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From the fabulous Golden Arrow and the elegant Brighton Belle to the glamorous Cornish Riviera and the legendary Flying Scotsman, Great Britain has long excelled in the art of rail travel. Even today, despite the emergence of air travel as the dominant mode of long-haul transit, the British railway system runs a number of excellent public routes. The best of these is the Caledonian Express. Spanning over 400 miles of the spectacular West Highland Line, this supremely comfortable sleeper line is the crown jewel of modern British night trains. Nicknamed the Deerstalker, it operates its dazzlingly scenic route between London, England, and Fort Williams, Scotland, all but one night of the week. Related: 10 Of Scotland's Most Stunning Beaches


Free From The Drama That's (Literally) Derailing Britain

Recently, rail travel (and, for that matter, all travel) to and from England has been plagued by confusion, delays, and new restrictions related to the post-Brexit international borders.

While the Eurostar still determinedly runs between London and Paris, it is one of few international lines bothering to do so.

Luxury international trains like Belmond's Venice-Simplon-Orient Express (which had long boosted the British tourism economy by starting several of its most sought-after trips in London's Victoria Station, including its annual recreation of the real Orient Express's legendary route to Istanbul) have quietly removed the UK stops from their routes.

As a silver lining to an otherwise bleak political situation for Scotland (which, as part of the United Kingdom, was effectively dragged out of the EU despite overwhelming public opposition to Brexit), the nation's border with England is unaffected by the ongoing chaos—meaning the Deerstalker remains unencumbered by the disruptions and truncations currently afflicting most other international rail routes from London.

A Magical Journey From London To The Scottish Highlands

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

There is nowhere in the world quite like the Scottish Highlands—although, admittedly, the Highlands of Armenia give them a run for their money—where barren moors and crystalline waterfalls intersperse with sheer cliffs and dramatic shorelines.

The landscape is a drama of dueling extremes: its paradoxical beauty is at once vibrant and forlorn, quaint and resplendent. Vastly ancient yet overflowing with life, it evokes a sense of mystical and melancholic enchantment worthy of both its druidic heritage and the proud, sorrowful history of its people.

The Deerstalker coasts through this region on a breathtaking course between several of Scotland's most important cities—including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness—before connecting with the marvelous Jacobite Express at Fort William.

Related: A Guide To The Scottish Highlands

Modern Comfort Meets Classic Charm

For £85 ($99), the Caledonian Express offers Economy seat tickets as its cheapest available option. Economy seat tickets do not include access to the lounge car, which is reserved for sleeper car occupants.

On extremely busy trips, lounge car priority may be given to Caledonian Club and Caledonian Double ticket-holders over Caledonian Classic ticket-holders (differences between tickets explained below).

A stylish modern twist on the classic Pullman restaurant carriages, the Deerstalker's lounge car offers a wide variety of excellent cooked dinner and breakfast options with an emphasis on regional flavors, along with an assortment of snacks and sandwiches and an impressive selection of wines, beers, and malt whiskey.

For an authentic Highlands experience, order the Haggis: Scotland's national dish.

In an instance of true culinary alchemy, none of Haggis's individual ingredients sound particularly appealing (the heart, liver, lungs, and stomach of a sheep are all involved), yet the final product is excellent.

Traditionally served with tatties 'n neeps (potatoes and turnips) and paired with Scottish whiskey, this iconic dish rewards the courage of those willing to try it.

Related: What Can You Eat On The British Pullman? In addition to its Economy seats, the Deerstalker offers three classes of sleeping compartments: Caledonian Classic, Caledonian Club, and Caledonian Double.

All three can be reserved for one or two occupants (with discounted rates for passengers who book in groups or pairs) and are equipped with towels, soap, power sockets, USB ports, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Related: Why Sleeper Trains Are Making A Comeback

Classic and Club compartments are physically indistinguishable, except that the Club compartments—which start at £350 ($409) per person—include washbasins as well as en suite bathrooms and showers.

By comparison, the more modestly priced Classic compartments—with individual tickets selling for £250 ($292) per person—have only washbasins. Shared toilets on the Classic cars are located on both ends of each corridor.

Related: 10 Thrilling European Sleeper TrainsNewly offered as of 2019, the Caledonian Doubles include en suite bathrooms and showers, all the same amenities as the Club compartments, and of course, double beds. Individual reservations for these compartments start at £405 ($473).

All Club and Double tickets come with complimentary breakfast, which can be delivered to the compartment or served in the lounge car, as preferred. Room service can also be ordered to the Classic compartments for an additional cost.

The Caledonian Express additionally offers Accessible Classic and Accessible Double compartments with extra-wide, touch-activated automatic doors and complimentary room service.

A Summer Night On The Deerstalker...

The northbound Deerstalker runs a stunning 12-hour, 418-mile journey from the capital of England to the West Highlands of Scotland.

Assuming a mid-June timetable, with a 21:20 sunset and a 4:42 sunrise, the weekday northbound Caledonian Express leaves London Euston just before sundown, at 21:15.

The line makes its first stop in Watford Junction after dusk at 21:34. From there, it journeys north, calling at Preston, its final stop before the border with Scotland, about 30 minutes after midnight.

On the northbound Deerstalker, it is worth falling asleep as early as possible and setting the alarm for 4:30 or so to wake up in time to see the sun rise over the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh, where the line calls at 4:50.

Just about an hour later, at 5:40, the train arrives in Glasgow, Scotland's most populous city. Though somewhat underappreciated compared to its fellow Lowland municipality of Edinburgh, Glasgow is equally worth a visit.

After reaching Tyndrum at 7:59, the Caledonian Express begins the most scenic leg of its route. Following a horseshoe curve under Beinn Dorain, Beinn a' Chaiseil, and Beinn Odhar, it ascends into the mountains along an increasingly gorgeous stretch of railway, reaching an apex of 1350 feet above sea level.

At 8:58, the Deerstalker calls at Corrour: the most remote station in all of Britain and a prominent feature in Danny Boyle’s subversive, surreal, and excellent 1996 black comedy, Trainspotting.

Related: Must-Visit Historic Rail Stations

After departing Corrour Station, the train sets off across the wild moorlands of Rannoch, known for their desolate natural beauty.

According to popular legend, the Deerstalker's nickname refers to both the hunting cap associated with Sherlock Holmes and the train's traversal of windswept Rannoch Moor, where wild deer can often be spotted grazing alongside the tracks.

As it continues its solitary trek across the fells of Rannoch, the northbound Deerstalker passes by exquisite Loch Treig, visible on the train's left-hand side.

Related: Scottish Lochs That Will Make You Believe In Fairy TalesAfter calling in Tulloch at 9:19, the Caledonian line runs along the shoulder of lovely Monessie Gorge before calling at its northern terminus of Fort William at 9:57.

Optional: North To The Isle Of Skye...

For more time on Scotland's magnificent railways, travelers on the northbound Caledonian can take the Jacobite Express from Fort William at 12:26.

This wonderful steam train travels north by way of the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct (best known for its appearances in the Harry Potter film franchise​​​), arriving at 16:03 in the port village of Mallais at the end of the West Highland Line. Related: England By Steam Train On Belmond's British Pullman. On all days except Saturdays, passengers can board the Caledonian MacBrayne ("CalMac") ferry from Mallaig at 17:20 (Mondays and Thursdays), 17:40 (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), or 16:45, (Sundays) for a 30-minute journey to Armadale, a village in the Isle of Skye.

The largest of Scotland's Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye is a nature-lover's paradise and an important surviving center of the Gaelic language, culture, and heritage in twenty-first century Britain.

The island showcases the signature beauty of the region at its wildest and most magnificent: from storm-swept shorelines and flowering valleys to fog-shrouded peaks and faerie pools. Related: A Magical Itinerary For The Isle of SkyeSingular views, upscale facilities, and excellent onboard dining options collectively establish the Deerstalker as the best night train in Great Britain. Its regular route (particularly when paired with a day trip to the Isle of Skye via Mallais and the Jacobite Express), is widely considered one of the finest in the world.

Operating every night of the week except Saturday nights all year round (besides a few days in December, around Christmas), this fabulous journey through the Scottish Highlands is an experience no modern traveler to the U.K. should pass up.