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8 July 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
Which?Editorial 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.