10 of the best free activities for families for summer 2022

Family days out can be a strain on the wallet, so we’ve chosen some of the best free options up and down the country for some budget-friendly inspiration.

By Rhonda Carrier
Published 15 Aug 2022, 06:04 BST
Walkers on Arthur’s Seat, with views across Edinburgh.

Walkers on Arthur’s Seat, with views across Edinburgh.

Photograph by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

1. Scale an extinct volcano in Edinburgh
Climbing the 823ft-high Arthur’s Seat, in Holyrood Park, is a must in the Scottish capital, and routes of varying difficulty mean it can be either an easy hike or a proper challenge. Make sure any younger children and tots are in carriers, and ascend from the east, up the grassy slope above Dunsapie Loch. With its incredible vistas of city, countryside and sea, it’s well worth the climb. 

2. Ride a wave in Yorkshire     
The North Yorkshire coast is home to various up-and-coming surfing spots, including Scarborough, Cayton Bay and Whitby. Bring your own board and take to the water, or learn with one of the local surf schools, such as Dexters Surf School in Scarborough. 

3. Cycle the Peak District trails
Explore the scenic South Pennines by bike: you won’t be disappointed by the Monsal Trail (8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill and Bakewell); the 13-mile Tissington Trail from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne; or the 17 miles of the High Peak Trail from Dowlow to High Peak Junction at Cromford. All run along former rail lines and can be accessed at different points.

4. Hunt fossils in Dorset
Visit the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast for a chance to find prehistoric fossils. Some of the best spots for fossil-hunting are the towns of Charmouth and Lyme Regis, while at Swanage you can quite literally walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs at Spyway Dinosaur Footprints, with its 100-plus fossilised tracks preserved in a layer of rock. Also free is the Dorset Museum in Dorchester, home to the Weymouth Bay pliosaur skull. 

5. Sail the seas in London
In Greenwich, the world’s largest maritime museum is a hit with all ages thanks to its exhibits on exploration and seafaring. The Ahoy! Children’s Gallery, specially conceived for young visitors aged 0-7, brings the themes of polar exploration, pirates and more to life. There’s also the new and equally hands-on Sea Things gallery, a ‘captain’s cabin’ to explore and the interactive Great Map, which takes over the floor beside the main cafe. 

VR headsets at the Dark Skies Festival, South Downs National Park.

Photograph by Getty

Five more for free 

See stars in sussex
Head to Bignor Hill on moonless summer and winter nights for views of the Milky Way. 

Walk Hadrian’s Wall
Tackle part of the 84-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall Path in the wall’s 1,900th anniversary year. 

Make a splash in Cornwall
Bude Sea Pool is perfect for open-air swimming, with free beach safety sessions. 

Summit Snowdon
Though steep and rocky, Llanberis Path is the easiest route for families climbing Wales’s highest peak.

See the world in Liverpool 
The World Museum has displays on archaeology and ethnology.

Published in the September 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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