Tea at Tebay
Anyone who does not travel north on the M6 will be unaware of Tebay; until recently the only independent service station on the UK motorway system.
It is the first and still the only family-run services on the motorway system.
Tebay, near junction 38, has often won awards because its meals use local produce wherever possible. Westmoreland Ltd (and the Dunning family who set it up in 1972 and are still involved) is very proud of its links with Cumbria.
There are two stations, one north-bound and one south-, but both with equally good design and fabulous views. The also both have resident ducks, which would make any motorway food taste better!
In general, they offer two main meal vegetarian choices – usually a curry, which my husband Tom says is very good, and recently also a ratatouille bake. Sometimes macaroni cheese is the meal on offer, and there is always homemade vegetarian soup, and usually also quiches and sandwiches.
Best of all, if there is nothing in the café, you would be spoilt for choice in the wonderful farm shops, which are attached to each service station. These showcase local food, including various cheeses (which are marked if they use veggie rennet or not), mini quiches and pies such as Homity pie, vegetarian scotch eggs, and many nice cakes – and this is just the deli part.
You can also stock up on homemade bread and cakes, organic vegetables, free-range eggs, a fabulous array of soft drinks (and beer and wine), and a huge variety of biscuits, sauces and sweets that would put most supermarkets to shame.
My only complaint about Tebay is that a short stop usually turns into a long one – and I leave with my pockets a lot emptier! The shop is nothing like the usual services' fare – selling the same items as in the supermarket, only at three times the price.
The company involved in the stations also own Rheged, a lovely centre near Penrith, which has an Imax screen, events halls, art gallery section and shops selling local crafts and food. This centre also has some good food and is beautifully designed – hidden within a hill and using natural stone in the design.
The Dunning family has also recently opened Gloucester Services in partnership with charity the Gloucester Gateway Trust. I haven't had the chance to go there yet – so, if anyone has, we would love to hear whether or not it is as veggie-friendly!