Sleeper train + Hiking in the Cairngorms = memorable vacation time
Now’s the time to make your dream come true. Never has travel to the Highlands been easier. There are direct flights from London, Birmingham and Bristol but if you really want to make the most of your time, why not try the sleeper train? You’ll do your travelling overnight so you won’t be missing out on any day time scenery/views; you’ll be able to sleep while travelling and when you wake up you’ll be deep in the heart of the Highlands, looking out at mountain views.
Caledonian Sleeper v flying to the Highlands
The time factor:
If you’re based in London for work or to live you might find the sleeper at least as convenient as flying.
The sleeper leaves from central London about 9pm so you can work a full day and not lose any valuable holiday time to travel – by 8am you’ll be in the Highlands, either Aviemore or Fort William. To fly you need to reach the airport at least an hour before your flight leaves; the flight will take about 1 – 1.5 hours and you’ll probably have some travel time at the other end as the closest you will get to the mountains is a flight to Inverness (30 minutes drive from Aviemore). Reaching Fort William is much more problematic.
It’s easy to forget when you fly, that you still need to make allowances for the time it takes to travel out to the airport, whereas when you travel by train, you are far more likely to end up within spitting distance of your final destination.
Also, if you travel overnight on the sleeper, you are effectively multi-tasking: sleeping and travelling at the same time!
The price factor:
Tickets for the sleeper can be much more expensive than Easyjet or Ryanair flights, however, if you book your ticket 12 weeks beforehand there are cheap tickets available, which a small core of sleeper aficionados in London know. Mid-week tickets are easier to get of course, but if you’re able to commit to your travel plans around 3 months beforehand, you should be able to travel on the weekend of your choice, without too much expense. Always remember though, that travelling on the sleeper service is also saving you the cost of a night’s accommodation each way.
Another way to save time
Combine your voyage on the sleeper with an organised break. For active travellers, there are plenty of options in both the Aviemore and the Fort William areas where there are numerous walking and activity instructors; but the most effective way to make the most of your time is to book a fully inclusive package, which will make the most of your time Hiking in the Highlands.
Options for Hiking in the Highlands
- Research independently using suggestions from VisitScotland and WalkHighlands – to make the most of this you really need some knowledge of the local area first and you also need to pay close attention to the forecast in the days leading up to your trip. Don’t forget to check out the accommodation and meal options.
- Book a local guide or use the ranger service eg at Cairngorm Mountain or via the National Trust (in Torridon and on the Mar Estate near Braemar). Remember to book your accommodation and organise your meals as well.
- Book a fully inclusive tour using the services of a company such as Scot Mountain Holidays who will organise the accommodation, meals, transport and guiding in one package for you.
Read about Challenge Sophie’s adventure with Scot Mountain Holidays and the sleeper service