Pooch pit stops: Best motorway service stations in the UK for drivers travelling with their dogs
Some of us love driving; chances are if you do, the holiday begins the minute you’ve reversed out of the driveway! But what of your dog? How does your canine pal feel about the long journey ahead of them to your destination?
Both dogs and their humans need time out on long car journeys and we reckon these motorway services are some of the very best ones for anyone with dogs in tow. Before you set off, check out travel checklist for dogs to ensure you’ve packed everything your pup needs, or read travel tips for dogs to make sure your hound is having fun before the holiday even begins. For more tips on traveling with pets, check out Cats and Dogs in Good Hands: Going on Holiday
Read on for our favourite dog-friendly motorway service stations in the UK. We’ve also included a few places close to the road network where you can go for a dog walk.
Dog-friendly motorway services
While dogs aren’t always able to enter service stations, there are often water bowls to refresh our canine friends. We have, however, found one particularly wonderful chain (with just two outlets) that welcome dog travellers with open arms.
Our top pick: Hog & Hedge
Location: Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 1DJ
(M4 – Junction 13)
Location: Okehampton, Devon, EX20 2QT
(A30 – Whiddon Down exit)
The Hog & Hedge is very special indeed as they make sure that dogs are made to feel as welcome and as catered for as their human guests. Dogs are welcome to head inside and sit tableside with you; water bowls and dishes to pour dry treats into are located by the door, and the staff are warm and friendly.
With large exercise spaces at both the Newbury and Okehampton bases, the Hog & Hedge is a wonderful example of dog-friendly service stations done right. For humans, there’s a play area, comfortable lounge areas, organic and locally sourced foods and pristine loos!
Maybe one day, The Hog & Hedge will expand beyond two outlets. It’s rare that you’d make a detour just to travel to a motorway café but in this case, it’s worth the effort.
Ensure your dog's journey is comfortable with the right dog food, especially for long trips
Location: HP9 2SE. M40, junction 2
Even though dogs aren’t allowed inside Beaconsfield Services, the landscaped grounds and gardens are designed to entice you outside anyway. It’s not faint praise to say that this is one of the best-looking motorway services in the UK, because it really is.
With a very wide selection of eateries on site, if you are heading down the M40 or indeed the west side of the M25 (4 miles from junction 16), then this is a great place to reinvigorate yourself and your dog.
Location: CA10 3SB, M6, Junction 38
This delightful service station in Cumbria offers a host of benefits to people and dogs passing by including fresh, local produce and homecooked food, toilets and showers for a refresh, and a special deal where kids can eat for £1 when you buy a full-priced adult meal!
As for the canine members of your party, there are some lovely places to stretch the legs with views across the Howgill Fells. You’ll really feel like you’re heading on holiday with a stop at beautiful Tebay Services.
Location: SP4 7SQ. A303 near Amesbury
Located a few miles west of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Solstice Services is a modern open-air complex that has lots of grassy areas to take your dog for a wander. With a choice of leading fast-food brands, there’s a seating area to enjoy your takeaways outside to save sitting back inside your car.
Take a small detour 2 miles north from the A303 to Woodhenge, which is situated in a small park close to Larkhill. There are some great views across Salisbury Plains here and some large areas to let your hound off the lead for a leg stretch.
Cairn Lodge Services
Location: ML11 0RJ, A74(M) between Junctions 11 and 12
Run by the same family who’ve created the wonderful Tebay Services, Cairn Lodge Services is the place to stop with your dog if you’re heading up into the enchanting reaches of Scotland.
Championing Scottish produce, this service station is home to a farm shop and The Kitchen where there’s a small kids play area where youngsters can burn off steam while you wait for food. Best of all, the dog is welcome inside part of the building! This motorway service station has tables in their foyer where you can sit with the dog to eat and drink.
Location: A30, PL26 8UF (close to St Austell)
The largest services west of Exeter, Cornwall Services has a large exercise area to unburden your dog at to the east of the main car park. The complex is only a few years old and the facilities are pristine, as well as offering a good mix of local fare and high street favourites.
As you probably know, beyond the A30 the miles have a different currency as the roads thin down to country lanes, so these services are a good last opportunity to rest and unwind before hitting the narrower lanes.
Find essential non-food pet supplies for your dog's travel and exercise needs.
Location: GL4 0DN. M5 (between junctions 12 & 11a)
Gloucester Services is the motorway stop-off to beat, as there are outdoor areas for relaxation and walkies at both the M5’s north and southbound complexes.
A pathway from the car park reaches around young parkland to an ornamental pond at the rear of the shopping and dining area. You can even eat outside with your hound too. The food for humans is excellent here, as there is even a farm shop on the premises.
Dog walks near motorways
Here are our top five scenic places for a dog walk near motorways for timeout from behind the wheel.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Location: BS27 3QF. M5 (junction 22)
Cheddar Gorge is an iconic beauty spot close to the M5 just south of Bristol. With lots of open space to scramble and explore, Cheddar Gorge is an inspiring spot to do a quick recce for a future holiday.
If you are feeling ambitious and have time to spare, climb Jacob’s Ladder, or simply drive along the windy road at the bottom of the gorge. Don’t forget to buy some Cheddar cheese in the village!
The Angel of the North, Tyne & Wear
Location: Gateshead, NE9 7TY. A1
As the A1 enters Gateshead, you are greeted quite literally with open arms by Antony Gormley’s colossal statue: The Angel of the North.
This is a great place for a photo opportunity as the 20-metre sculpture is situated in a small park with ample parking. There’s plenty of space to go for a pleasant walk with the hound too.
Shustoke Reservoir, Warwickshire
Location: B46 2AN. M6 (junction 4) M42 (junction 7)
If your dog loves walking by a lake, then this 2-mile trail is a good bet for those looking for a rest on their way past the cities of the Midlands like Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
Shustoke Reservoir is set in a low landscape that consists of neat grasslands and a sealed level path around the lake. There is free parking and a pub in the nearby village for a spot of lunch or supper.
Belhaven Bay, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Location: EH42 1XF. A1 (West Mains exit)
Literally 1.5 miles from the main road, you’ll find the bonny sand beach of Belhaven Bay in Scotland which is also adjacent to the breath-taking John Muir Country Park, which stands on a peninsula by the Firth of Forth. Even if you are staying in Edinburgh, which is just down the road, this coastal pitstop is well worth your time.
Newton Beach, Porthcawl, Wales
Location: CF36 5NE. M4 (junction 37)
Newton Beach is a 2-mile-long bay close to Porthcawl in Wales – perfect for taking a well-earned breath of sea air and refreshing walk with your dog. Children will love the rock pools and there are plenty of places to sit and watch the waves, and maybe eat a picnic.
Other great dog-friendly service stations:
Killington Lake, M6
Norton Canes, M6
Cherwell Valley, M40
Taunton Deane, M5
Sedgemoor North, M5
Hartshead Moor, M62
Clacket Lane, M25
Hopwood Park, M42
Stafford North, M6
Cairn Lodge, M74
Stafford South, M6
Leigh Delamere, M4
Pease Pottage, M23
Sedgemoor South, M5
(Article source: Canine Cottages)