Even though the UK is quite an expensive country to live in, it’s entirely possible to visit the UK on a shoestring. You just need to know where to find all the best cheap and free things to do… that’s where this blog comes in!
Jump to your destination:
- 1. Relax in the sun at the best beaches
- 2. Learn lots at the Natural History Museum in London
- 3. See the Harry Potter train for free
- 4. Dance along with the Notting Hill Carnival
- 5. Meander along the best walking trails
- 6. See the Edinburgh skyline for free
- 7. Hear the famous chimes of Big Ben
- 8. Stand in the path of giants at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
- 9. Picnic in Hyde Park
- 10. Step back in time in Bath
1. Relax in the sun at the best beaches
When exploring the UK, I couldn’t recommend visiting Devon or Cornwall enough. With some of the best UK beaches and best surf spots around, you will be spoilt for choice.
Five of the best beaches across Devon and Cornwall are:
- St Ives, Cornwall — perfect for miles of white sandy beaches and a gentle ocean bay
- Woolacombe, Devon — perfect for catching decent waves
- Croyde Bay, Devon — perfect for families with one of the safest sandy beaches around
- Newquay, Cornwall — perfect for nightlife and surfing
- Lyme Regis, Dorset/Devon Border — perfect for period drama fanatics
Whichever beach you decide to venture to, you should expect perfect sandy beaches, crisp salt water and potentially sunshine (on a good day).
2. Learn lots at the Natural History Museum in London
Wander around this museum in London and be faced with life-size dinosaur models, learn about natural disasters and admire the science behind plant life and crystals.
You are sure to learn a lot during your visit here and when entry is completely free, you and your mind are in for a treat!
3. See the Harry Potter train for free
If you’re a Harry Potter fan (like me) then you should definitely make some time to venture out to Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland to see the Jacobite Steam Train (aka the original Hogwarts Express) rumble past.
There is a £2 car parking fee unless you’re a National Trust member and can park for free. But actually seeing the train won’t cost you a penny and you will have one of the best views of both the train and the surrounding Scottish countryside.
So, go ahead… get snap happy with your camera and enter the fantasy world of Harry Potter… for free!
4. Dance along with the Notting Hill Carnival
Every August, come rain or shine, the Notting Hill Carnival meanders through the streets of London; showering smiles, music and bright costumes on passers by.
Venture out into the crowds and admire London at its best, whilst you dance along with the vibrant carnival. Don’t forget the bright clothes, crazy headwear and buckets of glitter – these are all a must at the Notting Hill Carnival!
5. Meander along the best walking trails
There are so many stunning walking trails across the British Isles for every level of fitness. Whether you are an avid hiker, a steady rambler or just like to take it easy, then you are sure to find plenty of trails to suit you and your feet. Plus you’ll be exhilarated from the exercise you’re getting and will feel good for not spending any money – it’s a win, win!
Five of the best walking trails around the UK are:
- Glenridding to Howton Lakeside Walk, Ullswater, Lake District, Cumbria — perfect for lakeside views and finding hidden picnic spots
- Hunter’s Inn to Heddon Mouth Walk, Heddon Valley, Exmoor — perfect for great sea views and a gentle walk
- Four Waterfalls Walk, Ystradfellte, Wales — perfect for woodland walks and venturing behind waterfalls
- Pontsticill Reservoir Circular Walk, Pontsticill, Wales — perfect for water views and easy rambling
- Worcestershire Beacon & British Camp Reservoir Walk, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire — perfect for families and hill climbers
So, go on – get your walking boots on and venture out into the great British outdoors!
6. See the Edinburgh skyline for free
If you’re an avid walker and want to view the Edinburgh skyline for free, then a trek to Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat is a must for you.
What I should confess is that a trip to Arthur’s Seat is not for the faint-hearted. Be expected to climb a very steep hill. Many an average walker have (metaphorically) fallen at the last hurdle and not made it to the top, so you do have to be quite fit to manage it. But hey, if I could do it, then you definitely can!
And oh, it’s so worth it when you do! You’ll be able to see the city skyline for miles and miles on a good day, feel pumped from the exercise you’ve just embarked on and find plenty of quiet picnicking spots. And as we all know, walking is always free!
7. Hear the famous chimes of Big Ben
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are one of the most iconic images when thinking about London, and when visiting this city, it would be rude not to venture to the Thames River to see the clock and hear the chimes of Big Ben.
There are smaller bells that chime every quarter hour, but the largest bell (the “Great Bell”) chimes on the hour every hour. Time your visit just right and hear the famous and sonorous sounds of this iconic landmark.
You’ll also be faced with pretty views across the river and the London Eye. Take some time out here to admire the bright red London buses, do some people watching and admire buskers on the water’s edge; whilst hearing those dulcet tones from the bells.
8. Stand in the path of giants at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
Ulster, home to Giant’s Causeway is the most northern of Ireland’s ancient kingdoms, with beautiful landscapes steeped in legend.
Well, legend would have it that Giant’s Causeway was formed to help giants cross the rocky seas between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Sadly, two giants (the Irish Finn MacCool and the Scottish Benandonner) took feud against one another.
During these disputes, both Giants swore to one another that they should never speak again and so each demolished the causeway, leaving ragged ends in both Ireland and Scotland. Each of which you can still see and visit today. And the best bit? Visiting the famous and legendary Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is completely free if you know where to go.
Most think that entering the Visitor Centre and paying the £8.50 per adult entrance fee is the only way to visit Giant’s Causeway. Sneaky tip: it’s not! Head under the archway to the right of the visitor centre entrance and you can walk down the sloping hill to the causeway without spending a penny.
There is a shuttle bus you can take up and down the hill but that would cost you £1 each way (or it is free for National Trust members displaying their card). But if you can manage the easy walk up and down the hill, then your day here will be totally free… enjoy!
9. Picnic in Hyde Park
Throughout London, there are vast green spaces that are perfect for jogs, strolls and picnics in the sunshine. One of the best and most famous is Hyde Park near Buckingham Palace and the designer Mayfair district.
Among the free attractions here are the beautiful Rose Garden, glistening Serpentine lake and of course Speaker’s Corner. Wander through this extensive parkland, stop to smell the roses and get political – all possible with a visit to Hyde Park.
And once you’ve finished with that, get out your picnic and relax in the sun (unless it’s raining). Don’t forget the scones, jam and cream for the ultimate British picnic!
10. Step back in time in Bath
Ahh, Bath – such a magnificent place steeped in history. Most of you will make your way here for the Roman Baths and various museums, which is absolutely the right thing to do as they are beautiful.
But if you’re spending all day here and want some ideas of some (free) places to see, then I’d recommend exploring the Royal Crescent and Botanical Gardens.
The Royal Crescent is the crescent shaped row of traditional Bath townhouses that you will recognise from various period drama movies and tv shows. Think Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Keira Knightley in The Duchess and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Well, seeing these houses and photographing this impressive area of Bath is completely free of charge!
Next up are the Botanical Gardens, which are also free to enter. These gardens are a wonder to explore and relax in with so many different kinds of plants, shrubs and trees to see. Take a relaxing stroll through the gardens, eat a picnic or read your book and feel any and all worries ebb away from you. During the spring and summer months, also look out for “special” exhibitions such as the Bath Women’s Institute’s creative and witty displays.
Over to you now — what will be at the top of your UK on a shoestring bucket list? Let me know in the comments below…
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