When you’re tired and hungry after many miles on the road, calling into a service station can provide welcome relief.

Easy as hack

If you’re using Google Maps, once you’ve got your directions, select the ‘Search along route’ option, select rest stops and you’ll be able to check out the star ratings of service stations along the route to help you decide which one you fancy.

AT A GLANCE

1. Check out your preferred services when you plan your route

2. Some sites are particularly pet friendly if you are travelling with your dog

3. Remember to stop after two hours driving

What greets you at motorway service stations can vary hugely ‒ while some have little more than a grubby loo and a place to grab a sandwich, others offer an enormous range of places to eat, relax and take your mind off the road.

This isn’t a definitive list, as obviously it’s a matter of personal taste – for example whether you prefer a McDonald’s to a Greggs. Or a Costa over a Starbucks.
And of course, the best service station is the one that pops up on your route, just as you need to stop for a break, a cup of coffee, a trip to the loo or to fill the tank.

Check opening hours as not everything at a site is open 24 hours a day.

Try these service stations:

1. Cobham

Location: M25 J9/10
Operator: Extra
Services include: EV charging, Free WiFi, shower facilities, pet-friendly outside area

With three hours free parking you’ll easily have time to sit down to eat, rather than just grab and go, if you want to. You can choose between chains like Leon, Nandos, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Express and less familiar brands serving Chinese and Mexican food [1].

Faster food options include Starbucks, Costa, Greggs, M&S and the Cornwall Pasty Co and Krispy Kreme.

There’s a children’s play area outside to help placate bored kids. Lots of parking spaces, but this does mean some are further from the front door.

2. Cherwell Valley

Location: M40 J10
Operator: Moto
Services include: EV charging, WiFi, showers, washing machine, dog walking area

It’s another pitstop with a wide choice of food outlets, with drivers able to choose from a range of different restaurants, including Burger King, KFC, Greggs and Pret.

There are play areas both outside and inside so children can have some fun or distraction whatever the weather.

There’s a Travelodge if you need to stay overnight.

Parking is free up to two hours [2].

3. South Mimms

Location: M25 J23 [3]
Operator: Welcome Break
Services include: EV charging, showers, pet-friendly outdoor areas, cash machines

Drivers can choose between food outlets that include the likes of Pizza Express, KFC, Burger King and the Good Breakfast. Pret, Subway and Waitrose provide alternative options.

If you’re really in a hurry, there’s a Starbucks Drive-Thru as well as a sit-in branch.

If you need a bit of distraction from the road you can try the Game Zone or play the free piano put there in partnership with charity, Electric Umbrella.

It also had the best-rated toilets on the M25, in the Transport Focus Motorway Services User Survey in 2023.

There’s two hours free parking. A Ramada hotel is available for travellers needing to sleep [4].

4. Chester

Location: M56 J14
Operator: Roadchef
Services include: EV charging, WiFi, McDonalds order ahead

More familiar brands like McDonalds and Leon are complemented by Chozen Noodles [5] offering sushi as well as noodles from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and China, and Garden Square [6] offering New York deli-style sandwiches.

You can also pick up a few last-minute things in the Spar [7] shop which also has an in-house bakery.

There’s a Costa Drive Thru if you don’t want to stop for long. Likewise you can order your McDonalds in advance and just collect it.

There’s two hours free parking. The onsite hotel is Super 8 by Wyndham with EV chargers that allow overnight charging [8].

5. Corley

Location: M6 J3/3a [9]
Operator: Welcome Break
Services include: EV charging, WiFi, cash machine, shower, pet-friendly outdoor area.

Eateries on offer include Burger King, KFC, The Good Breakfast, and Subway. A Waitrose offers snacks and groceries and if you need a sugar rush there’s a Krispy Kreme doughnut option too.

You can enjoy two hours free parking.

Corley has a Days Inn by Wyndham hotel which is pet-friendly and 100% smoke-free [10].

6. Tebay Services

Location: M6 between J38 and J39 [11]
Operator: Westmorland Family
Services include: Showers, a shop where you can get cashback, WiFi, EV charging to launch in 2024 [12].

This is a bit different. John and Barbara Dunning opened Tebay Services in 1972 after the M6 motorway was built through their farm. And you can still see sheep in the fields around the service station.

Food in the Kitchen restaurant is made from scratch - using real ingredients including meat from the farm. There are self-service coffee machines in the foyer area if you want to avoid queues.

The farm shop has a butcher, a deli counter and a cheese counter selling produce from the farm and local producers.

There’s an indoor soft play areas on both sides of the motorway and an outdoor willow play tunnel on the Southbound side.

Dog walks are family-friendly traffic-free short routes offering splendid views across the Howgill Fells. There are also water bowls at the front entrance.

There’s three hours free parking.

7. Gloucester Services

Location: M5 between junc. 12 & 11a [13]
Operator: Westmorland Family
Services include: Showers, a shop where you can get cashback, WiFi, EV charging to launch in 2024 [14]

Also run by the same family that run Tebay, here you get a farm shop selling food that has been produced locally, a butchery with meat reared from the family’s farms, and a kitchen delivering meals produced using local ingredients.

Gloucester Services works with more than 130 producers within 30 miles and a further 70 from the South West region.

There’s indoor and outdoor play areas at both Northbound and Southbound. And there are dog walk routes are ideal for short family strolls with countryside views.

There’s free parking for two hours.

The Westmorland Family have now bought the Cairn Lodge services on the A74(M) in Scotland, so, if you’re driving north of the border and need a break, you can enjoy its artisan approach there, too.

8. Norton Canes

Location: M6 toll between T6 and T7 [15]
Operator: Roadchef
Services include: Free WiFi, EV charging

Norton Canes services has a 24/7 McDonald's where you can order ahead alongside a Costa Coffee, LEON, Chozen Noodles and Coco Di Mama. It has an open kitchen design, where travellers and customers can see their food being cooked. There’s also a Spar shop.

There’s outdoor seating for warmer weather and a landscaped exterior viewing points to provide customers with a greater view and an opportunity to stretch their legs. It offers two hours free parking.

9. Annandale Waters

Location: A74(M) J16
Operator: Roadchef
Services include: EV charging, pet friendly hotel

Surprisingly for services in Scotland, this carries a branch of the Cornish Bakery alongside McDonalds, Chozen Noodle, and the Breakfast Kitchen. There’s viewing platforms looking out over a lake and large glass walls providing a view in the Costa Coffee area.

There’s a Days Inn hotel for overnight stays and two hours free parking.

10. Fleet

Location: M3 between junctions 4A and 5
Operator: Welcome Break
Services include: EV charging, cash machine, WiFi, showers, pet-friendly outdoor areas.

You got lots of eating options to choose from. Fleet has a Burger King, Pizza Express, Chopstix Noodle Bar, The Good Breakfast, Subway and a Pret, not to mention Waitrose and Krispy Kreme. There’s also a Starbucks and a Starbucks Drive Thru.

Fleet has a piano for visitors to play and a Game Zone to take your mind off the road for a while.

Parking is free for two hours and there’s a Days Inn hotel.


Plan your route

When you’re off on a long journey it’s always a good idea to plan your route and think about where you might stop and take a break and fill up. Especially if you have particular preferences – as you can obviously choose to stop one services earlier or later. Then add it as a stop on your route.

The Highway Code – Rule 91 – recommends [16]:
  • Taking a minimum break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving
  • If you feel at all sleepy, stop in a safe place. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway
  • That the most effective way to counter sleepiness is to drink, for example, two cups of caffeinated coffee and to take a short nap (at least 15 minutes)

While we’ve suggested these service stations, quality can vary over time and depending how busy they are – it's best to have a couple of potential stops in mind in case one doesn’t live up to expectations or have the food you’re craving.

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Sources:

https://blog.greenflag.com/2022/motorway-services/

https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6913278/two-socts-motorway-services-top-ten-uk/

https://www.scottishdailyexpress.co.uk/news/scottish-news/scotlands-worst-best-motorway-service-28276979

https://d3cez36w5wymxj.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/04184646/Motorway-Services-User-Survey-2023-research-agency-report.pdf

https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/motorway-service-stations/article/best-and-worst-motorway-service-stations-aw3Ww9F9pEIw

[1] https://motorwayservices.uk/Cobham

[2] https://moto-way.com/services/cherwell-valley/

[3] https://www.welcomebreak.co.uk/locations/south-mimms/

[4] https://www.welcomebreak.co.uk/journey-planner/opening-times/?location=south-mimms

[5] https://www.roadchef.com/brands/chozen-noodle

[6] https://www.roadchef.com/brands/garden-square-deli

[7] https://www.roadchef.com/brands/spar

[8] https://www.roadchef.com/news/roadchef-and-gridserve-announce-electric-super-hub-in-chester

[9] https://www.welcomebreak.co.uk/locations/corley/

[10] https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/en-uk/days-inn/corley-united-kingdom/days-inn-corley-nec-m6/overview

[11] https://www.tebayservices.com/visit/

[12] https://westmorlandfamily.com/charging/

[13] https://gloucesterservices.com/

[14] https://westmorlandfamily.com/charging/

[15] https://www.roadchef.com/locations/norton-canes

[16] https://highwaycode.org.uk/rule-91/