Glasgow on the Caledonian Sleeper

Brian’s Travel Spot: Caledonian Sleeper to GlasgowNot long after returning from Thailand, in May 2018, I needed to go to Glasgow for that year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival. I’d originally planned to go for a week, but a bad back, which I’d picked up at the London Coffee Festival in April, then exacerbated while I was in Thailand, meant limiting myself to a long weekend, travelling there and back on the Caledonian Sleeper.

As a result, I just had a single day in Glasgow, the Friday before the festival. I arrived at the crack of dawn at Glasgow Central Station, having left London Euston just before midnight on Thursday evening, spending the day exploring the coffee scene south of the Clyde. Then it was off to the festival for the rest of the weekend before catching the sleeper back to London on Sunday night.

The train to/from Glasgow is covered in the Travel Spot below, while you can also read about my time at the festival, as well as the Coffee Spots I visited during my free day in Glasow.


Header Image: from London Euston to Glasgow Central Station.


Travel Spots

You can read about the trip in the following Travel Spot post.

Brian’s Travel Spot: Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow

Brian’s Travel Spot: Caledonian Sleeper to GlasgowWelcome to the latest instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot. Regular readers will know that I have something of a love affair with travelling by train, particularly sleeper trains, be it on trans-America trips, hopping between Beijing and Shanghai on China’s high-speed rail network, or taking the slow train in places like Vietnam or Thailand. However, my love affair with the sleeper train actually began in the UK with the Caledonian Sleeper, which runs between London Euston and variety of Scottish destinations.

Two weeks ago, I travelled up to Glasgow for the Glasgow Coffee Festival, a trip, which, for a variety of reasons, required me to leave on the Thursday evening before the festival and be back home by the Monday afterwards. In theory I could have done the trip on the regular train, but instead I turned to the Caledonian Sleeper, a far more romantic way to travel and, as it turned out, far more practical and just as cost effective.

So how does the UK’s premier sleeper service stack up against its American and South East Asian counterparts? Read on as I take the Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow and back!

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Glasgow Coffee Festival

You can find out what I got up to during my time in Glasgow, which was mostly visiting that year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival.

Glasgow Coffee Festival 2018

The Glasgow Coffee Festival Logo for 2018Welcome to my write-up from the fourth Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place last weekend in the Briggait, the festival’s home since its inception in 2014. Last year the festival moved from the cold, autumn months to the warmth of a Glasgow spring and was also expanded to two days. This year it retained this format, taking place over the weekend of 19th/20th May.

For the first time, I attended both days, although this is probably only recommended if you are a coffee blogger and/or serious coffee nut, since I suspect that an average (normal?) person can see everything they want in a single day. For me, however, it meant that I could take a more relaxed approach, visiting pretty much everything/everyone at the festival, although, as usual, I missed out on the competitions and all of the presentations, masterclasses and all but one of the cuppings.

I had hoped to write this up in three parts, just as I did for last year's festival, but sadly  various issues, including my bad back, and other travel commitments, have limited me to this single post. So, join me as I take a quick tour of the venue, look at one of festival’s main themes, reusable cups, and talk about how Glasgow Coffee Festival is the first coffee festival to go disposable free.

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I also managed to squeeze in a demonstration of the Decent Espresso machine.

Decent Espresso

The Decent Espresso machine, set up and ready to go at The Good Coffee Cartel in Glasgow.In October 2016, I was in Hong Kong at the start of my around the world trip. As a result of an intriguing e-mail I’d received from John, of Decent Espresso, I found myself in a multi-floored factory building in an out-of-the-way part of the New Territories. It was there that I first laid eyes on the Decent Espresso machine, a high-end home espresso machine that John and his team had under development.

What I saw was just a prototype, still on the lab bench, but I could see its potential, particularly as John explained his design philosophy. The goal was certainly ambitious: to produce performance equivalent to that of a professional espresso machine, but at a price which would be in the reach of the home enthusiast.

Perhaps most exciting of all was the use of a dedicated Android tablet, running bespoke software from Decent Espresso, to control the machine. Using the tablet, you would be able to control every aspect of the process, from pressure to water temperature, from flow-rates to shot times.

However, that was a prototype, and there was plenty of work still to be done. Would the final product live up to the promise?

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Coffee Spots

Finally, you can read about the three Coffee Spots I visited during my one free day in Glasow (listed alphabetically).

It All Started Here

A lovely Sweetshop espresso from Square Mile in a gorgeous Claire Henry Ceramics cup, served at Glasgow's It All Started Here.I first met Will, owner of It All Started Here, back in 2015 in Cardiff. We met up again at the Glasgow Coffee Festival later that year and have stayed in touch (on and off) ever since. Back then, Will combined a day job with running stalls markets/pop-ups over the weekends, serving coffee from Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters to the good people of Glasgow.

Last year he extended that principle when he opened his first coffee shop on Glasgow’s south side, It All Started Here opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, when I came up for last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, I came up on the weekend and left myself Monday for exploring, so missed out. Therefore, for this year’s festival, I made a point of going up on Thursday night on the Caledonian Sleeper and heading over to It All Started Here on Friday.

It All Started Here is a multi-roaster, with a different roaster from around the UK on espresso and batch-brew every week. There’s also a brunch menu and a lovely selection of cakes. Even better, starting this week, It All Started here is now open six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday.

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Short Long Black

The modest front of Short Long Black on Glasgow's Victoria Road, with a large, square window to the left and glass door to the right.Short Long Black is a new addition to Glasgow’s growing south-side coffee scene, having opened at the start of April this year. I first met the owner (and head barista and chief dishwasher) Darryl when he was awarded the 2017 Barista Bursary from Beyond The Bean. Back then he was working for Dear Green Coffee, but after taking a year out, he decided to open his own place, settling on a spot on Victoria Road, just north of Queen’s Park.

The shop itself is a relatively modest affair, but beautifully fitted-out, Darryl doing all the work himself in the two months before opening. There’s a small amount of seating at the front and more at the back, or you can grab one of the two stools outside on the pavement. Darryl sources the coffee himself, which is roasted on his behalf by local roasters, Thomson’s and served on espresso or batch-brew filter from a commendably-concise menu. This is joined by cakes and (from 11 o’clock) by toasted sandwiches, supplemented by a concise but tasty brunch menu at the weekends. Sadly I was there on a Friday and otherwise occupied at the weekend (at the Glasgow Coffee Festival).

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The Good Coffee Cartel

My espresso and batch-brew, both served in ceramic cups, handmade on-site at The Good Coffee Cartel, with a tin of the Costa Rican single-origin beans behind .Set up by Todd and Courtney, who worked together at the now defunct Avenue Coffee Roasting Co, I first learnt about The Good Coffee Cartel at last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017, when I ran into Todd, who told me about plans for a new roastery and coffee shop.  Naturally, on my return to Glasgow for this year’s festival, I made a beeline for the new space on Glasgow’s south side.

The Good Coffee Cartel is a curious mixture: quirky coffee shop, roastery, ceramics workshop: it’s all these and more. The roastery is very clearly the backbone of the business, the vintage 15kg Probat sitting in the corner at the back. However, it’s also a spacious coffee shop, with a soon to be added back garden, somewhere you can sit all day and enjoy whatever excellent coffee Todd and Courtney have on that day, with different options on espresso and batch-brew, all served in cups that have been handmade on site. Even better is the pricing structure: all the coffee is £2, all the cakes are £2 and if you really want to push the boat out, you can have an espresso, espresso with milk and batch brew for £5.

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