Planning a road trip now that UK holidays are back on the agenda? We know you're eager to get behind the wheel once again, but before you do, we reckon it'd be wise to consult the below.
After conducting some fresh research, Brindley Group can reveal the best and worst motorway service stations in the UK, according to the public. So instead of taking your chances on any old random roadside services, planning where to stop during your journey just got a little easier.
Looking to see which pit-stops are worth taking a break in and which are, well, the pits? Check out our results below...
To find the UK's best and worst motorway services, we looked at all of the 100+ services across 29 different motorways throughout the country.
From this sample size, we took average review scores from TripAdvisor, Google Reviews and Motorway Services Online (MSO) and combined these to produce aggregated scores out of 5 for each site based on thousands of online ratings – some of which were positive, some of which were decidedly not.
We’ve also included real reviews and comments from motorists for each services area to show what drivers think. And we've broken down average scores even further too, separating them by operator, region and major motorway.
From our results, here are the most significant findings:
Following our research, Tebay services, located in the North West, officially takes the top spot for the UK's best motorway services. With an average score of 4.24 out of 5, users have resoundingly voted for it as the best place to refuel, recharge, stretch the legs and grab a bite to eat on a journey. Its surrounding foliage was also said to be particularly relaxing after a long drive.
Beaconsfield and Gretna took second and third place, respectively, and both are worth visiting if you find yourself driving on the M40 or A74 during your travels.
At the other end of the scale, Telford was ranked the UK's worst motorway services, with an average score of just 2 out of 5. When one of your most notable reviews is a chilling warning to "Stay hungry. Stay thirsty. Whatever you do, don't stop" then you should probably just persevere and wait until the next services.
In second place, Heart of Scotland's prices came in for plenty of criticism. While it's common for roadside services to pump up their prices, one user was particularly dismissive, saying: "If you ever need to go here, get a second mortgage first.”
Elsewhere, sixth place Michaelwood was described as "soulless", while one unfortunate motorist stated it took them an hour just to get out of the car park.
If you're planning on driving through any of these areas, then be sure to avoid these services. Don't say we didn't warn you!
The M40 was deemed to be the major motorway with the best services, with particular attention given to its Beaconsfield services on Junction 2. So if you have a long journey ahead of you soon, then be sure to stop off here.
The M1 was a close second, with the Donington services at Junction 23A and 24 proving a popular choice for motorists in this area.
The M5, on the other hand, didn't fare as well, bringing up the rear at the bottom. That said, its Gloucester services between Junction 11A and J12 had a very respectable 4.07 average, so if you need to take a break during your journey, you can do much worse than making a stop here.
When one of your reviews gushes you're "the crème de la crème of service stations", you know you're doing something right. Westmorland takes the top spot as the best motorway services operator, and it's easy to see why, with one reviewer saying, "it’s absolutely lovely and situated next to plenty of lush, verdant nature which makes for a soothing stop-off.”
Does it get any more definitive than being, as one reviewer gushed, "the best services in the UK by far"? We don't think so. Congratulations Westmorland.
In joint second place, Euro Garages' reviews were overall positive, but not quite on the same level as Westmorland's. Still though, when your reviews comment on how clean, safe and bright everything feels, there are worse places to stop.
"Overall, a nice place to grab a bite when travelling far," said one reviewer, and sometimes, that's all you need when you have a long way ahead of you.
Sharing the number two spot with Euro Garages, Extra's selection of services have been reward with plenty of glowing reviews. Whether it's the friendly and helpful staff, the brilliant facilities or "the wide range of retail and food options", users weren't short on nice things to say. One reviewer even said it's "more like an upmarket airport than a motorway services.”
Applegreen may have taken third place in our list of motorway service operators thanks to its "always-great service" and well-kept stations, but for one reviewer who experienced their Templepatrick location in Northern Ireland, it's clearly so much more. "It was like visiting Shangri-La", they enthused "it’s the jewel in the crown of service stations, never to be bettered.”
In fourth place, Roadchef had its fair share of positive comments, with users singling out its relaxing atmosphere and plentiful food options, but others were less kind. "Bleak and soulless," said one user, while one user described the staff at their Watford Gap services as “friendly as a wasp in a spacesuit" – ouch!
Welcome Break's reviews were a bit of an odd mix. For every user commenting on its selection of food outlets and cleanliness, there were always a couple that were less than enthusiastic.
Particular criticism was levelled at how shoddy many of their services were: "feels a bit neglected" said one reviewer, while another states things were "looking a bit run down". For reasons like this, Welcome Break came in second to last.
Oh dear – it seems as though there's room for improvement for Moto's range of service stations. To put it mildly, reviewers were not kind on their facilities.
"I don't feel it has much to offer and it looks like time has left it behind" went one withering comment. Reflecting on their food options, one user said, "you're better off making a picnic at home,” while roadside reviews don't come much more damning than: "Would recommend only stopping here if desperate for the toilet.” Surprisingly, Moto operates the most sites nationwide too.
Yorkshire & The Humber
East of England
Good news if your road trip passes through Northern Ireland or the North East – these regions both had the highest average score from the public.
The East Midlands, North West, Wales and Yorkshire & The Humber all generally had a respectable showing too, but vacationers travelling through Scotland, South West, and especially the East of England might want to steer clear of the services in this area – even if it means having to hold it in!
Looking to see the rankings in full? You can find all the aggregated data we accrued for our research below: