The Caledonian Sleeper train will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was the very first adventure I took J and G on.
Even before we completed Penzance to Thurso, we had travelled on the sleeper train.
It was for J’s 4th birthday. He didn’t want a party. He didn’t get parties. He didn’t like parties. What he wanted to do was take the sleeper train to Fort William and take the Jacobite Express (which travels from Fort William to Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands). So that’s what we did. It didn’t seem important at the time, but on reflection, it was the very first time I let J take control of where we wet and how we went there.
Five years have passed since then. Neither J or G truly remember it.
It was time to do it all again!
And so… we set off from Euston.
It’s the most exciting feeling sleeping on a sleeper train. Going to sleep in one city and waking up in another! There are only two sleeper trains in the UK now – the Caledonian Sleeper and the Night Riviera. We’ve taken both, but this one is my favourite because it’s longer and therefore much easier to have a decent nights sleep!
The children (as they always do on trains!) slept soundly. And I watched the world whizz by.
We have a private 4 berth cabin which was very comfortable (the only downside is that they are STILL not en-suite berths!)
I woke up briefly in Edinburgh as the trains were coupled and uncoupled to make their various different journeys…. It’s possible to travel to Fort William, Inverness or Aberdeen.
And the next sight I saw was this….
We didn’t need passports for this adventure so had decided to bring the dog instead. He rather enjoyed his morning constitutional!!
I’m never surprised – and yet constantly amazed – at how helpful most people are. It was obvious the dog needed to go and pee… and a kindly gentleman made sure the train door remained open while I took the dog out. Such a small gesture but one that meant the world to J, who was getting stressed at the idea of being left on the train while I took his dog to the loo!
And, just after breakfast, we pulled into Fort William. It’s a lovely market town – at the foot of Ben Nevis, in glorious highlands and the end of the West Highland Way – so very popular with tourists.
For J’s 4th birthday, we had stayed in Inverlochy castle. It’s a proper castle in every sense. We’d stayed there because they were happy to organise cars to and from the station for the train J wanted to take and it just seemed to make sense. It was wonderful and, so going back this time, it was not even a question. We were going to stay at the wonderful castle.
Now, I’ll admit… I’m more of a Premier Inn sort of traveller. Hotels are for sleeping in and when travelling with kids and a dog, it’s better to be somewhere you aren’t going to annoy anyone. But this is one hotel that doesn’t apply to. From the minute you arrive, you know nothing is too much trouble.
Never once did I feel under pressure!! Even when the dog jumped into one of the small lakes and got covered in mud!! There are some secure kennels outside for when the dogs are JUST TOO MUDDY but otherwise, dogs are allowed in your room without so much as a blink of an eye.
There are so many things for the children to do. I will never forget J and G playing hide and seek in the Great Hall many years ago…. their tastes may have changed but the range of games on offer has not.
There really isn’t much need to do anything but enjoy the hotel and the grounds.
We did, however, decide to take a day trip to Seafari in Oban…
There are closer trips from Fort William, but I’m glad we stuck to this one… the scenery on the drive down was gorgeous and we enjoyed the journey.
I don’t think we could rate the actual boat tour any more highly. Claire – our guide – listened to me when I spoke to her about J and then she listened to J. She listened to what he was saying (he was quite fearful of the boat going fast) and she listened to his body language. He had the most wonderful adventure and spent the last 20 minutes of the trip singing pirate songs!
I wasn’t surprised to learn at the end of the day that she understood more than I’d realised about autism.
We saw a whole raft of wildlife and whirlpools – all excellently explained. And we had the most wonderful display of seagulls hoping for a little bit of lunch!
On the way home, we stopped off at Oban because we’d spotted a shopped called Fancy that and Sci fi planet which stocked J’s most favourite toys. It topped off a pefect day!
Other than that… we chilled.
We checked out the castle…
and the car….
And the views of ben Nevis….
Before we knew it, it was time for home. We spent a few hours checking out Fort William… Had a lovely lunch at the Grog and Gruel (which is both dog and child friendly but also VERY busy!) and jumped on some plastic outdoor sofas!
And then we took a little green train home….
A wonderful relaxing break… and one very luxury hotel I’m happy to recommend.