The AA guide to pubs near the M6 – saving you a trip to motorway service stations
Motorists regularly complain at the sorry state of some motorway service stations - after all no-one wants overpriced weak coffee or soggy sandwiches. Earlier this year we revealed how Sandbach services on the M6 received a number of very grim TripAdvisor reviews falling down the ratings in a national survey.
The services, located between junctions 16 and 17 on the M6, have come under fire on a number of occasions over the years and have consistently rated low in customer satisfaction surveys.
The latest survey findings mean Sandbach Services has slipped as much as 23 places down the ratings since 2022, when the Transport Focus survey ranked Sandbach 61st for its northbound hub and 94th for the southbound services. And online reviews from motorists show why this Cheshire service station is consistently under fire.
So, with that in mind, we have taken a look at the AA's guide to pubs and restaurants just a stone's throw from the motorway through Cheshire - meaning you can leave the M6 and enjoy a bite to eat rather than opting for a service station.
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The Three Greyhounds Inn, Allostock
(in between junctions 18 and 19)
Described as a 'warm, relaxing and friendly pub', this is what AA inspectors had to say: "In a lovely rural setting, this 300-year-old former farmhouse is a warren of atmospheric rooms, with exposed beams, rugs on wooden floors, log fires in brick fireplaces, candles on old tables, and heaps of quirky touches.
"Go there for a choice of five local ales – a website snapshot shows Shropshire Gold, Merlin's Gold, Weetwood's Eastgate, Tatton's Best and Almighty Allostock, over 50 brandies (ask to see their Brandy Bible), and New and Old World wines. Turning to the food, there are nibbles like the little maple and mustard pork sausages with red onion marmalade, or warm Welsh rarebit pot with granary toast.
"For bigger appetites, look out for the seafood trawler board (enough for two, even three); chicken, ham, leek and tarragon pie; the ‘legendary’ steak, port and Stilton pie with chips; sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry; or root vegetable and pearl barley hotpot.
"Desserts range from sticky toffee pudding to the Allostock banoffi mess – meringue, whipped Chantilly cream and sticky toffee sponge with toffee sauce and fresh banana. Do book for a memorable Sunday lunch.
"Dogs are welcome in the bar area and garden. Classic vehicle owners can join the car club."
The Wheatsheaf, Sandbach
(in between junctions 16 and 17)
Described as 'contemporary cooking close to the M6', the AA inspectors say: "Slap bang in the heart of Sandbach town centre, this refurbished coaching inn is ideally located, two miles from the M6 and seven miles from National Trust-owned Little Moreton Hall.
"There is a tasteful bar and restaurant as well as an all-year outside dining area serving both ‘gastropub’ and ‘steakhouse’ menus. Typical dishes include braised lamb shank with celeriac purée, roasted honey parsnips, new potatoes and mint jus."
The Bear's Paw, Warmingham
(near to junction 17)
Described as 'refined cooking and stylish accommodation', the AA inspectors say: "With its quintessential Cheshire black-and-white half-timbering, this stylish 19th-century gastro-inn has clearly had a lot of money spent on it.
"Acres – well it seems like acres – of reclaimed antique oak flooring, leather sofas surrounding a huge open fireplace, bookshelves offering plenty of choice for a good read, and more than 200 pictures and archive photos lining the oak-panelled walls.
"The bar, in which stands a carved wooden bear with a salmon in its mouth, offers a half dozen cask ales from local microbreweries, including the somewhat appropriate Beartown in Congleton, Weetwood in Tarporley, and Tatton in Knutsford, as well as Hereford Dry Cider.
"Whether you’re sitting out front looking across to the churchyard or in the clubby interior, there’s plenty of comfortable dining space in which to sample wholesome, locally-sourced food from wide-ranging menus that effortlessly blends the classic with the modern.
"Great for sharing are the imaginative deli boards, which come laden with local cheeses, charcuterie or pickled and smoked fish, and the Sunday roast lunches are an unmissable weekly offering."(Image: MEN)
George and Dragon, Great Budworth
(near to junction 19)
Described as a 'village local steeped in history', this pub in Little Budworth is a little further away from the motorway, but is worth a visit. AA inspectors say: "Painstakingly restored, this charming inn has many original features, including a stone tablet in the bar dated 1722 and inscribed 'Nil nimium cupito' (‘I desire nothing to excess’).
"Also visible is a verse above a door written by local Arley Hall estate-owner, Rowland Egerton-Warburton, who had the inn remodelled in 1875. Regular real ales are Lees Bitter from Manchester and the pub’s own Great Budworth Best Bitter.
"Start your meal with deep-fried Cheshire brie with cranberry and claret compôte, or potted crab; then move on to steak, ale and mushroom shortcrust pie; slow-cooked lamb shank; or cheese and onion pie."(Image: Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)
The Swettenham Arms, Swettenham
(in between junctions 18 and 19)
Described as a 'haunted 16th-century inn', the AA inspectors say: "Concealed from the road by the parish church, this ancient inn stands next door to the renowned Lovell Quinta Arboretum. A comfortable pub full of quiet corners, it draws an appreciative year-round crowd.
"In the bar is a generous selection of real ales, lagers and ciders and 14 wines by the glass. Diners choosing from a winter menu, for example, can expect to find Cheshire gammon with fried duck egg and hand-cut chips; a choice of puff-pastry pies; braised ox cheek with smoked mash and bordelaise sauce; lamb Madras with rice; and Portobello mushroom, pepper, courgette and aubergine stack with white wine sauce.
"Many dishes benefit from the inn's home-grown vegetables. Sandwiches and ploughman's are available from noon till 6pm, and there's a children's menu. The building itself is tucked into a former Tudor nunnery and has an intriguing record of ghost-sightings. Maybe you'll meet Sarah, the black-clad nun."
Egerton Arms, Chelford
(between junctions 18 and 19)
Described as a 'family-run and family welcoming pub with a deli next door', the AA inspectors say: "Sited in Cheshire’s best countryside in the affluent area known as the ‘golden triangle’, the Egerton Arms is efficiently and enthusiastically run by Jeremy Hague.
"Low beams, large fireplaces, eccentric antiques and a long bar with brass pumps characterise the interior of this 16th-century building, whose history is closely tied to Lord Egerton and his Tatton Park estate which is nearby.
"Local real ales are briskly served in the bar, while the 100-seat restaurant caters to hungry families with a comprehensive menu full of pub classics, including deli boards, grills, and pizzas from the stone-baked oven. There's a deli adjoining the pub which sells a wide choice of artisan produce from all over the country."
- ^ slipped as much as 23 places down the ratings since 2022 (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)
- ^ Chester Market celebrates first anniversary and two million visitors (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)
- ^ Chester's bustling new market crowned 'best in Britain' (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)
- ^ Sandbach town centre, (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)
- ^ Tarporley (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)
- ^ Sign up for CheshireLive email direct to your inbox here (www.cheshire-live.co.uk)