Skip the services: 20 stopovers off British motorways and A roads

All places listed have Covid-safe regulations in place – but check individual opening hours in advance

1 The Meikleour Arms, Meikleour, Perthshire

A9, 16 mins from Stanley junction

The pretty village of Meikleour is a convenient stop on the journey between Inverness and Edinburgh. Much of the food at the Meikleour Arms comes from the estate – vegetables grown in the walled garden, venison from the nearby forest – and scallops are collected by hand on the west coast. The village is famous for the Meikleour Beech Hedge, officially the tallest and longest on Earth, so have a look if you’re stopping.

2 Loch Leven’s Larder, Kinross-shire

M90, 4 mins from junction 8

The scenery, with views over Loch Leven, makes a diversion here worthwhile. Set on a family-run farm, the Larder has a food hall stocked with local cheese and other products, an artisan bakery, an ice-cream bar and the family-friendly Larder cafe. Families can stretch legs on the heritage trail. If time is short, the Greenhouse cafe offers takeaways.

3 Tebay Services, Orton, Cumbria

M6, just north of junction 38

Surrounded by the Cumbrian hills, family-owned Tebay is a showcase for good motorway services. There’s a farm shop stacked with local produce and the Kitchen serves home-cooked food and freshly squeezed juice, with a barbecue on the terrace on sunny days – there are new outdoor seating areas to help with social distancing. Kids can make use of the play area and watch the ducks on the pond.

4 Low Sizergh Barn, Cumbria

M6, 7 mins from junction 36

A cafe, farm shop and gift gallery are housed in this 17th-century barn on the edge of the Lake District, with tables in the grassy courtyard. Take a break from the car with a stroll on a trail around the pond, ancient woodland and fields, which also has “fairy doors” for little ones to spot. The cafe menu features farm-fresh dishes; kids will love the milkshakes (and watching the cows being milked). Afternoon tea is served daily.

5 Uncle Henry’s, Grayingham, Lincolnshire

M180, 9 mins from junction 4

Uncle Henry’s, a farm shop, butchery and cafe on the Ward family’s arable and pig farm, offers a welcome break on the way to Lincoln or the Humber Bridge. The cafe uses ingredients from the farm or local producers. Award-winning sausages (made from home-reared pork) feature on the breakfast menu, and homemade quiches, soups and ciabattas are lunch options, to be eaten at a table in the inner courtyard by the fountain.

6 The Bull & Swan, Stamford, Lincolnshire

A1, 2 mins from Kettering Road junction

This beautifully renovated ancient inn is a short walk from the middle of Stamford, part of the Burghley estate. Inventive comfort food includes deep-fried feta and paprika bites, and pan-seared calf’s liver with mustard mash and a red wine jus. If you’re stopping on the fly, there are scotch eggs at the bar and decent coffee.

7 Rhug Estate Organic Farm Shop, Corwen, Denbighshire

A5, at Tyn-y-cefn junction

The 12,500-acre Rhug Estate in the Dee Valley has been a bastion of organic farming and animal welfare for 20 years. The farm shop sells homegrown meat as well as products from cakes to charcuterie, with a focus on Welsh fare. Cafe Rhug has sandwiches, salads and cakes; On The Hoof serves good-quality takeaways to enjoy in the outdoor eating area; while the drive-thru coffee shop (which also offers some food) is an inspired idea. Those with time to spare can do a farm walk, with a choice of two trails.

8 Wright’s Food Emporium, Carmarthenshire

A40, 7 mins from Porthyrhyd junction

Wright’s Food Emporium, in a former village pub, is a much-loved foodie hub with shop and cafe/deli – and there are rooms too. The shop is currently closed (except for click and collect) but there’s plenty of space to eat outside, as well as some indoor dining, with menus featuring dishes such as mutton curry with flatbreads or chicken cooked in cider. Booking is essential as numbers are controlled.

9 The Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire

A46, 1 min from Snitterfield junction

Foodies passing through Shakespeare country shouldn’t miss the chance to visit The Farm. The market garden supplies the cafe, Nourish, with wholesome, flavourful produce – much of it organic. It’s now open for takeaway (sourdough pizzas are popular) and pre-ordered picnics. The shop is a treasure trove of goodies from local artisans and growers, with everything from homemade cakes to speciality cheeses.

10 The Yurt at Nicholsons, Oxfordshire

M40, 11 minutes from junction 10

Paths wind through this posh garden centre to an enormous Mongolian yurt, home to Nicholsons cafe, now open for alfresco dining and takeaways (breakfast, lunch and cakes). The cuisine has an ethically driven vegetarian and vegan focus. A slice of its “cake of the month” – honey, orange and coriander in August – will set you up for the onward journey.

11 Provenance Brix + Mortar, Cambridgeshire

M11, 2 mins from junction 10

Provenance started life in an Airstream caravan and horsebox trailer. Now it combines deli-cafe and restaurant serving modern British food in a lovely space in the Cambridgeshire countryside (takeaway is an option too). The open kitchen is the centrepiece of the restaurant, with its wood-burning stove (the menu ranges from slow-cooked ragu to aubergine flatbreads), while the deli serves artisan breads, cheese and cakes. There’s loads of parking, and picnic benches in a huge garden where kids can let off steam.

12 Fred and Ginger Coffee, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire

M25, 2 mins from junction 20

This high street cafe is a popular local haunt: a bright, welcoming space decorated with vintage pictures, brass light fittings and lush palms – and the food is delicious. Juices, freshly squeezed on site, and soya milk chai lattes provide sustenance for the onward journey, while lunch might be a summer tart or artisan sandwich.

13 The Potting Shed, Langley, Kent

M20, 8 mins from junction 8

The Potting Shed is perfect for a quick pit stop on your way to or from Dover. It’s spacious and informal, and chefs in the open kitchen prepare food that’s a notch up from pub grub, with a choice of tapas, Lebanese platters and wood-fired pizzas. The terrace is shaded by awnings on sunny days, and there are deck chairs on the large lawn.

14 Crocus at Dorney Court Cafe, Berkshire

M4, 5 mins from junction 7

Dorney Court, near Eton, is much more than a garden centre – the beautiful walled garden is an oasis of plants and peace, just minutes from the motorway. The newly revamped cafe has indoor and outdoor seating, with menus ranging from hearty breakfasts to gourmet burgers and afternoon teas. The shady garden has a large play area with a wendy house and a fort for kids to let off steam.

15 The Hobo.Co in the Shed, Hook, Hampshire

M3, 10 mins from junction 5

In a large shed in a corner of the award-winning Hortus Lociplant nursery, the humble Hobo.Co in the Shed offers seasonal salads, homemade soups, toasted paninis, delicately flavoured cakes and hearty hot meals – with homemade lemonade in summer. Don’t miss the courgette, lime and pistachio cake or the famous gluten-free triple-chocolate brownies.

16 Pythouse Kitchen Garden, West Hatch, Wiltshire

A303, 9 mins from A350 junction

All manner of surprising produce grows in this 18th-century walled garden, including kiwis, apricots and artichokes. Sharing boards are based on what’s in the garden; advance booking is recommended in the restaurant, but takeaway is available as well as coffee. Afternoon tea is served – plus there’s a shop selling ready-made picnic boxes. Inside, the light-flooded conservatory is all-colourful shabby chic – antique furniture, scuffed white walls and bright upcycled chairs.

17 The Swan at Wedmore, Somerset

M5, 15 mins from junction 22

First opened as a beer house in the 18th century, the Swan became a coaching inn in the 1800s and today is a much-loved village pub with restaurant and rooms. The kitchen is headed by Tom Blake from River Cottage. Snacks are served in the bar, with its sunny lounge, while the restaurant offers indoor and alfresco dining. In summer, chefs make the most of a wood-burning oven and smoker in the lawned garden.

18 Darts Farm, Topsham, Devon

M5, 5 minutes from junction 30

Darts Farm has become a well-known food hub, with a food hall and various eateries, but the farm is still at the heart of the business. The shop makes the most of its location on the Exe estuary, and visitors can check out the animals and pretty landscape on a farm walk, or try to spot wildlife in the hide overlooking the wetlands. The restaurant is open and the Fish Shed does great takeaway fish and chips.

19 Strawberry Fields Farm Shop, Lifton, Devon

A30, 1 min from Lifton junction

A stop at Strawberry Fields Farm Shop, close to the Cornish border, will make traffic jams bearable, with a choice of restaurant, coffee lounge and artisan bakery/deli/butchery. The Mounce family started farming here more than 20 years ago with just a plot of strawberries: now their fields supply almost everything the kitchen needs. They make excellent breakfasts and delicious cream teas. “The scones would have made Mary Berry cry,” reported one customer. There is plenty of space to stretch your legs.

20 Tre, Pol & Pen, Launceston, Cornwall

A30, 4 mins from Launceston junction

The team at this thoroughly modern farm shop and cafe are fierce advocates of local food. The kitchen offers eat-in or takeaway options, from top-quality full English breakfasts and bacon baps to spiced falafel salads for lunch, and impressive afternoon teas. The grocery showcases the best local produce, and hampers to suit all budgets can be ordered to pick up.

Further details can be found in Sawday’s book The Extra Mile, by Laura Collacott and Alastair Sawday (£14.99). To buy a copy go to

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