Try these alternative motorway pitstops if you’re trying to liven up your travels this year

As much as we love a good road trip, driving on the motorway almost inevitably means stopping to refuel or recharge at another gloomy service station.

And listen – we love a good service station. But when a service station is bad, it’s really bad. And heading off on a summer jolly can mean trekking across new grounds where you don’t know if the next services is a good ‘un, or you should cross your legs until the one after.

While many of the UK’s motorway pit stops are less than favourable, there are plenty of alternative stops including nature reserves, farm shops, grand stately homes and even castles!

If you’re prepared to take a short – but excellent and also good fun – detour from the endless stretch of tarmac that is the motorway, you’ll discover some of these remarkable substitutes to the usual British service station.

Here are twelve of our favourite alternative motorway stops!


M1 pitstops

Yorkshire Sculpture Park (M1) 

Distance: 1.3 miles from motorway
Postcode: WF4 4JX

For the art enthusiasts among us, the small detour from the M5 will be well worth the effort for a chance to explore Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

This international centre for modern and contemporary art is truly unique and – best of all – entry is completely free.

Your drive made you peckish? Indulge at the onsite restaurant and dine on freshly prepared chef’s specials, regionally sourced lunches, and plenty of (soft) drinks, while overlooking the spectacular grounds.

Look out for the work on Henry Moore on your way. It’s definitely an improvement on yet another view of the M1

Dunstable Downs (M1)

Distance: 5 miles from motorway
Postcode: LU6 2GY

Dunstable Downs, located in Bedfordshire, is a breathtaking area of natural beauty that captivates visitors with its expansive landscapes.

If you’ve been cooped up for hours in your tin box on wheels and need a whiff of fresh air, Dunstable Downs will not disappoint. And it may be time for a brand-spanking new car lease to make those journeys all the better.

Standing proudly as part of the Chiltern Hills, this area is renowned for its sweeping grasslands and panoramic views that stretch across the surrounding countryside. 

It costs £3.50 to park (though it is free for National Trust Members and Blue Badge holders), and there are toilets available for use. There’s even a café if you need a little sweet treat to get you through the next leg of your journey, and plenty of grass for a picnic if you’ve brought your own.

Child on swing

M4 pitstops

Lydiard Park, Wiltshire (M4)

Distance: 5 miles from motorway
Postcode: SN5 3PA

Sure, it’s a five-mile detour. But if you need a break from driving, it’s well worth the extra distance.

Take Junction 16 on the M4 to get to the historic estate with plenty of parking and spectacular grounds. Access to the tranquil gardens is free, though you’ll need to buy tickets if you want to take a peek inside Lydiard House itself.

Alice Armstrong, Marketing Officer at Swindon Borough Council said, ‘With 260 acres of parkland, you can stretch your legs in the fresh air and take in the stunning views of the historic landscape. Stop for refreshments in the family-friendly Forest Café, or relax in the atmospheric setting of the Coach House Tea Rooms.

‘There’s a children’s play area for the little ones, and a seasonal park parlour if you fancy a quick ice cream before you continue your journey.’

Tredegar House (M4)

Distance: 2 miles from motorway
Postcode: NP10 8YW

Near Newport, Tredegar House is a great stop-off if you’re travelling to or from Wales.

This grand mansion, now under the care of the National Trust, boasts a rich tapestry of stories dating back to the seventeenth century. For those who love soaking up nature, there’s an orchard garden, a cedar garden and an orangery.

Plus, there’s extensive parkland to explore, with lawns, woodlands and a lake.

If you need a bite to eat, there is a little café, and toilets are available right next to the car park. Your furry little friend is allowed in too, provided they’re well behaved and stay out of the lake. If your dog is anything like mine, you might want to keep them on a lead lest they go bird chasing.

Access to the site is free, but you’ll need to pay for parking (unless you’re a National Trust member).


M6 pitstops

Barton Grange Garden Centre (M6)

Distance: 1 mile from motorway
Postcode: PR3 0BT

Between Junction 32 and 33 on M6, take a two-minute detour to Barton Grange Garden Centre.

If you like garden centres like we do, you’ll love this one. Surrounded by the rolling Lancashire countryside, you’ll soon forget the chaos of the motorway and the stop-start traffic. As well as the scent of the beautiful blooming flowers, you’ll be greeted by not one, but two restaurants.

The Riverside Café serves sandwiches stuffed with delicious local ingredients, soups to warm you up on winter drives, and an array of tasty cakes and pastries. If you fancy something a little more decadent, head to the Willow Restaurant for table service and to fully decompress from your trip. 

The garden centre offers free parking, and it’s the ideal stop for anyone travelling up or down the country.

The Trentham Estate (M6)

Distance: 1.5 miles from motorway
Postcode: ST4 8JG

Take Junction 15 on the M6, and you’ll find yourself at the Trentham Estate in a few short minutes.

As well as its award-winning gardens, shopping village, garden centre and numerous restaurants, the estate’s monkey forest is home to a cracking 140 free-roaming Barbary macaques. And it’s only five minutes from the motorway. Five minutes for monkeys?

We’ll take it.

‘If you’re looking for a short stop on a long journey, then Staffordshire’s Trentham Shopping Village is the perfect alternative to a service station pit stop,’ says Amanda Dawson, Marketing and Promotions Manager. ‘Indulge in a little retail therapy, plus 17 cafes ranging from ice cream parlours to gourmet pies, and all with al fresco tables available.

‘The award-winning Trentham Gardens, part of the 725-acre estate, also provide a chance to really stretch those legs during a break. They offer everything from beautiful floral displays to stunning parkland with walks not only through the gardens or woodland, but also around the mile-long lake.’

And the gardens are dog-friendly, so your favourite little pal will have a chance to scamper around and burn off plenty of energy.


Kenyon Hall Farm (M6)

Distance: 0.8 miles from motorway
Postcode: WA3 7ED

Pick your own strawberries, raspberries, sweetcorn, pumpkins and more at Kenyon Hall Farm.

Just a stone's throw from the M6, this wholesome family farm is the ideal stop for families or anyone wishing to pick their own fresh produce while on their motorway pitstop. Simply pick up a container, pick whatever you like from the farm, and take your fruit and veg to the shop to weigh and pay.

Entrance to the farm is free, and the farm café serves dishes made from scratch, including pies, stews, cakes and scones.

James at Kenyon Hall Farm said, ‘Situated on a real working family farm just a mile from the M6 off Junction 22, we’re proud to bring together the best local and artisan produce, serve up delicious home-cooked food and offer a wholesome, fun day out for all the family.’

A visitor added, ‘What a refreshing change to an M6 service station. Pull off at Junction 22 and buy your breakfast or lunch at this wonderful farm shop and café instead.’

Brockholes Nature Reserve (M6)

Distance: 1 mile from motorway
Postcode: PR5 0AG

Just one mile from the M6, Brockholes Nature Reserve is a 250-acre expanse of woodland, grassland and marshes, perfect for a relaxing pitstop.

Owned and managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, the reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife including kingfishers, deer and dragonflies. If you’re travelling with children, Brockholes is a fantastic little detour to make.

The restaurant serves up delicious pies, sandwiches and warming Lancashire hotpot, as well as afternoon teas and roasts, so you can grab a bite before you head off again.

There’s no entry fee for the reserve, but there are parking charges.

A1 pitstops

Woolsthorpe Manor (A1)

Distance: 0.5 miles from motorway
Postcode: NG33 5PD

When you’re driving up or down the motorway, it’s easy to glide past iconic heritage sites without a second glance.

The birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton is just one mile from the A1 between Grantham and Peterborough. A two-minute detour will lead you to Woolsthorpe Manor, a beautiful home with a fascinating history.

The rural grounds are perfect for enjoying a picnic, or you can scoff a coffee and a cake at the National Trust café. There aren’t many motorway stops out there with such a unique history, and it’s well worth your time.

Alnwick Castle (A1)

Distance: 2 miles from motorway
Postcode: NE66 1NQ

One of Britain’s most iconic castles, this isn’t one for a quick stop. But if you’ve got a few hours spare on your travels and fancy making the most of the day, we’d thoroughly recommend stopping at Alnwick Castle.

With over 950 years of history to explore, there’s lots to see and do at Alnwick. The castle was even used to film a few of Hogwarts scenes in the Harry Potter franchise, so be sure to pack your wand and cloak just on the off chance.

Whether you’re after something light, or you need a bigger meal, there’s a wide variety of food to choose from to fuel your adventure. 

Entrance is £20.50 for adults and £10.80 for children aged between five and 16. Under four’s go free, concessions are £16.55, or you can get a family ticket for two adults and up to four children for £55.65.

Alnwick castle

A38 pitstops

Trago Mills (A38)

Distance: 1 mile from motorway
Postcode: TQ12 6JD (Newton Abbot) or PL14 6HY (Liskeard)

There are actually three Trago Mills retail parks across Devon and Cornwall, but two of them are easily accessible from the A38. 

If you’ve never been to one before (and we highly recommend you visit at least once in your life), Trago Mills is the kind of place you can shop for literally anything you can think of, and everything that you didn’t know you needed. It’s truly astonishing how much stuff Trago Mills sells. We love it.

But Trago isn’t just a place to shop.

Every retail park has plenty of places to eat and relax, while the Newton Abbot site has plenty of leisure activities and rides for younger ones. Fancy stretching your legs? 12 delightful show gardens offer peace and quiet.

If you’ve popped down to Cornwall on your travels, the Liskeard branch is surrounded by lovely woodlands, and there’s plenty of seating areas if you fancy a picnic.

Lanhydrock (A38)

Distance: 1 mile from motorway
Postcode: PL30 4AB

There really is something special about a National Trust estate, and the Lanhydrock country house is a solid one.

It’s a magnificent late Victorian country house with lovely gardens, a wooded estate and stunning views. There’s almost 1,000 acres of parkland and woodland to explore, and a few cycle trails – perfect if you’re off on an adventure holiday and have your bikes with you.

There’s a café situated next to the car park for a quick lunch, cup of coffee or delicious pastry. There’s also a plant centre if you end up inspired by your walk and want to create your very own garden haven at home.

Parking and entrance isn’t free unless you’re a National Trust member, but at £20 for an adult, £10 for a child or £50 for a family, it is worth a stop if you’re trying to make the most of your travel day.

Looking for some road trip and holiday inspo?

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.