For most people, taking a rest break on a long drive means waiting until you reach the next motorway service station. 

They’re fine if you need a loo break, some caffeine and a quick stretch of the legs. But they're not the most exciting places and don’t always provide the best scenery the local area has to offer.

Make the most of your next cross-country trip by visiting one of these alternative rest stops. 

Book a visit to a National Trust site

If you’re after a longer pitstop and want to swap the motorway for some fresh air, nature and perhaps a bit of history, then National Trust estates are often a good option.

They’re usually very family-friendly and have large grounds that are perfect for small kids, who may need to burn some energy.

Visit the National Trust website before you set off as their locations require advance booking, or some facilities may be temporarily closed.

There are many within close proximity to major roads, such as Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, which is a couple of minutes from exit 29 on the M1, or Tredegar House, in Newport, which is just off the M4, exit 28. Before you head off, check if there are any National Trust venues close to your route for a more relaxing stop-off.

Gloucester Services, M5

Despite the name, Gloucester Services is far from your average service station. In fact, you’re likely to find both hungry locals and resting drivers in its smart, spacious dining area, farm shop and butchery. 

You can even sit outside, alongside a pond, with the nearby motorway hidden away out of view.

The family business behind Gloucester Services, which is located on the M5 between junctions 12 & 11a, also runs Tebay Services between junctions 38 and 39 on the M6.

Rhug Drive Thru, A5

Farm shops often make good alternatives to service stations. But Rhug Estate near Corwen, in Denbighshire, has gone a step further and opened a farm shop drive-thru which, claims to be the first of its kind.

It’s located just off the busy A5 road in North Wales, 20 minutes from the edge of Snowdonia National Park. 

Once there, you’ll find hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, paninis, sausage rolls and more. 

If you have a little more time to explore what Rhug has to offer, its other offerings include a bistro and a more traditional farm shop. 

The Milk Shed, M40

If you’re on the M40 and fancy some home-cooked food, then take a quick detour to the Milk Shed cafe, which is less than 5 minutes from Junction 9. 

Based on a farm, you’ll find it lively and welcoming, with a seasonal breakfast and lunch menu which includes homemade tarts, bacon sarnies, salads and pancakes. You can finish off your meal with some home-made ice cream.

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Strawberry Fields Farm Shop and Restaurant, A30

If you’re heading to Devon or Cornwall for a holiday, then consider stopping at Strawberry Fields instead of the usual service stations. 

As well as a 200-seater barn style restaurant, it has a butchery selling its own meat and a bakery. Visitors praise this family-run operation for its friendly atmosphere.

Strawberry Fields is located only half a mile from the A30.

Lee Valley Park, M25

The Lee Valley Park stretches for 26 miles along the banks of the River Lee and makes a welcome break from a busy trip around the M25.  

You can reach part of the park by leaving the M25 at Junction 26.

Burwash Manor, M11

Would you rather spend your break from driving doing a little retail therapy? 

If you're on the M11 near Cambridge, head off at junction 12 and after a couple of minutes you’ll find Burwash Manor. Two courtyards of converted farm buildings house several independent shops, which claim to be an antidote to the crush of the high street.

The site is also home to a children’s play area and Flock Cafe, which serves local coffee alongside brunches, light lunches, homemade scones and cakes.

There’s more to choose from

When driving long distances, it’s essential to have regular breaks. If you’re feeling inspired to  stop somewhere a little different the next time you travel, then you can get more ideas from the Extra Mile, which is a guide dedicated to alternative motorway stops. 

If traditional service stations aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to take a break from the road.

Go to Solved to read more about driving, the rules of the road and road safety.