Many of us may have been thinking about our first overseas vacation since 2019 this year, with pandemic travel restrictions largely a thing of the past. But airport delays, flight cancellations and rising costs of living could mean you’re considering staying an extra year.
If you’re planning on staying in the UK for your summer vacation this year, the good news is that there are plenty of free things to do in every corner of our islands to keep your budget in check. Here, experts from nerdwallet have compiled a list of TripAdvisor’s top-rated free activities in the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, to help you enjoy a budget-friendly, stress-free trip.
The Scottish Highlands cover 30,000 km² and, with plenty of stunning scenery to see, they are definitely worth a visit for any budget.
Ben Nevis is rated as the best free activity to do in the Scottish Highlands on TripAdvisor. Rising 4,406 feet above the town of Fort William, Ben Nevis is Scotland’s highest mountain. Known affectionately as ‘Ben’ by locals, the mountain is free to climb, but there is a £4 parking fee.
A visit to the Glenfinnan Viaduct is a must for any Harry Potter fan. The Viaduct is a well-known filming location which features the Jacobite Steam Train, better known as the ‘Hogwarts Express’. You can spot the train during its morning or afternoon service from the free vantage point.
TripAdvisor’s 11th most recommended free activity in the Scottish Highlands is Loch Ness. The Loch is 23 miles long and one mile wide and is Britain’s largest body of fresh water. It costs nothing to visit and take in the stunning views of Loch Ness, with plenty of walks or hikes to do.
The lake district
The Lake District is one of England’s most popular holiday destinations. Boasting 16 lakes and plenty of breathtaking views, there are plenty of ways to explore the national park on a budget.
Helvellyn is ranked as the #1 free activity to do in the Lake District on TripAdvisor. At 3,118 feet, Helvellyn is the third highest peak in the Lake District and England. The stunning views from the top are well worth the roughly six hour hike – which won’t cost you a penny.
Windermere, the largest natural lake in the Lake District, is TripAdvisor’s third highest rated free lake activity. The lake is surrounded by mountains, peaks and the town of Bowness-on-Windermere which is a great place to walk.
The wharf museum
The Dock Museum tells the story of Barrow-in-Furness, where the museum is located. It is located in a Victorian dry dock in a beautiful coastal setting. Admission to the museum is free, along with free parking and a free guided tour, making this a great day out for the whole family.
A popular holiday destination, Cornwall is known for its sandy beaches, picturesque harbor villages, towering cliffs and seaside resorts, making it a great option to visit on a budget.
South West Coastal Path
The South West Coastal Path is rated as the best free activity to do in Cornwall on TripAdvisor. A great way to enjoy the beautiful sights of the Cornish coast, totally free. The total length of the path is 630 miles, but is divided into sections, with some being easier than others. The walk from Padstow to Newquay is ideal for those who like a challenge.
Truro is the only town in Cornwall where the skyline is dominated by the three spiers of its cathedral. Ranked firmly in the top 10 best free things to do, the cathedral has stunning architecture and can be spotted from anywhere in the city. With free entry, this is an attraction not to be missed.
Cornwall is home to a plethora of stunning beaches. Spending the day at the beach is one of the best and cheapest ways to relax with friends, family or yourself. Some of the most popular beaches in Cornwall include Kynance Cove, Fistral Beach in Newquay and Porthminster Beach in St Ives. However, more discerning visitors will seek out the lesser-known spots to avoid the crowds…
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia is located in North West Wales and covers a total of 823m² making it the largest national park in Wales. It’s a great place to visit on a budget with plenty of beautiful scenery to enjoy.
Mount Snowdon is the number one free activity to do in Snowdonia, according to TripAdvisor. It is made up of jagged peaks that offer stunning views of Snowdonia, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and Ireland. There are six main paths leading to the summit starting from different sides of the mountain.
National Slate Museum
The second most popular free attraction in Snowdonia is the National Slate Museum. Located in Llanberis, it is free to visit and is built in the shadow of Elidir mountain. The workshops and numerous conferences and demonstrations introduce you to the history and way of life of a quarryman.
Dolbadarn Castle is a fortification built by Llywelyn the Great in the 13th century. It sits at the foot of Llanberis Pass and consists of a small tower and ruins which overlook the lakes and surrounding countryside.
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. It is a compact city with lots to explore and is ideal for those wishing to explore the city on a budget.
wall of peace
TripAdvisor’s first free activity in Belfast is to walk along the Peace Wall. The wall is riddled with murals and separates the nationalist Falls Road and the unionist Shankhill Road. Peace Wall tours are available to help you learn more about the history, although most of these come at a cost.
Glass of Thrones Trail
Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, the Glass of Thrones trail is definitely a must-see attraction in Belfast, and it’s completely free. The 3km trail consists of six stained glass windows that depict some of the series’ most memorable scenes.
The botanical gardens
The Botanical Gardens are a beautiful green space to explore and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Home to the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine House, the Botanical Gardens are free to enter, making it a great place to visit on a budget.