Taking the sleeper train to Cornwall for a mini adventure!

When I think of sleeper trains I tend to think of something out of an Agatha Christie novel, where you need to ‘dress for dinner’.  Something that is all wood panelling, brandy and cigars!  Well, I can’t say that the Great Western Railway Night Riviera was much like that (despite the cool name!), but it was certainly more of an adventure than I expected.

My friend and I decided we wanted to go on a mini adventure. We had flown to Majorca last time for a long weekend, but taking into account all of the travel time, we didn’t actually end up with as much time there to relax and explore as we would have liked.

So, this time we decided to stay ‘local’!  We both enjoy train trips (and no we are not train spotters!) so after a bit of research, my friend came across a sleeper train called the Night Riviera, which takes you from London to Penzance, leaving London just before midnight and arriving in Cornwall in the early hours the next day.  Perfect mini adventure material!!  


Before you board the train at Paddington, you are allowed to raid….sorry, frequent… the first class lounge at the station before you board, which means, free wine, water, juice and snacks…..! Happy days!

Then it’s onto the train to get settled into your cabin – it was a bit Agatha Christie like…but without the evening gowns, cigars and brandy and of course the murder!!  You are shown to your cabin, which in our case was one of the old style ones – they have been rolling out new cabins and we thought might get one! All good though, it was clean, comfortable and surprisingly roomy. There was enough room for both of us to faff and move around (a little bit!).  Then it was off to the lounge car for a night cap!

The bottom bunk in the old style cabin

We didn’t take part in any brandy drinking, it was peppermint tea for the both of us, but it was all quite a novel experience. The lounge car was fairly full of other travelers who were in good spirits and we had fun chatting and swapping stories with them for a while.

My friend demonstrating the narrowness of the corridors!

But time was ticking on so we ended up taking our drinks back to the cabin to drink them there.  It was good fun and great when the holiday can start with the actual travel to a destination.  It was quite late by this point, so it was time to get ready for bed and see if we could actually sleep!

I’ve done a few sleeper train journeys in the past in different parts of the world, but it had been many years since the last one so I was a bit apprehensive – would I sleep, would I feel travel sick?!!  Well, no to both of those questions! The beds were incredibly comfortable, with lovely fluffy duvets (yes, duvets!) but I didn’t get much sleep at all on the way down there, although this was me rather than the train I think!  

In the morning you are served a light breakfast about an hour or so before arrival (6.30 am in this case!) and are asked when you board what you would like.  We had a bacon roll and cornflakes respectively, along with tea and coffee.  The train is still moving at this point, so it can be a challenge to eat a bowl of cornflakes at that time of the morning, in bed on a wobbly train!  Still, it’s a nice touch and a good way to ease you into the day. After getting up and trying to have a bit of a wash (there are no showers on the train, but there are toilets at both ends of each carriage and a sink in each cabin), the train pulled into Penzance at about 7.30am. We were kicked off quick smart, so it’s best to be ready to go as soon as!  We were very lucky with the weather and pulled into Penzance with the sun rising and the temperature already climbing.  

A little box of complimentary goodies

The return journey left Penzance a bit earlier as it was a Sunday.  It left at about 9.15pm (and arrived into Paddington at about 5am, but you can stay on the train until 7am), which suited me and meant we had time to sit and relax for a bit in the lounge car and that we were able to retire at a reasonable time (yes I am old!) in order to get enough sleep….and I did sleep on the way back hurrah hurrah!

However… we had a new cabin on the way back which are being rolled out this year.  We were quite excited about this and yes, whilst it was lovely and shiny and new, it just didn’t live up to the old cabin for comfort and space. 

New style cabin on the refurbished train

The biggest issue was the bottom bunk which is narrower and tapers at one end, the mattresses were no way near as comfortable, there didn’t seem to be tray tables for your breakfast (although having looked at some other pictures of these cabins, it seems there may be, but we just didn’t find them!) and I couldn’t sit up on the lower bunk to eat my breakfast like I could in the older cabin.  It’s a real shame, they seem to have sacrificed the comfort and space for….well I’m not even sure what for really!  But if we hadn’t experienced the old cabin we wouldn’t have known any better and it was definitely a little adventure and made the travel to and from Cornwall good fun!  

Would I do that journey again?  Maybe, but if I could afford it, it would be good to have interconnecting cabins if there are two of you travelling, just for a bit more space and comfort.

I did enjoy the novelty of it and am already looking into other train journeys to do – there is one to Scotland which might be next on the list….. Exploring my backyard is not something I’ve done a lot of and I need to sort that out!

*Apologies for the poor quality of some of these photos – I didn’t take many and unfortunately they didn’t come out too well either!

For more adventures of Cornwall please see St Ives – Sun, Sea and Gluten Free Scones


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