Leicester Forest East services
M1 between J21 and J21A
Signposted from the road.
map and directions
Single site built upon the motorway.
An old and crowded service area with all the restaurants on the bridge, packed in between two junctions. Its age is hidden by the many face-lifts it has received. It forms a gateway to The National Forest.
Catering: Burger King, Chopstix Noodle Bar, KFC, Starbucks, Subway, The Good Breakfast, f'real Milkshakes, Krispy Kreme, Slush Puppie, Starbucks on the Go, Starbucks Drive Thru Shops: Top Gift, Waitrose & Partners, WHSmith Amenities: Days Inn, Game Zone, Showers Outdoor Space: Tiny amount of grass space at back of car parks Charging Points: none Forecourt: Welcome Break, The Good Bakery, f'real Milkshakes, Rollover, Starbucks on the Go
First 2 hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £15 and HGVs, caravans and coaches must pay £31 (or £33 to include a £12 meal voucher).
Prices can be paid in the shop, with instructions in each car park. They are strictly enforced by ParkingEye.
This information is provided to us by third parties. You should always check with staff on site.
Leicester Forest East Motorway Services Area
Leicester Forest East
- 📞 Telephone number: 0116 238 6801
- 🗺 Grid reference: SK538026
Trivia and Design
When it opened, Leicester Forest East called itself "Europe's most advanced motorway dining spot". More recently, the local press have described it as "Leicestershire's best known landmark".
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, additional restrictions were placed on activity in Leicester. The official boundary for this was the M1. This meant that half of the service station building was in the boundary, and half of it wasn't. In practice motorway service areas were exempt from most COVID-19 restrictions, but some of the finer details did matter.
The service area received media attention in 2009 after the adjacent hotel was used as overflow accommodation by Leicester University. On Christmas Eve in 1997, Arthur Smith broadcast his evening Radio 4 show live from the service area.
On 1 May 2017, the filling stations were handed over to Welcome Break by previous operator BP Express. They were re-branded to Shell, and rebranded again to Welcome Break fuel in May 2022.
The mouthful of a name that is 'Leicester Forest East' causes some confusion. It is not actually named directly after the city of Leicester, but a suburb explicitly called 'Leicester Forest East'. This was itself named after the former Leicester Forest, and there is a corresponding area further from the M1 which is known as 'Leicester Forest West'.
There is a National Highways works depot by the northbound exit, as with many old service areas.
Tesla Superchargers are due to be installed here soon. The GRIDSERVE chargers were upgraded in late 2022, but this caused them to drain power from the main building, so they were soon decommissioned and remain out of action.
Bridge Design and Ross Foods
See also: History:Leicester Forest East
During the early days of the service area, you would have been able to walk along the promenade and terrace alongside the bridge, but these have both been closed. It would be difficult to maintain the area to an acceptable safety standard, with no commercial return.
The service area was built just as the concept of building above the motorway was falling out of favour with the government. 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.
Ross took their role very seriously, creating a unique cruise-themed restaurant that called itself "a real place to celebrate".
View the Leicester Forest East restaurant menu (June 1977)
The service area is positioned in a relatively dangerous position, with busy junctions either side. The M1 is already four lanes with no hard shoulder through the service area with no space to widen it any more, and no space to the south to improve the congested M1 J21.
Widening the M1 and expanding M1 J21 have both been considered several times over the last 20 years, with the suggestion being that Leicester Forest East would be forced to close, or at least move away from the motorway. The work was due to begin in 2010, but was then put back to 2017 before being postponed indefinitely.
In September 2017, it was reported that the service area was a barrier preventing any plans to upgrade the M1, and that the option of moving it to another site had been considered. Separate to that, the draft vision for Whetstone Pastures suggests a new motorway service area could be built a few miles south of here. It's not impossible that one day the two concepts will combine.
|Watford Gap (22 miles)|
Warwick (M40 south, 39 miles)
Rugby (M6, 9 miles)
Rothwell Truckstop (A14, 32 miles)
Rothwell (A14 eastbound, 33 miles)
Kettering (A14, 37 miles)
|Services on the M1||Donington (16 miles)|
Leicester (A46, 7 miles)
|Newport Pagnell (45 miles)|
Warwick (M40 south, 39 miles)
Corley (M6 west, 26 miles)
Rothwell Truckstop (A14, 33 miles)
|Welcome Break services||Woodall (56 miles)|
Derby (A50 west, 21 miles)
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