TV presenter Prue Leith has blasted the state-owned Caledonian Sleeper service as “laughable” – claiming their beds are too small and branding the dining car “soulless”.

The Great British Bake Off star said the Scottish Government had stripped the overnight service of its “comfort, romance, heart and soul”, in a lengthy takedown of the railway company in the Daily Telegraph.

Leith, 83, said it was “too painful” to climb to the top bunk in her bare feet and that she fell while climbing down in the middle of the night.

She also said that her husband, who had recently undergone knee surgery, had to sleep on the floor for the journey - which had cost the couple £800 for their return trip from London to Edinburgh.

“We thought we’d booked a double bed, but were told on arrival by a less than charming receptionist/gauleiter that ‘double’ meant two narrow bunks, one on top of the other,” she wrote.

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“My husband had just had a knee operation, so there was no question of him getting up there. I’m no spring chicken, but fairly fit.

“Unfortunately, access was by a fixed vertical ladder with narrow ridged-metal treads, too painful to scale in bare feet.

“The top bunk has flappy sides to prevent you falling out, but they also make getting in, at least for me, near impossible, and the bunk is so near the roof, you have to crawl into it.

“There is no shelf for book, specs, etc, only a place for a water bottle and phone-charger. The duvet is huge and heavy, and there is nowhere to put it if you don’t want it.

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“Our night was a disaster: needing to get up in the night, and wearing shoes to protect my feet, I slipped off the ladder and fell, fortunately caught by husband John.

“We tried sleeping two in a bunk, like teenagers (hopeless), and John ended up sleeping on the floor.”

'Laughable and wet toilets' 

Leith went on to blast the design of the toilets as “laughable”, saying they are too small and that the entire room became “sopping wet” when she went for a shower.

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She wrote: “We’d been pleased, of course, to hear that each cabin had its own loo and shower.

“But the design is laughable. The towels are stored in a drawstring bag hanging in the corner of the loo/shower, which makes opening and closing the door a struggle.

“The reason they are in a bag, and not on a shelf or rail, is presumably because you need to remove them from the room to stop them getting wet if you want a shower.

“This is because the shower is directly over the loo, which has a heavy hinged shelf that drops down over it. You sit on this to take the shower. I can’t believe anyone ever does.

“It means getting the whole place sopping wet, including the floor.”

'Scottish food culture, blah blah, blah' 

Leith, a former restauranteur, also took aim at the catering on board, claiming the food appeared to have been “reheated in a microwave” and warning against the complementary breakfast.

She wrote: “We booked, for £800, a double cabin on the Caledonian Sleeper, London Euston to Edinburgh, return. Not easy. The website is a nightmare.

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“The menus, which I looked up online, talk about the company’s passion for Scottish food culture, blah blah blah.

“But the illustrations on the “club” menu, which look delicious, bear no relation to any of the items on offer. And the actual food on the plate, or in its plastic tub, bears no relation to the description.

“I suspect it is all made in advance and reheated in a microwave. We ate in a soulless dining car, bereft of linen, silver, nice lighting, friendly staff – all that makes dining out a treat.

“Breakfast is included, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

It is understood that food in the club car dining area is not served in plastic or paper dishes and that Leith or her husband may have ordered granola, which does come in a pot. 

She concluded: “ScotRail (which is owned by the Scottish government) must have spent a fortune taking the comfort, romance, heart and soul out of the old Caledonian Sleeper."

ScotRail, also state-owned, does not control the Caledonian Sleeper service, which was taken into public ownership in June.

The Scottish Government owns both companies through Scottish Rail Holdings.

Kathryn Darbandi, managing director of Caledonian Sleeper said: “We are very happy to receive feedback from all of our guests.

"We strive to offer our guests a restful and enjoyable travel experience and we carry thousands of happy guests every week.

"The booking facility on our website has recently been updated, the launch of which took place early June 2023.

"However, from our point of view the current, and previous, booking facility are very clear on the makeup of each room type.

"In this case we delivered the room type that the guests had booked.

"We are sorry Prue and John had a bad experience on this occasion, but we’d welcome them both back any time.”