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.