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Top 5 Family-Friendly Service Stations In The UK

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

It is well known that service stations in France are so much better set up for families. Outdoor playgrounds, picnic spots, dedicated nappy changing areas. It just makes road travel so much easier. The UK on the other hand has always been a bit of a nightmare for actual stops on the motorway – you are generally much better finding spots just off the motorways such as National Trust Properties, Farmshops, etc. However, a new breed of service station is opening up, and for those who like to stick to the route, and get there with minimal stops. Here are my top 5 UK service stations, with some help from fellow CBV club admin @mummyandmehols!

Gloucester Service Station (M5)

This is the service station that regularly tops the ‘best services stations’ in the UK list and for good reason! It was the original in a new chain of services (Westmoorland), and one that people often put down as a destination stop. In the sustainable clothing industry, it is also a hot spot as they stock children’s clothes by Frugi which has an almost cult-like following! Why has it made our list though? Its home-cooked food is worth a trip alone, and for those going on a self-catering holiday, it has a farm shop stocked with lots of local goodies. What is more, they have a fantastic indoor & outdoor play area as well as a lake.

Tebay Service Station & Hotel (M6 – Cumbria)

The second of the westmoorland chain to make the list – this one has all the amenities of the first but with the added bonus of a hotel. For those travelling up to Scotland or for those arriving to make the most of a full day in the fabulous Lake District, this makes this the most incredible of stops. They also have a wonderful picnic area next to a duck pond full of wild mallards. They have a family kitchen with all the amenities you need for a baby or toddler and sell Ella’s Kitchen baby food in their shop. Any other bonus’? If ordered after 11.30am, a children’s meal, if purchased with adult hot food is only £1 – completely incredible value!

Cairn Lodge Service Station (M74)

This service station even has a castle on its grounds that you can picnic beside – what more do you need to know? Like the rest of the chain, they major in championing local products both in their food and their general offering. Here you can find seats upholstered with local tartan as an added element of fun!

Beaconsfield Service Station (M40)

Beaconsfield is the service station I always make a beeline for when escaping London up to the midlands. Whilst a more ‘traditional’ service station, it is part of the ‘Extra’ chain which generally means it is a bit bigger and contains more choice. In their case, they have a lovely woodland area that you can have a walk around, as well as a large lakeside terrace and an outdoor children’s play area. There is also a great M&S Simply Food and a fairly decent selection of hot food from well-known chain brands. They have a chain of services, all with playgrounds, and tend to be more along the lines of the larger services you find on the French Auto-routes. I will aim for one of these if there is a choice, and I’m not near the others on this list!

A collage of kids at service stations in the UK

If you’ve ever driven to Cornwall you know that at the height of the season, this is quite frankly one of the most tortuous journeys you will ever make. There is no motorway that takes you into the heart of Cornwall, instead, everyone is funnelled into a couple of dual carriageway roads. The journey from Bristol to Falmouth has on occasion taken me upwards of 8 hours (journey is only 187 miles!). Thank goodness for the Cornwall Services! It is a big 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!) It is an independent service station but like the top 3, it likes to champion local fares and is designed to be a good stop off before you hit the small twisty-turny roads that you find in Cornwall (I do love it really!). It has the usual brands that you find at a larger service station such as WHSmith and a Spar on site. It is also aware that it needs to cater for campers, so they also have shower facilities and an on-site laundrette. For families, they have an indoor soft play which needs to be booked in advance, oh and as its Cornwall, a surf report!

Do you know of any other great service stations in the UK? Or does your country have these as well? Let us know in the comments below!

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