Best cheap and free things to do with the kids this summer holiday around the UK

Finding cheap and free things to do with the family over the summer holiday needn't be difficult. Here are our top suggestions for having fun on a budget.

Even if you don’t go on holiday, keeping your kids entertained this summer will cost you £624.

That’s according to the Post Office, which included the costs of activities, childcare and fuel to come up with the high figure for weary parents.

To help out, we've put together a list of cheap and free days out to make this summer holiday loads of fun for the whole family.


Get the kids away from their screens and outdoors by taking them to watch horse racing.

Under-18s can get in free with a paying adult to hundreds of race days this summer as part of Great British Racing’s Under 18’s Race Free campaign.

There’s also a range of family days with extra activities to keep the kids occupied.

Find a racecourse and fixture near you by clicking here.

Many horse racing events are free for kids this summer (image: PA)

If you would prefer to take your clan somewhere more educational, members of Heritage England and Historic Scotland can visit hundreds of remarkable sites free of charge.

If you have the right membership for Heritage England or Historic Scotland, kids can get admission free of charge.

Are you a family of music fans? Have a look around for some free music festivals, take a picnic and chill out in the sunshine.

Or go fishing, with a free fishing taster session, courtesy of The Canal and River Trust. Pick the brains of professional angling coaches or just partake in a spot of canoeing.

Rainy day activities

For rainy days (and there may be a few), you could head over to your nearest free museum.

You'll find loads of exhibitions covering local history, natural history, science and famous figures.

Are you more interested in your own history?

You can trace your family tree with the kids using library resources and online research at home.

Odeon cinema is running Odeon Kids screenings all summer, with tickets priced from £2.50. Check the website for showings.

Alternatively, you could try Mini Mornings from £2.49 per ticket at your local Vue Cinema.

Sports and activities

And for brighter days, how about something a little more athletic?

There's free tennis coaching on offer throughout the UK.

If you've got bikes at home, check out some kid-friendly cycle routes that won't tire their legs out, courtesy of the National Trust.

What's more, some local councils offer certain residents free swimming at their nearest pool. Check your local council website to see if you are eligible.

For something outdoors that's less physically challenging, why not try geocaching? Basically, you go out with your GPS and find a ‘cache’ which has been left by another user. 

It’ll usually contain little trinkets you can exchange, so if you have any miscellaneous bits and bobs like badges, Christmas cracker gifts or Kinder egg toys, now’s the time to dig them out.

They’ll often contain a pen and paper for you to leave a message as well.

The National Trust has a rundown of 10 places to go geocaching with a list of events, which you may have to pay for. Have fun!

Family doing geocaching. (Image: National Trust Images/Ben Selway)


Teddy Bear Picnic, Hertford Castle – 21 July

This free event includes a teddy bear hunt, teddy bear parade and water activities, accompanied by a brass band concert.

Bristol Harbour Festival – 19-21 July

Baby racing and a range of music events are all completely free as part of this three-day festival.

Sunderland International Airshow  26-28 July

If you’re around Sunderland during this weekend, pop over to the Sunderland International Airshow. There’s a whole weekend of stunning displays and entertainment on offer.

British Firework Championships, Plymouth – 14-15 August

Be dazzled by one of the biggest fireworks displays of the year at the British Firework Championships.

In between displays, you can check out the funfair and food stalls on site.


Scottish Highland Games, across Scotland  throughout July and August

Tossing the caber, tug of war and dancing are on show during various free events over the summer (full guide available here). Bagpipes not optional.

Edinburgh summer festivals  throughout July and August

This wouldn’t be a decent guide if we didn’t mention the summer festivals Edinburgh has to offer:

What’s wonderful about these festivals is you don’t necessarily have to pay anything to enjoy your day.

Just wander down the Royal Mile to find free shows, readings, music and street theatre.

Merchant City Festival, Glasgow  25-28 July

Merchant City Festival is putting on a programme of street theatre, music, food and drink, comedy, dance, fashion, design and more.

Also get involved in a carnival procession and family zone fun.

Tour the backdrops behind your favourite films and TV shows  all year round

Explore castles, beaches, mountains and towns from the likes of Outlander, MacbethSkyfall and Brave.

Read more at the Visit Scotland website.

A historic castle (image: Shutterstock)

Doune Castle, near Stirling. One of the key locations in Outlander.


Isle of Fire, Barry  20-21 July

Isle of Fire is returning to Barry for another weekend.

The Island Gardens become a fiery landscape over the free two-day event, with a flaming Viking ship, fire dancers and music.

Entry is free and the event starts at 8pm each day. Definitely one for the older kids!

Knight School, Gwynedd  every Tuesday from 23 July to 27 Aug

No more toys – now your child can learn the skills of a knight at the medieval Harlech Castle. £7.30 for adults and £4.40 for children between the ages of five and 17.

Bog Snorkelling Championship  25 August

This August bank holiday weekend sees the 34th World Bog Snorkelling Championships, held in Llanwrtyd Wells.

It’s been described by Lonely Planet as one of the 50 “must do” things around the world back in 2014. 

Competitors will don their snorkels and flippers, making their way through two lengths of peat bog without using any conventional swimming strokes.

It starts at 10am and there’ll be food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a real ale and cider bar.

Entry is £15 for adults and £12 for 14-17-year olds, while under-14s go free.

A competitor at the bog snorkeling championships (image: PA)

Rhyl Air Show, Rhyl – 24-25 August

Two days of incredible aerial displays and some events on the ground, all of which are free to attend.

St Govan’s Chapel – all year round

For something a bit more adventurous, make the descent down St Govan’s Head to find the chapel, which is built into the side of the limestone cliff, measuring 20ft by 12ft. It’s a hermit’s paradise.

There are 52 steps to get to the chapel, but legend says it’s a different number coming back up...

Northern Ireland

Summer Rose Fair, Belfast  19-21 July

Chill out with some music in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park to celebrate the Summer Rose Fair.

There will be harp music playing daily alongside a variety of bands and entertainment.

Event start and end times vary depending on the day, so it’s best to check the site before attending to avoid disappointment.

Ulster Rugby Family Fun Day, Belfast – 2 August

Meet the team at the Kingspan Stadium and learn rugby skills with live music and entertainment.

For the less sports-obsessed, there’s inflatables, archery, a petting farm and competitions.

The event runs from 3pm to 6pm and costs £5 for adults and £3 for children (under 2s go free).

EastSide Arts Festival, Belfast  1-11 August

Enjoy some music, movies, theatre, talks, workshops and exhibitions from east Belfast’s hottest talent at the EastSide Arts Festival.

There are various community events and heritage tours to get stuck into as well.

This article has been updated.


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