationally? I would have thought they were, except Scotrail has a section saying that NOW international customers can book online, click here (which bypasses the bargain berths...)???
    Getting anxious as need to travel on that particular date (a Sunday) and don't want to pay 107 pounds each. Can fly significantly cheaper but would rather try the Cal Sleeper