Tebay Services – An Oasis in the Motorway Desert

Tebay Ducks

The journey on the M6 motorway from the North of England gets prettier the further towards Scotland you drive.  With Preston and the M55 junction to Blackpool behind you, the Lancashire countryside starts to make the drive a little more interesting.  Before you know it, the fells of Cumbria and the Lake District start providing you with some stunning scenery that helps the miles pass more quickly.  At some point you need to take a break and stop at one of the many motorway services.  So where do you usually stop?  If you are planning a trip, how do you decide?  When I was in the RAF, the 20% discount from Moto Services was quite a draw.  There was a certain excitement in saving £2 on a plate of rubber food and cold chips that someone has the audacity to sell for £10.  These days, I’m all about trying to support independent businesses whenever I can.  On the M6, this means that there is only one place to stop and this is Tebay Services.  Read on and here all about the story behind this amazing oasis in the motorway desert.


The Beginning of Tebay Services – 1972

In 1970 the M6 link between Lancaster and Carlisle was completed.  Then in 1972 local farmers John and Barbara Dunning built Tebay services to provide a place for travellers on the new road to rest, eat and get fuel on the way up to Scotland.  The original services consisted of a small 30 seat café that they ran with some local bakers.  Even back in those early days, Tebay was all about locally sourced produced and home cooked food.

Since 1972
Tebay Services Has Been Open Since 1972

The Tebay Services Hotel – 1976

The first step in the expansion of the services took place in 1976 with the addition of the Tebay Hotel.  Located just 5 minutes from the services, the architectural design of the hotel with its pitched roof reflects the mountainous landscape of the local area.  The views across the local fells are really stunning and much better than your normal services hotel.  With open fires, local real ales and wonderful, home-cooked food, the hotel really is a destination in itself.  More recently the Dunning Family have also added a caravan park and truckstop to the accommodation options at the services.  Regardless of where you choose to stay, the wonderful views and sense of community will make you feel truly rested on your journey.

Tebay Motorway Services Hotel
The Tebay Hotel

Still a Family Business – At One With the Landscape

Over 40 years after it first opened, Tebay Services is still run by the Dunning family.  The original founder John Dunning is still a key part of the business and his daughter Sarah is Chief Executive.  John’s other daughter Jane is also involved in the running of the family farm.  Their business was conceived at the heart of the local community.  This is just as true today and the thing that always strikes me about Tebay is how it fits so naturally into the landscape.  As farmers they obviously appreciate the beauty of the area and the need to preserve it sympathetically for future generations.  At this same time, they also understand the important role they play in showcasing local Cumbrian products and supporting their local community.

Motorway services family owned
Sarah Dunning and her Father John

At the Heart of the Community With Local Suppliers

When Tebay Services first opened it’s roots were firmly embedded in the Cumbrian fells.  The local community was at the heart of everything and this continues to this day. The philosophy of the Dunning family and their Westmorland Group Business is to continue creating and evolving a business not just for today but for the next generation.  They work closely with organisations from the local area around Tebay, which provides a great market for local businesses and suppliers to sell their products.  The fact that Tebay services is visited by people from all over the UK and beyond also means that more and more people are aware of the amazing range of local businesses.

Tebay Beer at the Motorway Service
A Huge Selection of Local Beer

Sharing the Magic of Local Produce

Visitors buy local beer, cakes, food and other goods.  They take them as gifts to friends.  Friends tell their friends and so on.  Before you know it, the online shops of small Cumbrian businesses are running hot, keeping roofs over people’s heads and feeding families.   We have first hand experience of the role of Tebay in supporting local suppliers.  The family of my wife’s cousin are co-owners of Kendal-based Ginger Bakers.  We always get excited to see their very special cakes for sale in the Tebay shop.  I have loads of friends who are also aware of their cakes having seen them or bought them from the services.  You can read more about some of the featured suppliers on the Tebay Services website here.

Get Ginger Bakers Cakes at Tebay Services
Ginger Bakers – A Kendal Based Business

A Cafe Like a Farmhouse Kitchen

When you step inside the services, the cafe is like nothing you will have experienced before in a motorway service area.  The cafe feels like stepping into a giant version of a farmhouse kitchen.  They have amazing handmade cakes, wonderful sandwiches and some truly outstanding meals.  Their food is so good, I know people from the Lake District who treat a visit to Tebay Services like you would a visit to your favourite restaurant for Sunday lunch.  The cafe has a great selection of sandwiches and a continually changing menu of hot food.  In the foreground of the picture below you can also see the wide selection of cakes that are available.  It really is just good, hearty food and perfect for a break from a long journey.

Tebay Services Kitchen
Tebay Cafe – Like a Farmhouse Kitchen

Take Away Food and Quick Bites

Motorway Service Take Away
Take Away Food Also Available

If you don’t have time to sit down in the cafe, there is another option just inside the entrance on the right hand side.  The take away cafe is without doubt the most awesome motorway services take away counter you will ever find.  As well as a great selection of speciality tea and some lovely coffee, the food choices are something very special indeed.  They have some really tasty homemade pies and proper Cumberland sausage rolls.  In the run up to Christmas they were even serving Pigs in Blankets (Sausages wrapped in Bacon), that were just awesome.

Pigs In Blankets to Take Away
Pigs In Blankets to Take Away

Finally – The Shop is Amazing

Tebay stands out enough with its Cafe and Take Away Food.  However, my favourite part of the Services is the shop. It’s probably one of the best farm shops that I have ever come across.  You’ve hopefully already seen the picture of the wall of amazing local Cumbrian beer in the shop.  But they also have a meat counter with stunning cuts from local butcher as well as a cheese counter, local pies and all sorts of other amazing goodies.  They also sell fudge, chutneys, cakes and even Kendal Mint Cake Liquer which we bought as a present for my brother-in-law.  If you are heading North on the M6 to visit friends and are looking for something special to give them when you arrive, you will find something in the Tebay Service shop.

An Amazing Farm Shop
An Amazing Farm Shop

Other Amazing Services

So you’ve probably gathered that I love Tebay Services.  But what happens if you live somewhere else in the UK and never end up in the Lake District?  Thankfully there are other options.  Firstly, if you are travelling on the M5 between Birmingham and Bristol (or the other way), the family also run Gloucester Services that is located between Junction 11A and 12.  Find out more information about Gloucester Services here.  They have also recently taken over the Carin Lodge Services which is located 35 miles south of Glasgow on the M74.  All the Westermorland Service areas really are something special compared to the normal places that you find.  Not only do you get a better rest in a wonderful atmosphere you get great food and help support local businesses at the same time.


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