Motorway Services Online

Leicester Forest East
Welcome Break
Facilities | Rating | ReviewsLeicester Forest East
Road:M1 between J21 and J21a

Address:Welcome Break
Leicester Forest East Motorway Services Area
Hinckley Road
Leicester Forest East
Telephone number:0116 238 6801
Signposted from the road?As Starbucks/Waitrose
Previous operators:Ross
Grid reference:SK538026
Services type:Single site built upon the motorway.
Visit Leicester Forest East/Welcome Break's official website
Facebook Page

An old and small service area with all the restaurants on the bridge, packed in between two junctions. Its age is hidden by the many facelifts it has received. It forms a gateway to The National Forest.


Catering: Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Harry Ramsden's, KFC, Papa John's Pizza, Starbucks, Subway, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Yorkshire Tea, Starbucks Drive Thru Shops: Fone Bitz, Waitrose, WHSmith Main Amenities: Conference Room, Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Picnic Tables, Showers, Welcome Break Gaming Motel: Days Innbook Forecourt: BP, BP Connect, Wild Bean Café, AdBlue Containers

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which HGVs, caravans and coaches must pay £22, or £24 to include a £9 meal voucher.

Prices can be paid in the shop with instructions in each car park. They are strictly enforced by ParkingEye.

Trivia and History

A view of the iconic bridge

The problem with the age of the services is that it needs frequent refurbishment to stop it looking dire. As a result it goes through phases of looking good and phases of not.

There is a Highways Agency works depot on the northbound exit and there is a Geocaching point located on the southbound emergency access road. The Days Inn motel opened in December 1999 and was the first at a Welcome Break.

Ross were the first operator to trial a conference room, which they did here in 1972.

In 2009 the services hit media attention after the adjacent hotel was used as overflow digs by Leicester University.

The local press described the services as "Leicestershire's best known landmark".

Many people ask about the name 'Leicester Forest East', given that the services are west of Leicester and there is no Leicester Forest. The answer is that they are located east of the village of Leicester Forest East, which itself is east of Leicester Forest West. Interesting.

Bridge Design and Ross Foods

Full details: 50 Years Of Service Area Number 17

During the early days of the services, you would have been able to walk along the promenade and terrace alongside the bridge, but these have both closed due to health and safety regulations. At the time it was built the idea of building the services around a bridge was falling out of favour with the government and they weren't too pleased with the plans, but Ross' were welcomed to the network in the hope the new name would bring some variety to the motorway.

The services were designed along with this bit of the M1, which both opened in 1965. Their location was initially rejected for being too close to local houses, but it was decided to be the least-bad of the options. The level of detail in the design of the services went right down the furniture which was used. With not many service stations or local 24-hour buildings in place at the time, a few weeks after opening the services were raided by criminals, who stripped the building of only its furniture.

The whole site was designed to be luxurious, and the Captain's Table restaurant certainly impressed, receiving a five-star rating from the AA and high-praise from local residents. Ross had moved into the motorway industry hoping the unique site would provide some exposure for their products, and had heard the sale of alcohol was about to be permitted, meaning their restaurants could attract a wide audience. Inside were bright colours and gleaming stainless steel. Red settees were used in the café, while the restaurant had a horseshoe counter with a kitchen in the centre.

As the novelty wore off and alcohol continued to be forbidden, they tried to reduce running costs by cutting the quality. Noted for their slack trade particularly on the bridge, Ross eventually handed the facilities to Welcome Break in 1985. At the time facilities included a betting shop, ice cream stall and a separate Happy Eater restaurant.

View the Leicester Forest East restaurant menu (June 1977)


See details: The Rise and Fall of Leicester Forest East

The services are currently in a fairly dangerous position, as there are busy junctions either side and the M1 is four lanes with no hard shoulder through the services. The Highways Agency want to widen the M1 here yet again and they want to expand J21, both of which would require the services to be closed as they would be too dangerous. This was due to happen in 2010, but was then put back to 2017 before being postponed indefinitely.

Amongst other things, a Facebookgroup was set up, which was remarkable at the time.

Survey Results

Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only.

In May 2012 and August 2011, Visit England rated the services as 3 stars.

In 2008 the northbound services won a five star loo award.

In 2007, the northbound services won a five star loo award. The southbound site was rated four stars.

In 2006, the services were rated three out of five by Holiday Which?

In 2005 and again in 2006, the services won a five-star loo award.

In 1977 Egon Ronay rated the services as poor, but did concede that the main restaurant was "borderline acceptable". He said it was "attractively designed" but the convenience food was a let-down, especially the "hamburger which could have been made of anything".

Back in 1968, a Which? review of the services found that they had the only decent restaurant on the motorway network.


Watford Gap (22 miles)
Warwick (M40 south, 39 miles)
Corley (M6 west, 26 miles)
Services on the M1 Markfield (6 miles)
Donington Park (16 miles)
Leicester (A46, 7 miles)
Newport Pagnell (45 miles)
Warwick (M40 south, 39 miles)
Corley (M6 west, 26 miles)
Welcome Break services Woodall (56 miles)
Derby South (A50 west, 21 miles)

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