Letting the train take the strain.
This is the pre-chally Thursday routine. Up far too early, drive to Alan's place, take a ludicrously expensive taxi to the airport, and then suffer the mounting anxiety as the rucksack with all my worldly goods for the next two weeks is swallowed by the baggage handlers' dark satanic mechanism. Herded like cattle onto the plane by tired and fedup cabin staff. Then maybe, just maybe, we take off on time and arrive at the correct destination. We once ended up at Lossiemouth on a flight to Inverness owing to fog. For 'security reasons' we then had to wait sweating on an airless plane until a few scruffy coaches came to collect us. The cabin crew, who had already done Geneva and Paris wilted too. Easyjet? Queasyjet I'd say.
Then all this stress is followed by the mad rush to try to buy gas or meths ( forbidden on aircraft) and still be in time for the train or bus to our final destination. No wonder we're driven to drink by the time we stagger in.
This is meant to be a fun holiday. There has to be a better way...
On average the trip from home in East Anglia to the chosen start point has worked out to around £85 each in the past, taking into account the air fare, taxi, and ancillary buses and trains etc. Can we have a more relaxed time for the same price?
Given a little forward planning, yes indeed!
In times gone by we used to nip up to Scotland using the sleeper service to Rannoch, Corrour, Blair Atholl or Kingussie on cheap Apex fares, but as these became scarcer than hens' teeth, this habit died away in recent years. Time for a little reappraisal we thought - and we guessed that a midweek train near midnight would be more likely to have a bargain fare or two. The FirstScotrail website was monitored closely.
And we came up trumps! The three fenboys have secured two bargain berths and one Apex fare on the Caledonian sleeper from London Euston to Glasgow central - AND pre booked seats on the little rattly train to Lochailort all for total cost per head of £78.24 (plus a cheapo ticket down to London).The cheapest sleeper ticket was £49.00. Not bad for a 400 mile trip that includes bed & breakfast (if a cup of tea & a muffin counts as breakfast).
So for once we'll be able to stay in bed long after our compatriots have set off, and have loads of time when we arrive to amble across the platform to take a leisurely shave & shower before setting out to see a bit more of Glasgow than the run from Tiso's to Queen Street.
After a few years of despairing of getting affordable fares on the Caledonian Sleeper, it seems that the right route at the right time can still produce the odd bargain.
Fellow challengers will easily recognise us at Queen Street. We'll be the relaxed, clean shaven, fragrant chaps at the bar, casting a sardonic eye over frazzled latecomers. Ah ... sweet schadenfreude...
So to all challengers, old & new, have a great time, and I'll see you for a dram or several in Montrose!