A family behind their car at a service station
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Battle of the UK Service Stations, the LV= edition

10 minute read

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On a long drive, do you often find yourself wondering where the nearest service station is – and what it’ll have to offer? Well, from the tastiest snacks to the best ones for kids, you’ve come to the right place…

  • 61% of people will plan their service station stops before a long journey
  • Braintree Essex is the first electric vehicle only facility in the UK
  • Tebay and Gloucester services offer bespoke farm shops with locally sourced food and idyllic settings

Service stations, whether you love them or hate them, are a must for long road trips. Whether you need to stop off for the loo, pick up some car snacks or treat yourself to a full-blown sit-down meal, we all know these Motorway meccas can vary massively. As of 2021, there are 98 official service stations signposted from the motorway in the UK, and according to AA 61% of people will plan their station stops before a journey

So, to help your journey go smoothly we’ve ranked Britain's service stations, looking at what’s on offer…

Where are the best service stations to take a break?

What are the best service stations for electric cars?

It’s no secret Gridserve is the name behind the UK’s first purpose-built forecourt for charging electric cars. Their station in Braintree Essex, South East England, plays host to a selection of hospitality choices and is the first of many planned electric vehicle only facilities. Having rolled out another in Norwich, the company plans to open 100 service stations across the UK by 2025, tailored to charging your electric vehicle.

The station includes 36 rapid chargers, vs the UK average of two, powered only by renewable energy. Not only this, but the charging technology is among the fastest available in Britain and can top-up a battery with a capacity of 200 miles (322 km) in just 20 minutes - very impressive!

Speedy charging times make for a quick stop. Not only does Gridserve have the usual WH Smith and Costa Coffee, but it also has meeting pods for hire and a lounge area you can relax in… of course. With that said, what’s not to love?

Gretna Green services located on the border of Scotland and England, houses a Waitrose and Harry Ramsden’s to entice you in, as well as a choice of three different charging points for electric vehicles - Electric Highway, IONITY and Tesla Supercharger.

Did you know?

Gretna Green is a famous destination for eloping following the Clandestine Marriages Act 1753, which prevented couples under the age of 21 marrying in England or Wales without their parent’s consent.

So, if you’re on your way to the church, why not pop in for a quick stop to check your dress, suit, or whatever you’re getting married in, is still looking sharp after your car journey before walking down the aisle.

What are the best service stations for food?

Cobham services on the M25 between junctions nine and ten has been given 4 out of 5 stars for its food options by Which?. So, with a huge choice of eateries such as (cheeky) Nando's, Pizza Express, Leon and more, we'd definitely recommend a visit for your pitstop snacks... and a break from the fifth most hated motorway in the UK!

Four miles north of the M25 you’ll find another foodie heaven at Beaconsfield Services. Here you can sit back and relax as you enjoy an exciting line-up of food choices including M&S, Gregg’s, El Mexicana, Nando’s and Starbucks (which is a drive-thru, too).

If you fancy walking off your feast, there’s a large lakeside terrace where you can get your steps in strolling through its landscaped grounds and preserved woodlands. There’s also a great play area for the little ones to enjoy, giving parents a break from the constant ‘are we there yet?’ questions.

If you're looking for something beyond the usual service station offerings, and fancy something a little more premium, then it’s worth a trip to Tebay and Gloucester services. Both these stations offer bespoke farm shops and restaurants with locally sourced food and produce for drivers to enjoy. And, take it from us, the sausage rolls are delicious!

Tebay Services, located on the M6 in an idyllic location in the heart of the Lake District, was even the setting for the Channel 4 documentary series, ‘A Lake District Farm Shop’, which gave viewers an insight into the farmers, food producers and crafters behind Tebay Services. One to add to the road trip memory book and capture for your camera roll!

What are the best service stations for dogs?

Not only are Tebay and Gloucester Services raising the bar when it comes to food, if you own a dog they're also the perfect places to stretch their legs, thanks to the picturesque landscapes and rolling hills! 

Did you know? Tebay Services was born when the government bought a portion of a farm from John and Barbara Dunning in the late 1960s. Big oil companies weren’t interested in opening a service station on the M6 as they didn’t think it would get enough business. John Dunning saw this as an opportunity to showcase local produce and open his own services, and Tebay Services was born.
 
Fun fact: Prince Charles even recently dropped into Tebay Services to pay the workers a visit!

Not one to be outdone, if you find yourself on the M74, Cairn Lodge services is well worth a visit. The service station has a castle on its grounds that you can picnic beside. It’s also a great picture moment/opportunity for walkies for you and your furry friends!

Why not take the time to enjoy the station's local produce, whilst relaxing on their tartan upholstered seats - a fun throwback to their Scottish heritage?

What are the best service stations for kids?

Gloucester Services has a full offering for kids as part of their farm kitchen menu, as well as stations for bottle-washing and baby-food microwaving. To keep the kids entertained (and tire them out so they’ll sleep for the rest of the car journey!), there’s both an indoor and outdoor play area.

Similar to Gloucester, Tebay Services also has a kids menu (with kids meals costing just £1 with an adult meal) and once again offers great play spaces for bored kids.

If you’ve ever driven to Cornwall you know that at the height of the season, this journey is quite frankly one of the most tortuous car trips to make due to the lack of motorway and the funnelling of traffic via dual carriageway roads. In light of this, Cornwall services can be a real lifesaver, especially for those travelling with kids.

It’s a large service station with a holiday Inn Express on-site for those emergency stopovers, or if you plan to come down the night before your holiday is due to start!

As Cornwall Services is an independent service station, it champions local fare and is designed to be a good stop off before you hit the small twisty-turny roads that you find in Cornwall. Hosting the usual brands you find at a larger service station such as WHSmith and Spar on site, it also caters for campers with shower facilities and an on-site laundrette. For families, there’s an indoor soft play area which needs to be booked in advance.

Finally, we know how important it is to have peace of mind when you’re on the road, so having breakdown cover makes sense, as nobody likes to be stuck on the hard shoulder of a motorway… especially if you’re miles away from the services and in need of a food break!

What should you check before a long drive?

Apart from checking your tyres, oil, screen wash (to name a few), you should also check you’re covered in case you breakdown. If the unexpected does happen, you can rely on our Britannia Rescue breakdown service to get you on the road again – we’ll even recharge your electric vehicle if you run out of battery mid-journey.

You should also make sure your car insurance is up to date.

Did you know? You can benefit from cheaper LV= breakdown cover if you add it to your existing LV= car insurance.

So, there you have it, before you get in the car this summer, and set off on that family road trip, you can decide which service stations to stop at, or if you like to plan, map your journey around them!

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