We discovered a significant quality gap between the best and worst highway services in the UK, which is why it is important to pre-arrange where you will stop before you travel.
While no one visits highway service stations for fun — with the potential exception of the three outstanding ones run by Westmorland — it is definitely worth organising your stop in advance, even if simply to use the bathrooms before getting a cup of tea and a sandwich on the way out. Otherwise, as our survey suggests, you risk running into dirty facilities, lousy food and poor social distancing. And potentially all for nothing, as you often simply need to drive on a few miles to discover a better service station.
On the M1, for example, Donington (junctions 23A-24, 60 percent ) is far superior to Trowell (junctions 25-26, 46 percent ), as is Cairn Lodge (junctions 11-12, 69 percent ) to Abington (junction 13, 49 percent ) on the M74, and Tebay (junctions 38-39, 83 percent ) to Killington Lake (junctions 36-37, 52 percent ) on the M6. Use our table below to plan where you should and shouldn’t stop on your next vehicle excursion. Based on the experiences of thousands of members, we’ve ranked over 70 service stations in a range of factors, including the choice and quality of shops and food outlets, costs, convenience, cleanliness and ease of maintaining social distancing.
Best service station: Gloucester Services
Position: between junctions 11A and 12 on the Motorway 5
Known as the Westmorland brand.
Customer score: 86 percent
To call the location on the M5 that can be found between junctions 11A and 12 a service station would be doing it an injustice. In contrast to the drab structures that are typically found along highways, the Gloucester Services building exudes an air of sophistication. It features a grass-covered roof and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over a pond in front of the building. You are able to have delicious home-cooked meals like fish and chips and steak and ale pie while taking in the breathtaking scenery. You may also purchase regional foods at the “wonderful” farm shop, such as “bread to rival any baker” and regional cheeses like Hereford Hop. Other regional foods are also available. It is not surprising that tourists have referred to it as a “important component of a trip to Gloucestershire.”
Conclusion: This gas station is the benchmark for all others.
Tebay Services offers the best services along the M6.
Position: between junctions 38 and 39 on the M6
Known as the Westmorland brand.
Customer score: 83 percent
If you are travelling north on the M6, you should resist the temptation to stop at the subpar services at Killington Lake (52 percent), despite the picturesque setting next to the lake. Tebay Services, which is operated by the same business as Gloucester, can be found just a little over a mile and a half further up the road, tucked away on a working farm in the Cumbrian hills. And in contrast to Killington, the services genuinely live up to the beauty of their surroundings. You won’t have any trouble finding a parking spot, the place is spotless and roomy, and they serve cuisine that has been just prepared. If you are looking for a “genuine knife-and-fork supper,” Herdwick lamb and homemade Cumberland sausages are likely to be on the menu. The farm shop sells “beautiful” Penrith fudge and a wide variety of other locally produced goods.
Conclusion: This is a first-rate rest station that is run by a family.
Bridgwater has some of the worst services along the highway.
Location: M5, junctions 24
Customer score: 32 percent
Do not get off at the Bridgwater exit. Even if you really need to use the restroom right now. Not only is it terrible, but by the time you have exited the motorway, navigated two roundabouts, found a space in the cramped split-level car park, and dealt with the confusing layout and crowds inside, you might as well have driven the additional 12 miles to either the Sedgemoor (52 percent) or Taunton Dean (57 percent) services instead of going to this one. You’ll wish you had. Recent visitors have described Bridgwater as “filthy,” “depressing,” and “unsafe,” and others have complained of a urine stench and toilet paper that is thrown all over the floor. Bridgwater received one star in every category of our assessment, including ease of social distancing and cleanliness. Another person simply stated that it “need to be torn down.”
The jury has deliberated, and they’ve decided that Bridgwater is the worst.