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30 March 2021

Best and worst motorway service stations

We've found a gulf in quality between the best and worst motorway services in the UK, so it pays to plan your stop in advance
W
WhichEditorial team

While no one visits motorway service stations for fun — with the possible exception of the three brilliant ones run by Westmorland — it is well worth planning your stop in advance, even if only to use the toilets before grabbing a cup of tea and a sandwich on the way out.

Otherwise, as our survey reveals, you risk running into dirty facilities, bad food and poor social distancing. And possibly all for nothing, as you often only need to drive on a few miles to find a better service station. On the M1, for example, Donington (junctions 23A-24, 60%) is far superior to Trowell (junctions 25-26, 46%), as is Cairn Lodge (junctions 11-12, 69%) to Abington (junction 13, 49%) on the M74, and Tebay (junctions 38-39, 83%) to Killington Lake (junctions 36-37, 52%) on the M6.

Use our table below to plan where you should and shouldn't stop on your next car journey. Based on the experiences of thousands of Which? members, we've rated nearly 70 service stations in a range of categories, including the range and quality of shops and food outlets, prices, convenience, cleanliness and ease of maintaining social distancing.

For more impartial reviews, as well as exclusive investigations and expert advice, subscribe to Which? Travel.

Motorway services rated

A quick glance at our table below is all you'll need to see which motorway service company is head and shoulders above the rest. Westmorland is responsible for the three best service stations in the UK, with all three eschewing fast-food outlets and high-street coffee chains in favour of home-cooked food and farm shops selling local produce.

Motorway service station Brand Motorway Junction Range & quality of shops/food outlets Prices Cleanliness Convenience & accessibility Ease of social distancing Customer score
Gloucester (321) Westmorland M5 11A-12
86%
Tebay (210) Westmorland M6 38-39
83%
Cairn Lodge (31) Westmorland M74 11-12  -   -   -  -  - 69%
Norton Canes (84) Roadchef M6(toll) 6-7
65%
Wetherby (121) Moto A1(M) 46
61%
Annandale Water (43) Roadchef A74(M) 16
60%
Donington (55) Moto M1 23A-24
60%
Stafford North (56) Moto M6 14-15 (N)
60%
Beaconsfield (103) Extra M40 2
57%
Leigh Delamere (123) Moto M4 17-18
57%
Taunton Deane (101) Roadchef M5 25-26
57%
Warwick (120) Welcome Break M40 12-13
57%
Cherwell Valley (101) Moto M40 10
56%
Winchester (84) Moto M3 8-9
56%
Gretna (46) Welcome Break A74(M) 21-22
55%
Oxford (100) Welcome Break M40 8A
55%
Tibshelf (73) Roachef M1 28-29
55%
Corley (55) Welcome Break M6 3-3A
54%
Hopwood Park (60) Welcome Break M42 2
54%
Tamworth (38) Moto M42 10
 - 
54%
Telford (37) Welcome Break M54 4
54%
Woodall (47) Welcome Break M1 30-31
54%
Baldock (37) Extra A1(M) 10
 - 
 - 53%
Northampton (58) Roadchef M1 15A
53%
Peterborough (70) Extra A1(M) 10
53%
Stafford South (37) Roadchef M6 15-14 (S)  -  - 
53%
Cobham (114) Extra M25 9-10
52%
Killington Lake (47) Roadchef M6 36-37
52%
Reading (90) Moto M4 11-12
52%
Sedgemoor North (57) Welcome Break M5 21-22 (N)
52%
Sedgemoor South (76) Roadchef M5 22-21 (S)
52%
Burton-in-Kendal (37) Moto M6 35-36  -   - 
 - 51%
Chester (34) Roadchef M56 14  -   - 
 - 51%
Clacket Lane (99) Roadchef M25 5-6
51%
Fleet (162) Welcome Break M3 4A-5
51%
Hartshead Moor (38) Welcome Break M62 25-26  -   - 
51%
Michaelwood (77) Welcome Break M5 13-14
51%
Strensham (76) Roadchef M5 7-8
51%
Pease Pottage (38) Moto M23 11
 - 
50%
Rownhams (70) Roadchef M27 3-4
50%
Abington (35) Welcome Break M74 13  -   -
49%
Chieveley (75) Moto M4 13
49%
Exeter (82) Moto M5 30
49%
Birch (32) Moto M62 18-19  -   -   - 
 - 48%
Frankley (62) Moto M5 3-4
48%
Knutsford (58) Moto M6 18-19
48%
Membury (109) Welcome Break M4 14-15
48%
Toddington (67) Moto M1 11-12
48%
Blyth (53) Moto A1(M) 34
47%
Magor (42) Roadchef M4 23A
47%
Southwaite (49) Moto M6 41-42
47%
Charnock Richard (68) Welcome Break M6 27-28
46%
Lancaster (59) Moto M6 32-33
46%
Leicester Forest East (78) Welcome Break M1 21-21A
46%
Scotch Corner (53) Moto A1(M) 53
46%
South Mimms (74) Welcome Break M25* 23
46%
Trowell (66) Moto M1 25-26
46%
Woolley Edge (35) Moto M1 25-26
 - 
 - 46%
Birchanger Green (59) Welcome Break M11 8
45%
London Gateway (31) Welcome Break M1 2-4  -   -   -
 - 45%
Maidstone (30) Roadchef M20 8  -   -   -  -  - 45%
Watford Gap (83) Roadchef M1 16-17
43%
Hilton Park (55) Moto M6 10A-11
42%
Keele (55) Welcome Break M6 15-16
42%
Sandbach (49) Roadchef M6 16-17
42%
Newport Pagnell (60) Welcome Break M1 14-15
41%
Gordano (64) Welcome Break M5 19
40%
Bridgwater (55) Moto M5 24
32%

*Also accessible from A1(M), J1. M1, M2 and M3 refer to motorways in England, not Northern Ireland. (N) = Northbound; (S) = Southbound. In November and December 2020, we surveyed 2,719 Which? Connect members about 6,532 motorway service station visits. We asked about survey stations across the UK, but can only rate those that received at least 30 responses. 

USING THE TABLE Star ratings from one to five. Sample sizes shown in brackets. A dash (-) means sample size too small to give a star rating. Range of facilities Covers toilets, baby changing, showers etc. Convenience and accessibility Covers ease of parking, quality of signposting, disabled access, walking distances, queues, etc. Customer score Combines overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending.

Best service station: Gloucester Services

  • Location: M5, between junctions 11A-12
  • Brand: Westmorland
  • Customer score: 86%

It’s a disservice to describe the stop between junctions 11A and 12 on the M5 as a service station. Unlike the dreary buildings often found on motorways, Gloucester Services has a designer feel, with a roof carpeted in grass and the splash of a pond out the front of its floor-to-ceiling windows. 

You can enjoy the view while tucking into homecooked meals such as fish and chips and steak and ale pie. You can also buy local produce from the ‘fabulous’ farm shop, including ‘bread to rival any baker’ and regional cheeses, such as Hereford Hop. No wonder visitors called it an ‘essential part of a journey through Gloucestershire.'

Verdict: The gold standard of service stations.

Best M6 services: Tebay Services

  • Location: M6, between junctions 38-39
  • Brand: Westmorland
  • Customer score: 83%

Despite the lovely lakeside location, don't be tempted to stop at the mediocre services at Killington Lake (52%) if you're driving north on the M6. Just 12 miles up the road, you’ll find Tebay Services (run by the same company as Gloucester) nestled on a working farm in the Cumbrian hills. And, unlike Killington, the services actually do justice to their setting. 

Parking’s easy, it’s impeccably clean and spacious and there’s freshly prepared food on offer. If you’re after a ‘real knife-and fork meal’, Herdwick lamb and homemade Cumberland sausages are likely to be on the menu, while ‘gorgeous’ Penrith fudge and an array of other local produce can be bought from the farm shop.

Verdict: First-rate, family run rest stop.

Worst motorway services: Bridgwater

  • Location: M5, junctions 24
  • Brand: Moto
  • Customer score: 32%

Don’t stop at Bridgwater. Even if you’re desperate for the toilet. Not only is it terrible, but by the time you’ve left the M5, navigated two roundabouts, found a space in the cramped split-level car park and contended with the confusing layout and crowds inside, you may as well have driven the extra 12 miles to either Sedgemoor (52%) or Taunton Dean (57%) services. 

You’ll wish you had. Bridgwater earned one star in every category of our survey, including ease of social distancing and cleanliness, with recent visitors describing it as ‘dirty’, ‘depressing’ and ‘unsafe’, and others complaining of a urine smell and toilet paper strewn on the floor. Another simply said it ‘should be demolished’.

Verdict: There’s bad and then there’s Bridgwater.