Winning tip: woods and waterfalls near Swansea
We discovered Penllergare Valley Woods off junction 47 of the M4, en route to Tenby. What a delightful find – its on-site cafe has ample parking, delicious snacks, cheerful staff and sparkling clean toilets. As we sampled our treats on the terrace overlooking an amazing garden, the resident robin accompanied us and shared crumbs. Later, we took a leisurely walk around the woods, lake and to the waterfall, chatting to the volunteers and discovering the place’s history. Visit this secret, magical find!
• Penllergare Valley Woods
More than a chip shop, Tyndrum, Perthshire
The Real Food Cafe is something else; you’ll find it halfway between Glasgow and Fort William on the A82 – not a motorway but one of the most-travelled roads for anyone heading for Scotland’s west coast, highlands and islands. More than a chip shop, it sells beautifully fried, incredibly fresh fish, plus veggie, vegan and gluten-free options galore. You can also opt for veggie curry, soups and salmon salad. There’s also a great selection of local craft beers and wine. A real gem.
• The Real Food Cafe
Weird and wonderful waffles, St Albans, Herts
The Waffle House is just 10 minutes from junction 8 of the M1 and 11 minutes from junction 21 of the M25. Its sweet and savoury delights, for takeaway or “on-site dining”, are served in an old mill house and are the perfect excuse to break up a long drive. This place is so good that our friends from Rugby come down specially to eat here. The highlight is the garlic waffle. Do not judge the weirdness; it is delicious. There are also milkshakes and vegan/gluten-free options. Dogs are welcome.
• The Waffle House
Coffee with Gentleman Jack, Shibden Park, Halifax
Set in beautiful Shibden Country Park, 10 minutes from junction 24 of the M62, is Coffee Culture. The food is great and reasonably priced, with an interesting selection for lunch. There’s lots of room to stretch your legs, an expansive lake and a miniature passenger train. If you have time, walk to the top of the hill and visit Shibden Hall, home of Anne Lister (of BBC’s Gentleman Jack fame).
• Coffee culture
Star quality and doggy treats, Leatherhead, Surrey
Three minutes from junction 9 of the M25, and five minutes from Chessington World of Adventures, is the perfect stop-off: The Star. We enjoyed an evening meal there and the food was fantastic, the staff very polite and nothing too much trouble. There is also a pub walk to Ashtead Common. Dogs are well-catered-for in a beautiful garden – they are even given biscuits! A real gem.
• The Star
Cider and cheese with Rich, Highbridge, Somerset
It’s easy to forget a numb backside and irritable travel companions when you’re snacking on pork pies and Somerset cheddar under the shade of a few hundred apple trees. Rich’s Cider Farm is a two-mile hop off junction 22 of the M5. As well as a newly refurbished restaurant and the welcome inclusion of toilets, there’s a well-provisioned farm shop, play park and ample space to stretch weary legs. Easy on the good stuff though – best to take a few bottles home!
• Rich’s Cider Shop
A grape escape, Pontyclun, south-east Wales
Located just off junction 34 on the M4 between Cardiff and Swansea is the place every weary traveller would want to rest: Llanerch Vineyard. Here, you can relax for an hour or two in the lovely brasserie or, if it’s sunny, on the beautiful terrace overlooking the vineyard. With a starter and main set-menu lunch for £20, you can expect local and truly delicious fare before continuing your journey (you may not want to leave though).
• Llanerch Vineyard
Tea with a llama, Penrith
We always make a detour to stop at the Llama Karma Kafe directly on the A66 and very near to the M6. Where else can you get a great selection of food and drinks, and pick up that Peruvian accessory you always needed? You can watch a real-life llama having lunch while you nibble away at your sandwich, and book to spend a happy hour up close and personal on a llama trek if you want to add something really unusual to your pit stop.
• Llama Karma Kafe
Irresistible farmers’ fare, Tortworth, Gloucestershire
The Farmers Table is only two minutes off the M5 at junction 14. But be warned – it’s best to visit on your way home so you can stock up on delicious home-grown veg and homemade cheeses, cakes, biscuits and more from the Moreton family-owned enterprise. The tea shop has a range of fresh, irresistible fare. While no indoor seating is offered at the moment, there’s a spacious picnic area where the kids can run freely while you enjoy comfy seats at tables with stunning views of the Cotswold hills.
• The Farmer’s Table
Flower power by the M25, Godstone, Surrey
Just five minutes’ drive from J6 of the M25, in Godstone, is Flower Farm – a fantastic farm shop with pick-your-own fruit, and a pretty, socially distanced outdoor tea garden and bar, Strawberry Fields. It’s the ideal place to stock up on local produce, with an amazing deli counter and a superb choice of local beers and wines (for when you reach your destination, of course). Flower Farm was a great support to locals during lockdown, by producing and delivering some incredible food boxes.
• Flower Farm