The M5 motorway connects Birmingham and the Midlands to England’s South West. Families heading for the sandy beaches of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall depend on the M5 motorway for at least part of their journey. The M5 motorway is also important for those accessing Birmingham or Bristol international airports or connecting on to the Midlands or North England.
Whilst an M5 motoway service station is ok for a quick petrol top-up, it’s not such an appealing option for a longer break when travelling with children. Instead, why not try one of these service station alternatives, all just a short distance from the M5 motorway. From a picnic at a country parks and pubs with play facilities to museums and stately homes, these service station alternatives provide a scenic, clean and pleasant stop-off that will make the journey as fun as arriving.
N.B. This post is not updated regularly so please remember to check out the website of each M5 destination before you go there for latest opening times, directions and prices. If you spot something out-of-date with the information below, please post a comment so I can update it for others.
1) Black Country Living Museum – 3.8 miles (9 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 2
Cost: Adults £15.95, Kids £7.95, Under 4’s free. Family ticket £45. Parking £3.
Facilities: Reasturants & cafes, accessible paths, toilets, gift shops.
Location: Tipton Road, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 4SQ.
With 26 acres of open-air museum to explore, the Black Country Museum offers a hands-on interactive insight into the industrial and mining era that made this corner of the UK so famous. Experience an old fashioned school-room, buy sweets from a traditional sweet-maker or head down into the pit to experience mining conditions of days gone by for yourself. An educational and fun M5 motorway stop-off if you want to break a long journey.
2) Woodgate Valley Country Park – located 2.8 miles (7 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 3.
Cost: Free and free parking.
Facilities: Walking trails, childrens’ playground, cafe, visitor centre, toilets, urban farm.
Location: Clapgate Lane,Bartley Green,Birmingham, B32 3DS.
450 acres of parkland to explore on foot, or even by pony if you have time to detour from the M5. Plenty of 2km routes suitable for pushchairs as well as 5km options. Route details and information on suitability for buggies available from the Ranger Service at the Visitor Centre. A good option for a quick M5 motorway stop-off to stretch your legs.
3) Hanbury Hall & Gardens, National Trust – 4.1 miles (11 mins) from M5 Motoway Junction 5
Cost: Free for National Trust members, whole property – adult £9.60, child £4.80, gardens/estate only – adult £6.35, child £3.15. Free parking.
Facilities: Tearooms, shop, baby changing toilets, childrens’ play area, walking, historic house.
Location: School Road, Hanbury, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, WR9 7EA
Hanbury Hall & Gardens is a country house and estate dating from 1701 and makes a scenic break from M5 motorway traffic. You can tour the house or just stretch your legs in the 400 acres of parkland. There is a playground and activities for the kids and they can even try out the traditional toys in the old fashioned nursery indoors. Hanbury itself also claims fame as the real-life counterpart of Ambridge – the setting for Radio 4’s popular series The Archers.
4) Worcester Cathedral – 2.6 miles (8 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 7
Cost: Cathedral entrance – free. Climbing the tower – adults £4, children (no children who need carrying permitted up the tower) £2, Family £8. Parking at King Street Car Park – £1.80 for 2 hours.
Facilities: Cafe (inc. takeaway items), toilets, shop.
Location: College Street, Worcester. WR1 2LA. King Street Car Park WR1 2NX.
Worcester Cathedral is a beautiful and historic cathedral and home to the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur. The Cathedral itself is worth touring for its magnificent architecture and history and it is also possible to climb the 14th Century tower for fantastic views across Worcester and the surrounding countryside (call 01905 732900 to check tower opening hours). The Cathedral also has a cafe and loos and with central Worcester accessible on foot for more food options, this makes a good and varied M5 motorway service station alternative.
5) Historic Town of Tewksbury – 1.9 miles (5 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 9.
Cost. Free. Parking between £1-£2 for one hour in Tewksbury’s car parks.
Faciltiies: Cafes, shops, museums, public toilets at?
Location: Parking available throughout Tewksbury but convenient for the Abbey is Vineyards Car Park
Gander Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 5PG
With its quaint streets, tudor houses and Saxon abbey, compact Tewksbury is picture postcard perfect. There is the possibility to visit Tewksbury Abbey, the Heritage Centre or the John Moore Countryside Museum, have a picnic or stroll by the river or poke about the antique shops and cafes in the charming town centre. Spend as little or long as you like exploring Tewksbury for an M5 motorway stop-off for all ages.
6) The Gloucester Waterways Museum – 5.8 miles (14 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 11
Cost: Museum – adult £4.95, child £3.50. Boat trip – adult £5.50, child £3.75. Pay & Display parking.
Facilities: Accessible toilets, shop.cafe/bar Coots located next door.
Location: Gloucester Waterways Museum, Llanthony Warehouse, The Docks, Gloucester, GL1 2EH
The Gloucester Waterways Museum offers an insight into the history of the UK’s canals and Gloucester Docks as well as their role as a natural environment. The museum is geared up for children of all ages with interactive displays, dressing up and canal boat racing (ok – so not the real ones but still fun) and you can extend your trip with a dockside picnic or boat tour. Worth a detour from the M5.
7) Slimbridge Wetland Centre – 6.1 miles (12 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 13
Cost: Adult £12.30, Child £6.70, Under 4’s free, Family £34.50
Facilities: restaurant/cafe , picnic area, accessible toilets, shop, accessible walks and entrance to hides.
Location: Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, GL2 7BT
Slimbridge Wetland Centre is well worth a detour from the M5 motorway. It is home to huge numbers and species of native and migrant wetland birds and wildlife and you can get up close to much of it from the special viewing hides which are all fully accessible. There is also a lot more interactive fun to be had for families- from canoe tours, the kids Welly Boot Land water park, Toad Hall (the clue is in the name) and the Discovery Centre. There are also plenty of opportunities to wear out little legs for the next stint of the motorway roadtrip with walks in the grounds and garden,
8) Blaise Castle Estate– 2.6 miles (7 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 17.
Cost: Free; car park free.
Facilities: Cafe, large childrens’ playground, baby changing facilities, toilets, benches and picnic/BBQ areas.
Location: Blaise Castle Estate, Kings Weston Road, Lawrence Weston, Bristol, BS10 7QS
Blaise Castle Estate is 650 acres of parkland close to Bristol and the M5. As well as the opportunity for a quick picnic and playground stop, there are also lots of walks in the grounds (see the Blaise Castle website) , the National Trust managed Blaise Hamlets and the Blaise Castle Estate Museum which is free to enter. Nb. the main drive is suitable for a stroll with a pushchair but most of the other trails are off-road and include some hills.
9) Clevedon Seafront & Pier – 1.9 miles (6 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 20
Cost: Free; Parking – £4 at Salthouse Fields. Prices vary elsewhere.
Facilities: Public toilets (Salthouse Field), benches, cafes, recreation ground, shops.
Location: Paid parking at Salthouse Fields (Salthouse Fields Car Park – Clevedon, Clevedon BS21 7TR) and throughout town.
The seaside town of Clevedon is only a quick hop from the M5 and makes a good spot for a short break. There is parking at Salthouse Fields. In the summer here there is a boating lake, miniature train rides, bouncy castle and other attractions. Seaside walks are available all year around down to the historical pier or for good views, across the headland to Poets Corner. If you have time to extend you visit, National Trust’s Clevedon Court is also just off the M5 nearby.
10) Puxton Park – 1.4 miles (3 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 21
Cost: Adults £6.70, Children £7.70, Under 4’s Free. Parking free.
Facilities: Restaurants, farm shop, accessible toilets, pushchair friendly access to most of park.
Location: Puxton Park, Cowslip Lane, Hewish. Use postcode BS24 6RQ for SatNav.
Puxton Park offers up-close animal encounters and plenty of age specific playgrounds, including an indoor play area for wet days. A good M5 motorway service station alternative for guaranteed childrens’ entertainment.
11) O’Bridge Brewers Fayre – 2.4 miles (6 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 25
Cost: £2 per child.
Faciltiies: Onsite pub with family restaurant, toilets, baby changing facilities, overnight accommodation, ATM machine , pub garden.
Location: Massingham Park, Taunton, Somerset TA2 7RX
If you are just after pub grub and a run around for the kids whilst breaking your journey on the M5 motorway, then the O’Bridge Brewers Fayre is a good choice. With a dedicated childrens’ play building split into three age appropriate areas there is fun for the kids and the adults can eat in peace from the viewing platform in the dining area.
12) Knightshayes, National Trust – 7.5 miles (10 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 27
Cost: Free for National Trust members and free access to cafe and parkland for non-members. House & gardens- Adult £8.95, Child £4.45. Free parking.
Facilities: Cafe and tearoom, Baby changing facilities, toilets, shop, pushchair friendly.
Location: Near Tiverton, EX16 7RQ
A gothic revival house set in four acres of parkland, Knightshayes is a great M5 motorway stop-off. With hot and cold food available from the cafe and plenty of room to roam in the scenic parkland, it’s got everything you need in pretty surroundings for a quick break.
13) Diggerland – 2.3 miles (7 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 28.
Cost: Adults & kids over 90cm tall £19.95. Kids under 90cm free.
Facilities: Restaurant, picnic benches, accessible toilets, play area for younger children,
Location: Diggerland, Verbeer Manor, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 2PE
Diggerland doesn’t count as a ‘scenic’ M5 motorway service station alternative but it is a fun one for older kids. This adventure park gives you the chance to ride on and drive all sorts of diggers and dumpers, whatever the weather as well as having rides to go on. Children must be 90cm tall to go on the rides.
14) Riverside Valley Park, Exeter – 4.3 miles (10 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 31. Also 4.5 miles (11 minutes) from M5 Motorway Junction 30.
Cost: Free, Parking free.
Facilities: Pub and toilets at the Double Locks pub, pushchair friendly walks.
Location: Parking at Clapperbrook Lane Exeter by Bromhams Farm Playing Fields or at Double Locks pub – Canal banks, Exeter,EX2 6LT
Located just off the southern-most end of the M5 motorway, Riverside Valley Park extends several miles along the River Exe and Exeter Canal waterways. There a pushchair friendly trails to follow of varying lengths or you can head to the Double Locks pub and enjoy refreshments in a scenic setting and the chance for the kids and/or dog to stretch their legs.
These are just a small selection of ideas for alternatives to M4 motorway services stops. Please share your tips for great places to visit along the M4 that avoid yet another trip to the motorway services with a comment below. For more tips on travelling on long car journeys with young children, read this post.