Posted tagged ‘motorway services’

A wayside inn

October 16, 2017

If you were travelling in the early 18th century in the American colonies, on the Boston Post Road between Boston and Worcester, you would have been able to stop at the Wayside Inn, where you would have enjoyed good food and a bed for the night. You can still do so today, and indeed the dinner menu contains ‘traditional New England fare’ of an appetising nature. Of course the Wayside Inn may be old in America, but coaching inns were common in Britain and elsewhere in Europe long before the 18th century. One of the oldest surviving ones in England is the George in Southwark, London (formerly The George and Dragon) dating from 1543 and mentioned in one of Dickens’ novels. I don’t think its menu compares favourably with that of the Wayside Inn, but it is good to see the building still in its originally intended use.

Continental Europe has many examples of fine old traditional coaching inns. The Inn Klausenhof for example, near the university town of Göttingen in Germany, once welcomed Goethe and the Grimm brothers.

For many contemporary travellers, however, the wayside options are rather less attractive, at least in these parts. A league table of British motorway services was recently compiled by Transport Focus. Reading Services on the M4 came out on top, with nearby Heston Services recorded as the worst. I cannot provide readers with the menus, but I can tell you that Heston offers you Burger King, Costa and Greggs. If you think Reading Services must therefore by much much better, I’m not so sure. There is an additional El Mexicana, which I’ll guess is a Tex-Mex sort of thing, but overall it’s pretty much the same offering as Heston.

Even in today’s world of fast travellers, it doesn’t have to be like that. In Switzerland, what you might get at the Luzerner Raststätte can be seen here. There are similar rather more attractive roadside places all over continental Europe.

There is an apparent assumption in Britain that the average motorway driver likes deep-fried food and 1970s-era toilets; indeed they may put up with nothing else. And yet even here change is in the air. My favourite, in what is admittedly not a very crowded list, are the Tebay Services in Cumbria. Here you even have a farm shop, and restaurant food that is nutritious and attractive. We cannot yet find the Wayside Inn on the M6, but maybe things will get better.