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Four must-visit motorway services

Carlton Boyce / 07 June 2016 ( 22 December 2016 )

Motorway services have a bad reputation for being expensive and having poor facilities but here are four service stations that are worth a visit.

Gloucester services is located between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5
Gloucester services is located between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5

The average motorway service station is, frankly, a disgrace. Peeling paint, filthy toilets, and over-priced junk food conspire alongside rip-off fuel to turn what should be a pleasant break into a trial by indifference.

But it doesn’t have to be like this; here are four service stations that are so good it’s worth detouring to visit them.


Arguably the original and best, Tebay is a family owned and run service station that puts the emphasis on local produce. Located at junction 38, Tebay opened as a small café in 1972 to take advantage of the then-new M6, serving home-produced and cooked food.

A hotel joined the café in 1976, and then a caravan site and truck stop widened the site’s appeal to caravanners and truckers too. 

The site now boasts an award-winning farm shop that sells local produce, including meat from the family’s own farm. An outside kitchen serves some of the best burgers in the country. Made from their own meat, of course. 

Saga readers say:

'Tebay does a lovely Sunday dinner. We always stop there on way back home.' Irene, via Facebook

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Tebay service station is located at junction 38 of the M6

Tebay service station is located at junction 38 of the M6


Owned by the same family company that owns Tebay, Gloucester services is located between junctions 11a and 12 on the M5, serving high-quality food to both north and south-bound traffic. 

The ethos is the same here as at Tebay: “Produce is local, seasonal and that our food is home-cooked.”

The farm shop sells only local food that is sourced within the county. Oh, and the whole place feels homely and is spotlessly clean, demonstrating once-and-for-all that motorway services don’t have to resemble a war zone that a coachload of football hooligans has just passed through.

Saga readers say:

'Gloucester is worth stopping. Great farm shop on site.' Adrian, via Facebook

'Gloucester services also has a decent area for dog walking.'  Jackie, via Facebook

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Cherwell Valley

Cherwell Valley isn’t half as nice as either Tebay or Gloucester but it’s clean and consistently highly rated for the quality of the services it provides, again proving that it isn’t hard to get the basics right.

Located at junction 10 on the M40 near Bicester in Oxfordshire, it boasts a range of fast-food restaurants that provide travellers with all the essentials they need to get them back on the road again feeling rested and well fed. You might not be feasting on Gloucester Old Spot sausage sandwiches, but you’re not going to be driving away feeling cheated, either.

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles

Annandale Water

Annandale Water is a modern service station at junction 16 on the A74(M) in Dumfriesshire. It might not look especially enticing from the front, but those who make the effort are rewarded with stunning views of the lake and distant mountains through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

There are a range of fast-food outlets here, but, let’s be honest,  you come here for the views rather than the food.

Visit our Motoring section for information on cars, caravans and motorbikes. 

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If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.