Getting away this summer, but staying close to home? Plan a pitstop at one of these services stations – plus the ones you might want to avoid.

Listen, we’re simple people here at Carparison HQ. Give us a sunny-but-not-too-hot day, a good car (we’re currently eyeing up a Genesis GV60 lease) and a long journey and we’re quite content. Big fans of car-aoke. But the best part about hopping in your car lease and heading out on the wide-open road?

The motorway service station stop – or three. 

There is nothing we (and by we, I mostly mean me, the author of the piece) love more than exploring a new motorway service station. There’s just something about them. A coffee tastes better when it’s from a services. The snacks are way more exciting even if you can get the same selection in your local corner shop (especially when you’re stopping off somewhere like Gloucester services).

Or posh services, to give it its full and proper name. 

And if you’ve got an electric car lease, you’ll likely want to know the best places to stop off and recharge. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In fact, we wouldn’t blame you if you drove off without quite enough charge so you had an excuse to visit a service station on your way.

It’s what we’d do.

In honour of this much-loved pastime, we’ve rounded up six of our favourite motorway service stations – as well as giving you the lowdown on the top 10 best-rated and the 10 worst-rated, so you know exactly where to go and where to keep going.

Six of our favourite service stations

Gloucester Services

Gloucester Services, Gloucestershire (M5)

Ah, Gloucester Services. Posh services. That service station that looks a lot like the Tellytubby house (which is apparently called the Tubbytronic Superdrome) from the iconic children’s TV show, the Teletubbies. 

We love visiting Gloucester Services. It’s one of the best reasons to hop in your car and pootle up or down the M5, even if you do end up trapped in stop-start traffic in the busy summer holidays.

The grass-topped building is perfectly in keeping with the rolling hills of its surroundings, and houses a farm shop, a quick service café and a restaurant called the Kitchen that serves up a whole array of delectable home-cooked meals. And the sausage rolls from there? Absolutely incredible.

The farm shop is stacked with some delightful produce and fun locally sourced items as well as incredible cakes and a gelato counter. If you are also a fan of excellent packaging and slightly weird and wonderful food items, you’ll have an absolute ball exploring the shop.

It even boasts 24 of its very own ultra rapid chargers, so you can top up the battery of your EV lease in the time it takes you to snaffle a brownie and down a cuppa.

In all honesty, it’s worth stopping off at Gloucester Services just for the toilets. They are very, very nice toilets. 

Tebay Services, Cumbria (M6)

Sister service to Gloucester, you know Tebay Services is going to be worth a visit. It was the first services in the Westmorland group, and was opened by Barbara and John Dunning in 1972 after the M6 was built through their farm.

Set in Tebay’s absolutely idyllic location at the heart of the Lake District, on what used to be a remote stretch of West Morland, it’s almost worth factoring in a trip to Cumbria for Tebay Services alone. 

There’s free parking for up to three hours, and plenty of green space for you to stretch your legs and let your dog(s) have a sniff around. Much like Gloucester Services, Tebay also boasts a farm shop (complete with butchers’ counter, cheese counter, and deli counter) and a café with plenty of locally produced food and fun snacks for you to enjoy.

Tebay also features plenty of outdoor dining and picnic spots for those warmer and drier days, a duck pond and dog walking areas, and plenty of space for caravans to park up overnight.

The service station also boasts 16 ultra rapid chargers, so you can quickly get some juice back and get on your way without too much disruption to your day. Although, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to stay longer than it takes to recharge.

We’ve not been to Tebay, but if Gloucester is anything to go by, we can assume the toilets here are also well worth a visit.

Tesla Superchargers

Stafford North, Staffordshire (M6)

We love a services in a pretty surrounding – makes a nice break for the eyes to look at something that isn’t an endless and ongoing stretch of tarmac, and the back-end of all the cars heading down the same road as you.

And when it comes to a nice services in a nice surrounding, Stafford North (we can’t vouch for the south, though we’ve heard good things) ticks all the right boxes.

Stafford North is part of the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway network, and has four devices with six connectors for you to take advantage of when you stop off to recharge.

There are all the usual suspects (and even some rarer suspects) available when it comes to picking food to fill a hole or swigging a coffee to perk yourself up, including an M&S Food, Costa, Burger King, WH Smiths, Krispy Kreme, Greggs, West Cornwall Pasty Co, Cho Zen, Pret a Manger and KFC. 

Kids getting a bit restless after being cooped up for hours? Never fear – there’s both an inside and outside play area to let them run riot and burn off some of that never-ending energy.

But the best bit is the lake with the fountains. Rock up on a sunny day, pick yourself up some nice bits for an M&S tapas picnic by the lake, and watch the friendly ducks come quacking by.

Fleet, Hampshire (M3)

Handily placed near some of South England’s best tourist spots, including the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, actual Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures and Heathrow (if you’re looking to escape the country), many of us have visited Fleet in the past.

And as far as service stations go, Fleet is a good one.

There’s a footbridge connecting the south and northbound services, with the northbound side boasting a lovely wooded area that’ll make you feel like you’re deep in the New Forest and not stuck somewhere off the M3. There are plenty of picnic benches, and a hypnotic water feature nearby if you want to look at something that isn’t a car.

Fleet also houses plenty of EV charging points if you need to top your battery up before you get on your way, including eight Tesla Superchargers and two GRIDSERVE chargers with six connectors.

Fleet also has a veritable cornucopia of shops and restaurants for you to peruse, including KFC, Starbucks, Burger King, Waitrose, Pizza Express, The Good Breakfast, Subway, Chopstix, Krispy Kreme and Pret.

And if you need somewhere to rest your weary head for the evening before you head off again on the road, there’s a Days Inn at the service station with plenty of comfortable beds.

Blurry traffic at night

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire (M40)

Allegedly one of the most attractive Motorway Service Areas in Europe, Beaconsfield appears time and time again when people are asked their favourite service station.

Yes, there is a theme here.

If a services has a good amount of beautiful outside area to stretch your cramped legs and walk your precious pooch, we’re sold. And Beaconsfield does have a lovely outside area to stretch your cramped legs and walk your precious pooch.

So we’re on board.

There’s a lovely large lakeside terrace with landscaped grounds and woodland, as well as an outdoor play area to let your children (or your partner) burn off some of that cooped up energy.

When it comes to EV charging, Beaconsfield is party of the Ionity network and has six chargers available for use.

And, like all good services, there’s a plethora of places to eat, including Nandos, McDonalds, Greggs, KFC, M&S, WH Smiths, El Mexicana, Chopstix, Wetherspoon, Leon and Starbucks. We’d recommend getting some KFC chicken and McDonalds chips, and taking them out to the terrace to enjoy. It is the height of motorway services sophistication.

Cairn Lodge Services, Douglas (M74)

The third sister in the Westmorland Family line-up, Cairn Lodge Services might be the only services in the UK with a castle lodged in its backyard.

And for that reason alone it has made this list.

That, and it’s part of the same group as Gloucester and Tebay, so you know it’s going to be good. Featuring the same handmade, rustic aesthetic as its more southerly siblings, Cairn Lodge is situated outside Douglas – about an hour north of the border.

It was originally opened in the early 1990s by John and Aileen MacInnes as Scotland’s first independent service station, and relaunched by Westmorland in 2018.

With a farm shop selling local and exciting produce and café selling homemade and delicious snacks, meals and treats, Cairn Lodge is worth visiting if you’re heading up to Scotland. And once again – we’re sure it’s worth visiting just for the nice toilets. 

And, if your electric car needs a little extra oomph to get where you’re going, Cairn Lodge has six ultra rapid chargers available.

In fact, if you’ve a spare day and nothing better to do, you can drive from Gloucester to Tebay and up to Cairn North and make a day of it. Breakfast at one, lunch at the other, and finish with dinner and a view? Sold.

Family in a car putting seatbelts on

The best and worst of the motorway services

Outside of our favourite services (and those are really based on vibe alone), a survey conducted by Transport Focus towards the tail end of 2023 revealed the nations best and worst motorway services, based on conversations with 30,000 visitors across 120 stations.

Motorists ranked the facilities, toilet cleanliness and food/coffee stops to find out which service station came out on top – and the ten that you might want to avoid. 

If you’re off on a long-distance road trip this year, bookmark these service stations so you only ever find yourself stopping at the best of them. 

The 10 top rated motorway services

  • Rugby (M6)
  • Killington Lake (M6)
  • Annandale Water (A74M)
  • Wetherby (A1M)
  • Stafford South (M6)
  • Corley South (M6)
  • Chester (M56)
  • Reading East (M4)
  • Leeds Skelton (M1)
  • Ferrybridge (M62/A1)

The 10 worst rated motorway services

  • Membury East (M4)
  • Sandbach South (M6)
  • Cardiff Gate (M4)
  • Sedgemoor North (M5)
  • Lancaster South (M6)
  • Bridgwater (M5)
  • Toddington South (M1)
  • Toddington North (M1)
  • Hartshead Moor East (M62)
Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is our Content and Paid Media Specialist, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.