There are times when public transport just doesn't get you to where you need to go, and travelling by car is the only option. A long journey on Britain's roads can often condemn you to stopping off at service stations for petrol, refreshments and rest, but they are expensive and soulless places with limited choices. There are however attractive and affordable alternatives if you just know where to look.

A road sign next to a motorway
(Image from Google Streetview)

British service stations have always been something of a national joke.

They announce their arrival on a motorway with a countdown of road signs plastered with recognisable logos - the golden arches of MacDonald's, the red beans of Costa Coffee or the green mermaid of Starbucks - brightly coloured trademarks designed to offset the dreariness of the grey concrete motorway and entice you in to have a break and buy some convenient, processed food.

A sprawl of ugly buildings and signs
Thurrock - voted the ugliest service station in the UK

When you get there you find a giant car park and a vast flat, ugly building, often filled with noisy arcade machines, small supermarket concessions selling horribly overpriced food and an endless choice of eateries which promise to serve you quickly and get you back on the road as soon as you can.