Service stationsHoliday Which?'s best and worst service stations

07 March 2006

Dirty and broken toilets, drab surroundings and food that tastes like cardboard - just some of the delights that await drivers at Britain's motorway service stations.

Holiday Which? inspectors found standards varied widely when they visited 57 of Britain's 83 motorway service stations along major holiday routes. Their report is published today.

Worst service station

The award for worst station goes to Cullompton, operated by Extra, on the M5 near Exeter. It was 'little more than a McDonalds next to a petrol station', said Holiday Which?. The toilets were for the desperate - they featured missing seats, broken locks and wet floors.

Also named and shamed are:

  • Bothwell (Road Chef, M74 east of Glasgow): 'dreary and cluttered'
  • Trowell (Moto, M1 near Nottingham): 'dull, uninspiring, noisy, gloomy'
  • Magor (First, M4 near Newport): 'a truly miserable experience'

Magor featured a notice commanding visitors not to eat food they'd brought with them as the company had expensive overheads didn't believe in offering facilities to visitors who didn't buy anything.

Best service station

Holiday Which? said that the best service station it saw was Tebay (Westmorland, M6 at Cumbria). Independently run, Tebay is 'an attractive wooden building with terrific, far-reaching Cumbrian views', with 'a decent restaurant' and a local produce shop which was 'as close as the motorway network comes to Harrods' Food Hall'.

Also recommended are:

  • Gordano (Welcome Break, M5 near Bristol): the highest-rated chain service station with 'downright stylish' toilets
  • Stafford Northbound (Moto, M6 Stafford): 'spotless throughout', with 'superb outdoor facilities'
  • Hopwood Park (Welcome Break, M42 south of Birmingham): 'helpful staff, a good variety of food in the main restaurant, and a smart cafe'.

The quality of food at the service stations varied greatly. At Gordano, the chicken tikka masala was 'as good as a local curry house', whereas at Magor, dinner was 'chilli con cardboard'.

As an average meal cost about GBP 7, feeding a family at a service station can be expensive, and Holiday Which? said the food at many of the station eateries should have been much better than it was. The visits were made in August last year.

Lorna Cowan, Holiday Which? Editor, said: 'There's no reason why all service stations shouldn't be able to match the standards set by the best, so that people can know what to expect when they see a great big sign directing them off the motorway.'