Forget the standard roadside stop-offs—these rejuvenating pit stops are a destination in their own right. We're driving through the very best of Britsh service stations.
Brockholes Nature Reserve Services
“Our service station is different to any other service station you’re going to stop at on any of the motorways in the UK,” says manager Alan Right.
He’s not lying. Brockholes is distinctive in that the whole facility floats on a 4,000-foot pontoon in the middle of a lake. Owned by the Wildlife Trust, the focus here isn’t so much mid-journey sarnies, but showcasing the brilliance of the 107-hectare wetland and woodland reserve.
Visitors can spy Sand Martin birds from the purpose-built hides, take a stroll around the Gravel Pit trail (only a 30-minute walk and suitable for pushchairs) and visit favourite fictional characters in The Wind in the Willows woods.
What’s more, there’s a bakery on site—so you can reward yourself with the “cake of the week” after a walk.
Ordinarily, the most you can expect of service-station food is a lukewarm fast-food burger, a limp salad or sugar-filled packaged goods (and that’s if you’re lucky).
Not so at Gloucester Services. Located in a county celebrated for its agriculture, this service station puts local produce at the fore. The farm shop offers regional cheeses, the cafe serves up some of the best home-made cake around, and even the sushi is made using goods from the local fishmonger.
Best of all, however, are the wild-boar sausage rolls. These are prepared at a farm just a few miles down the road, and two percent of each sale is donated to charity—so you can indulge in a second one guilt-free.
As demonstrated by its grassy roof, Gloucestershire Services also makes the most of the outdoors. Sit at one of their picnic tables, or spend a few moments at the pretty pond, before getting back on the road.
Cairn Lodge Services
This was recently named the cheapest service station in the country, and that’s not even the best thing about it: adjoining the station is an authentic ancient fortress.
Douglas Castle is small and largely in ruins, but wandering around it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable way to stretch your legs. The structure has been there in various forms since the 13th century and remained in the Douglas family until the 20th century.
The service station (formerly known as Happendon Services) was privately owned until 2014 when it was acquired by Westmorland, the farmer-family company behind the aforementioned Gloucester Services. Rumour suggests they haven’t made many changes—but they have made a point of ensuring the food is to their trademark top-notch standard.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park Service Station
Chances are you don’t associate a long-drive loo stop with a cultural opportunity. But why not? This Wakefield-based station could rival some of the nation’s best galleries, and—since you’re already driving somewhere—you don’t even have to go out of your way to see it.
The 500 acres of carefully managed parkland are home to open-air displays from some of the world’s finest artists. Walk along the trails and you’ll come across breathtaking sculptures, revitalising views… and even the odd sheep.
Also, everyone knows that a nice little perk of cultural attractions is visiting the cafe, and this sculpture park doesn’t disappoint. Here they serve excellent coffee and scones the size of elephants’ feet.