A to B

life

We subscribe to a fantastic magazine called A to B. It's lovingly produced by David and Jane Henshaw in Somerset, aided and abetted by young Alexander (who is apparently an enthusiastic magazine packer), and covers alternative modes of transport. There are articles on the increasingly arcane art of combining train travel with cycling, folding bikes, trailers and electric bikes: everything you need to know to avoid relying on cars as your primary means of transport. Despite the fact that it is more or less home-produced, it's a very professional affair, with good writing, detailed reviews of bikes and accessories and lots of useful information1.

The current issue has a great article about the Caledonian Sleeper train — a subject close to my heart. I've used the Sleeper twice, both times travelling with my bike from London to Glasgow, and then getting the train to Oban to make the ferry journey to the Isle of Mull. On the first trip, I travelled on my own, returning a year later with my new boyfriend — now my husband. Even if it wasn't the cheapest and most convenient way to get a bike to the north of Scotland, I would still go by Sleeper because it feels so special. The train leaves London around midnight, and it feels odd to be pulling out of the city in the middle of the night. The cabins are pretty tiny, but comfortable, and as you have a drink in the bar before you turn in, you can't help feeling that you've just stepped into an Agatha Christie novel. It's pleasantly old-fashioned.

I found the movement of the train quite soothing, though I was woken up both times by a jolt as the train separated in the early hours of the morning. You wake to the Steward bringing you your morning coffee — sadly, in a plastic cup rather than bone china, but then it isn't the Orient Express, however much it feels like it. When you get off the train in Glasgow at 8 am, you really feel like you've travelled, and it seems almost magical that you can have covered all that distance and not known about it. You fall asleep outside London and wake in Glasgow, just in time for an epic Glaswegian fried breakfast.

I can also heartily recommend the train from Glasgow to Oban. It must be one of the country's most spectacular rail routes, weaving through the Highlands, into Glens and past Lochs and mountains. If you combine it with the Sleeper, you get gorgeous early morning light on the outward leg, and a stunning sunset on the return (if you're lucky with the weather, of course). I spent most of the time with my face pressed up against the glass, my jaw open and a bit of a lump in my throat with the beauty of it all.

1 I should say that I don't have anything to do with the magazine, other than being a happy subscriber.

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