Which? surveyed more than 2,700 members covering around 5,600 experiences at almost 70 motorway service stations across the UK. Members rated them on various criteria, including range of facilities, prices, and ease of social distancing.
Though some respondents dismissed service stations as “all the same”, the survey found stark differences across the country – particularly with regards to cleanliness. The best and worst ranked services were only an hour’s drive apart on the M5, showing the value of planning ahead when it comes to taking a break on a long journey.
The top three service stations all belong to Westmorland. Gloucester (on the M5), Tebay (on the M6 at the edge of the Lake District) and Cairn Lodge (on the M74 in Lanarkshire) ranked first, second and third in the table, respectively.
Gloucester received the top score of 86 per cent, scoring five stars for cleanliness, range and quality of its shops and food outlets, as well as its range of facilities.
One visitor described Gloucester services as “as far from a typical motorway stop as you can imagine”, where customers can enjoy home cooked meals and buy local produce from the “fabulous” farm shop.
Gloucester Services Southbound opened to the public in May 2015, it followed the launch of its sister northbound services in 2014. Situated on the M5, near Brookthorpe, the services have since won national and local awards.
Dedicated to local food, farming and the surrounding community, the services feature farmshops stocked with locally produced food, cafés serving homemade dishes created from locally sourced produce every day. Gloucester Services works with more than 200 local suppliers from across the South West.
At the other end of the table was Bridgwater on the M5, owned by Moto. The service station received a dismal score of 32 per cent, and was awarded just one star in every category.
Recent visitors described it as “dirty” and “depressing”, and others complained of a urine smell and toilet paper strewn on the floor. Another simply said it “should be demolished”.
Welcome Break was responsible for half of the 10 service stations at the bottom of the table – more than any other brand.
Its service station in Gordano came just ahead of Bridgwater, with a score of 40 per cent, while its services in Newport Pagnell (41%), Keele (42%), London Gateway (45%), and Birchanger Green (45%) also populated the bottom 10.
Even its highest scoring service station, found in Warwick, scored a decidedly average 57 per cent.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “The results of our survey show that it pays to plan ahead to avoid some of the UK’s worst motorway services. It could be the difference between a home-cooked meal in peaceful surroundings, or crowded queues in downright dirty facilities.”
Which? surveyed 2,719 members of its online panel who shared 5,611 experiences at motorway service stations. The survey was conducted between 23 November and 14 December 2020