juliet: (Default)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m expert at sleeper train travel with a 1 year old, but in the past 6 months we’ve taken 3 sleeper train journeys and 1 overnight ferry, so here’s the quick run-down on experiences so far.

Aberdeen-London, Scotrail single berth compartment: narrow berth, not really enough room for adult + baby (Leon was 9 months at the time). But the bottom bunk is flat and has no gap down the back, so I wasn’t worried about safety. The two-berth compartments are the same style.

London-Venice, Thello, six-berth compartment: this was not the intended mode of transport, but the carriage containing our intended two-berth compartment was broken. (Even more broken, we assume, than the replacement, which is impressive.) The six-berth style compartment we actually travelled in (thankfully not sharing with anyone else, for which I was especially grateful when Leon started to throw up at 3am) had very narrow berths, and the bottom berth was heavily sloped towards the wall, with a small gap between the bottom of the seat back and the bed. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be very safe to sleep with Leon between me and the wall, and it certainly wouldn’t be comfy, so wound up sleeping head-to-tail (until 3am, anyway, when the sleeping stopped). With a younger baby I think I’d have just sat up for the night. I would not recommend this with a baby not old enough to sleep on their own. The four-berth is also this style.

Venice-London, Thello, two-berth compartment. This was much nicer. Bottom bunk was flat, very wide (for a sleeper train; I think 2’6), and had no gap at the back. Lots of room for me and Leon both to lie down comfortably. Would happily do this again, other than the bit where it took him an hour to settle. The three-berth compartments are the same style.

Liverpool-Belfast, overnight ferry, two-bed cabin. Very comfy. Standard size single beds with a rail at the edge (though I still kept Leon on the wall side) and no gap by the wall. Would very happily travel like this again (and indeed I imagine we will, this summer).

If you’re not comfortable with co-sleeping, I think you might be able to fit a small travel cot on the floor in all of the above, but you might want to check with the train company. There is in my experience always room to put a regular sized wheelie suitcase flat on the floor and a couple of inches more than that, so if your travel cot fits that space you should be OK. (I know very little of travel cots so cannot speak further to this.)

I think that, other than the ferry, our sleeper train days may be over now until Leon is big enough to sleep in a bunk on his own, and to see the whole thing as an exciting adventure rather than getting too wound up to sleep…

juliet: (round the world)

I have just returned from a lovely weekend with [personal profile] doop's family (very early Xmas dinner! there were roast potatoes) in Belfast. During our very smooth return voyage (Belfast-Stranraer-Glasgow-London), it occurred to me that we are now expert in the various ways to get from London to Belfast overland. From there it was but a step to the conclusion that I should document this experience. Executive summary is below the table.

London-Belfast

Route Route detail Price (single) Time Epicness Other notes
Holyhead/Dublin (overnight) Train to Holyhead, ferry then bus to Dublin, train to Belfast £42 RailSail 13h30 (overnight) High. Lots of waiting around in Holyhead. On way out: sleep on nice-ish sofas on ferry & fairly comfortable seats on second train. On way back: hideous 4 hours on Holyhead station floor. NEVER AGAIN. Daytime route might feel less epic (no need to attempt sleep) but probably even more boring. There is a pub near the station at Holyhead which was open till 2am last Thursday & had a 50p pool table. It also had karaoke in the other bar & someone throwing up in the Ladies, so, yes. Holyhead not the classiest of locations.
Cairnryan/Larne* Train to Stranraer, cycle to Cairnryan, ferry to Larne ~£60?? ~13h30 Moderately epic. V v v early (0539) start from Euston when we did it outbound (cheap train issues). Unsure of timing inbound; possibly also quite epic. Fair amount of waiting around. Not sure they take foot passengers (also, 6mi from Stranraer station). Nice bike ride to Cairnryan, also a v nice cafe in Stranraer for lunch which mitigates the waiting around part.
Stranraer/Belfast Train to Stranraer (change at Glasgow), ferry to Belfast £46 daytime RailSail**, >£50*** overnight 12h daytime, 16h overnight (but mostly on sleeper)**** 0539 start from Euston daytime on way out; otherwise all matches up well, pretty non-epic. Overnight coming back beautifully smooth. Trains overnight going out appear not to match very well. Ferry actually quite nice, ditto Belfast Port. Technically haven't actually done this one outbound either daytime or overnight; but Cairnryan route is the same trains. Nice Italian cafe in Glasgow station available for the hour wait there on the daytime option; or there is time to find a Boots to buy a replacement Mooncup (just for example).
Came back on the sleeper this time, and it was lovely. Ferry & train matched up beautifully; sleeper train a genuinely pleasant experience involving whisky in the lounge car.
Troon/Larne* Train to Troon (change at Glasgow), ferry to Larne ?? 9h returning Trains don't join up with ferry v well, and very early start. Otherwise civilised. Haven't done this Troon-Larne, only Larne-Troon. Only runs in the summer. No foot passengers, I think?

Notes:
* Endpoint for these is Larne, not Belfast. Train from Larne to Belfast Central is I think about an hour; they're not wildly frequent.
** I am *sure* this was a lot more expensive about 9 months ago, the last time I looked at this route.
*** £25 Glasgow-Belfast (RailSail). Then you need to buy the London-Glasgow leg, which if taking the Caledonian Sleeper is more complicated. IN THEORY you can get £19 bargain berth overnight sleeper tickets; in practice it's nearly impossible, although if you can be flexible about the dates, you can get £39-£49 singles. From £53.50 for an advance sleeper (£88 standard non-advance); from £25 for advance seated sleeper (£51.50 standard non-advance).
**** Add an hour for the journey between central Belfast & the port. I confess we got a lift on this occasion, but I believe there's a bus which is free to Stena passengers.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: I think if neither time nor money were a factor, my preference would be to go via Stranraer both ways, in the daytime on the way there & overnight on the way back. If time is a factor & money is available, overnight out via Holyhead and back via Stranraer is a reasonable compromise between cost/comfort/waiting around (avoids taking a day of leave just to travel, avoids the hideous overnight return via Holyhead, saves money on the outbound less-hideous Holyhead trip especially given that outbound overnight via Stranraer is fairly epic). If cash-poor but time-rich, daytime both ways via Stranraer is only £4 each way more expensive than Holyhead and way, way nicer (the only real disadvantage being the very early start from Euston). The Larne option was OK but a bit faffy.

juliet: (round the world)
Arrived in Bundaberg an hr late, so now will be catching another bus in 90 min or so to Fingerboard Road roadhouse, where I will stop overnight (possibly on the floor there, or possibly by pitching the tent somewhere, depending on what the people there say) & get a connection to Agnes Water in the morning. This is an improvement on the other option which is to spend tomorrow in Bundaberg (there is not v much of interest in Bundaberg, unless you like rum, which I don't so much), get to Agnes Water late tomorrow evening, & not be able to go surfing and/or sit by the beach with a nice drink at all.

The effects of spending the last 7 months gallivanting around the world now become clear: I am entirely sanguine about this situation (though admittedly would have *preferred* just to get the damn bus on time).

( The lovely ppl on #dw offered to chip in for a motel if I was stranded due to cash crisis, bless them :)
[me gets happy warm feeling] )

August 2017

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