Friday, 27 November 2015

London to Edinburgh by night bus

The challenge was as follows: I had to be at the Polish Embassy in London for a real-estate event that ends at 9pm. The next morning, at 9am, I had to be in Edinburgh for the first Scottish congress for Polish entrepreneurs. How to get there? All the early-morning flights from London would mean a 3:30am wake-up call. No way. And all the late-evening flights from London would mean leaving the Embassy event early (impossible, since I was chairing it).

There is a canny answer: now run night buses between the two capitals, with full sleeper facilities. Being a fan of Polish night trains, which offer transport and accommodation in one ticket, I decided to go for it. Booking ahead, the ticket cost £20 - amazing value, since a hotel plus flight, even if booked ahead, would easily cost £150-plus.

I walked from Portland Place to Victoria Coach Station (nearly 4,000 paces), arriving at 22:30, in good time for the 23:00 departure of the S20 sleeper service to Falkirk via Edinburgh. At 22:40, the bus arrived, and boarding began. First impressions - positive. The bus itself, brand new, according to the conductor/steward, a £500,000 investment.

Inside - it's cramped. Three types of berth - lower/single, lower/double and upper/single. The lower berths have very limited headroom compared to night trains. You have to be a contortionist to get ready for sleep. Remove shoes, outer garments - I found myself sleeping in suit trousers (jeans are better) - and shirt. A light blanket is provided, as is a eye-mask, small bottle of water and muffin.

As I observed about night trains - this is like being on board the International Space Station with the added disadvantage of gravity. Stowage of stuff is the trickiest thing. Emptying pockets for sleep (reading glasses, mobile phones, pens, wallet, notebook, keys, etc) and putting things where they can be easily found is a high art, and must be mastered with extremely limited room to move.

The driver and conductor were both called Kevin and were unfailingly polite, helpful and cheery. Safety instructions (you sleep feet facing direction of travel, put on seat belt round your middle) were read out, and the route - bizarrely - rather than straight up the London-Edinburgh A1, took the bus northwestward along the M40, then through Birmingham, M69... what happened next I don't know as I'd dropped off mid-announcement. Something about roadworks. Lights dimmed. First half-hour or so I was vaguely aware of stopping and starting at numerous traffic lights.

By virtue of the means of transport, a sleeper bus is much bumpier than a sleeper train. I woke up a few times, but nodded off soon after. The berths themselves are not soft, after sleeping on my side for a while I found my bones telling me to change position. Having downed four glasses of wine and a glass of orange juice at the Embassy, I knew that a night visit to the loo would be inevitable. It was clean, pleasant-smelling - and the reason was that men are asked to micturate in a seated position!

But generally, the night journey passed smoothly. Before 7am, the conductor woke everyone up, switching on the cabin lighting gradually. The bus arrived on time. Before disembarking, passengers were invited to help themselves to a carton of orange juice and a croissant.

To sum up - for £20 if booked early, £45 if booked earlier the same week,'s sleeper service from London to Scotland is a great answer to expensive capital hotels and inconvenient flight times. Ideal for tourists and business travellers!

This time two years ago:
The Regent's Canal, London

This time four years ago:
An end to the entitlement way of thinking

This time five year:
West Ealing - drab and sad suburb

This time six years ago:
To Poznań by train

This time eight years ago:
Late autumn drive-time


Anonymous said...

Did you consider the sleeper train?
From Euston, not far from Portland Place.
Was it fully booked, or more expensive?

Michael Dembinski said...

I didn't consider it, knowing the service to be prohibitively expensive... I have just double checked. For next Thursday, standard class, twin berth, £75. I also checked THIS TIME NEXT YEAR. Same price, £75. 1st class, solo compartment, £135. Solo compartment standard class - sold out! For 24 November 2016!

Bob said...

Brilliant idea Michal - only you could find something like this. Give a ring when back for a glass of holiday cheer.