50 Free Things to do in the United Kingdom….

Vacation fun in the UK doesn’t have to cost a bundle. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost a penny, as these 50 free things to do demonstrate. All of Britain’s national museums – not just the ones in London – are free for everyone, every day. There’s free access to most of the countryside too – for recreation, birdwatching, kite flying, you name it.

These 50 ideas and resources should steer you toward more than enough activities to fill a long vacation or loads of fine days out. Take public transportation and you won’t even have to worry about the cost of petrol.

(Arranged in alphabetical order)

Arbeia Roman Fort - Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images
Arbeia Roman Fort on Tyneside. Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images

1.  Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum

This Roman Fort once housed the garrison that guarded the entrance to the Tyne. Based on excavations and finds from the site, this is an exciting reconstruction of an unusual aspect of Roman life. Arbeia means Arab in Latin. The Romans thought nothing of moving legions of their soldiers where ever they were needed in the Empire. This garrison was manned by Iraqi legionnaires. Check the museum’s calendar and time your visit for a candlelight tour in December to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Open: Easter hrough October – In 2016, Arbeia reopens March 24. Hours: Monday to Saturday 10a.m. to 5:30p.m., Sunday 1p.m. to 5p.m., November through March – closed except for pre-arranged school groups.

View from Calton Hill - © Ferne Arfin
View of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat behind them. One of the best views in Edinburgh from Calton Hill. © Ferne Arfin

2.  Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, is one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. It’s a hefty hike to the top but not beyond the reach of most reasonably fit adults and children. And the views from the top, take in Edinburgh Castle, the sea, the distant mountains of the Western Highlands and the entire city. If you don’t to climb, there’s a bus that goes up into Holyrood Park pretty much all the way to the top. But that costs a little bit of money so not entirely in the spirit of the free thing to do.

Whistling Sands, Port Oer - britainonview/ Wales Tourist Board Photo Library
Whistling Sands, Port Oer, Wales This National Trust Managed Coast is also known as Porthor.britainonview/ Wales Tourist Board Photo Library

3.  Beautiful Beaches

The United Kingdom has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. That shouldn’t seem so surprising. After all Britain is an island kingdom with nearly 7,800 miles of coast. Nowhere in the entire country is more than two hours from a beach.These are not the sort of beaches where you can bask in the sun (not very often, anyway) or spend hours swimming warm seas. The water, even on UK beaches washed by the Gulf Stream is pretty chilly. But what the UK’s beaches lack in tropical charm, they more than make up for in sheer drama. For walking, surfing, exploring, wildlife watching, these are some of the most beautiful and isolated free beaches in the world.

Coal Miner - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Coal Miner. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

4.  The Big Pit:National Coal Museum

A real coal mine that includes a multi-media tour of a modern coal mine with a virtual miner in the Mining Galleries, exhibitions in the Pithead Baths and historic colliery buildings open to the public for the first time. The highlight is a world-famous underground tour, taking visitors 300 feet underground, to the coal face, with a real miner. Located in Blaenavon, it is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape UNESCO World Heritage site
Open: daily, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Underground Tours between 10a.m. and 3 pm.

The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown - The Birmingham Museums and Gallery
The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown. The Birmingham Museums and Gallery

5.  Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham was one of the manufacturing engines of 19th century Britain. Wealthy Victorian industrialists endowed their city with art and culture. The 120 year old Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, known locally as BMag, is a reminder of their generosity. The museum’s collections range from Renaissance paintings to 9,000 year old Middle Eastern treasures.

BMag is best known for its outstanding collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. One of the largest collections of this once radical school of art in the world, the collection is now searchable online.

Open: Everyday except December 25,26 and January 1; Monday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10a.m. to 5p.m., Friday from 10:30a.m.

175865495.jpg - Getty Images
Gatehouse of Bury St Edmunds Abbey. Getty Images

6.  Bury St. Edmunds

St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, was martyred by Danish Vikings and (before St. George) was patron saint of England. His shrine, in Bury St Edmunds, was a place of pilgrimage.

Not much is left of the Abbey that housed the shrine, but enough remains to give you an idea of what an important medieval town this was. Besides the ruins of the Abbey, there are a number of interesting medieval buildings and landmarks that make a visit here well worthwhile. And, if you can’t stay away from shops, the window shopping and browsing here can be very satisfying — and free.

Stroll in the Abbey Gardens to watch a typical English game of lawn bowls.

Castlerigg Stone Circle - Joe Cornish/Getty Images
Castlerigg Stone Circle. Joe Cornish/Getty Images

7.  Castlerigg Stone Circle

The first time I visited England, I happened upon this ancient stone circle high up in the Lake District near Keswick. A half dozen elderly ladies had set up easels and were painting the scene. A single cow noisily ripped at the grass, occasionally licking their oil paintings, while they twittered “Shoo, Bossy.” The view of snow-capped Helvellyn and High Seat was unforgettable. The circle, of 33 stones, was erected about 3,000 years ago.

Open: In delightfully English fashion, English Heritage, who manage the site, say that it is open “At any reasonable time during daylight hours”.

The Cerne Abbas Giant - Getty Images
The Cerne Abbas Giant. Prehistoric chalk carving or 17th century cartoon? No one knows for sure. Getty Images

8.  Cerne Abbas Giant

The best way to describe the sexiest of English national monuments, the Cerne Abbas Giant, is to let the ultra respectable National Trust do it. Here is how one of Britain’s most established institutions, and the organisation that maintains the giant, describes him on its website: “A huge outline sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas representing a naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant.”

He might be thousands of year’s old, or he might be a 17th century political cartoon carved into the chalk hillside – no one is quite sure.

He was buried in grass during WWII to prevent him from becoming a landmark for the Luftwaffe. Apparently, when he was uncovered after the war, he grew a little.

Chester Roman Garden - Alan Novelli/Getty Images
Chester Roman Garden. Alan Novelli/Getty Images

9.  Chester Roman Garden

Chester, or Deva as it was known in Roman times, was an important Roman city, not far from Hadrians Wall. It’s Roman history is regularly uncovered during construction and road building works. The city’s Roman Garden, between Pepper Street and the River Dee, were created in the 1950s to display fragmentary finds from the 19th century.

It’s a pleasant walk in good weather and among the remains you can see carved fragments of military buildings, including the main baths.

Chester Town Crier - Chris Mellor/Getty Images
David Mitchel, The Chester Town Crier. Chris Mellor/Getty Images

10.  Chester Town Crier High Cross Proclamation

The medieval tradition of the Town Crier lives on in Chester. It’s the only place in Britain where a town crier still delivers a daily proclamation at a fixed time and place.

If you are in Chester during the months of June, July and August, make your way to the High Cross, at the pedestrianized intersection of the city’s four main streets where proclamations have been taking place since the Middle Ages. There, Chester’s official Town Criers, David and Julie Mitchell, proclaim the day’s “important news” while costumed in traditional 17th century dress. Proclamations take place Tuesday through Saturday at noon (11 am on Chester race days).

11.  Christmas Eve Carols at Kings

The Christmas Eve Carol service held at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge England, known as the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been broadcast by the BBC World Service since the 1930s and is one of the most famous carol services in the world. Millions of recordings of this choir singing these carols – on CDs, tapes and LPs – are in family collections around the world.

All you have to do to attend is show up – very, very early – and stand in line.

Most of the famous British Cathedrals have free Carol services – though you may have to book the free tickets in advance.

Photo credit:©Ferne Arfin
Parish Church in Washington, West Sussex. Photo credit:©Ferne Arfin

12.  Churches and Churchyards

England is dotted with small, very old parish churches. Often, because they were in unimportant hamlets, they escaped the ravages of the Reformation in England. Unlike early abbeys and cathedrals which were sacked, they’ve frequently remained almost exactly as they were in the 12th century or earlier.

Little St. John the Evangelist Church, in Bury, West Sussex, for example, has a 12th century spire and nave and a 14th century rood screen.

Another worth visiting, St Botolph’s in Hardham, dates from 1050 – before William the Conqueror – and has some of England’s earliest and most complete medieval wall paintings.

If a church looks old, simple and small, step inside to have a look. You’d be surprised at the treasures you might find.

Richmond Park woodland - ©Ferne Arfin
One of many secret woodlands in Richmond Park, London. ©Ferne Arfin

13.  City Parks

Many of England’s cities have free parks that are more than simply green spaces.

London’s Richmond Park is 2,500 acres on the edge of the city with two magnificent herds of deer – 700 fallow and red deer, a stunning azaelea and rhododendron garden – the Isabella Plantation, secret woodlands and glades and a tea house overlooking the whole of London.

The Sheffield Botanical Gardens, 19 acres of free gardens in the middle of the city, contain some of the earliest curvilinear glass pavillions ever built. These Grade II* glasshouses were recently restored and reopened by the Prince of Wales in 2003.

York’s Museum Gardens hold the ruins of a 900 year old Benedictine abbey, a Roman fortress, a medieval hospital and more.

When you arrive at an English city or large town, make a point of checking out the main parks. You may be surprised at the treasure to be found.

Music illustration - Getty Images
Music illustration. Getty Images

14.  Concerts and Performances

London’s Southbank Centre regularly hosts free concerts, lunchtime music, dance performances and all kinds of arts oriented fun on the Riverbank and throughout the site. Wherever you go in the UK, it’s not difficult to find free lunchtime concerts and performances. Here are a few more –

15.  Cycling in Britain

The National Trust and English Heritage provide cycle route directions to almost all the sites they manage. For many, the only charge levied is for car parking – cycle in for free.

Lots of people cycle regularly in the UK and the number of cycle paths, mountain biking trails and long distance cycle routes grows by the day. Look at the Forestry Commission and individual National Parks websites for information about cycle routes and mountain biking trails.

The National Cycle Network keeps track of 10,000 miles of traffic free routes around the country. The cycling charity Sustrans has an online route mapper and other useful free cycling information.

Duxford Chapel - James StringerCreative Commons
Duxford Chapel in Cambridgeshire. James StringerCreative Commons

16.  Duxford Chapel

Duxford Chapel is a virtually complete 14th century chapel in Cambridgeshire. It may have originally served as a hospital. It’s history and origins are shrouded in mystery but it may have been the center of a small hamlet as early as the 13th century. By the 19th century, it had fallen into such disrepair and neglect that advertising posters were pasted to its sides. Miraculously, the medieval bones of the building survived, including apparently ecclesiastic windows. It’s an unusual and attractive survivor, cared for by English Heritage.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

St. Augustine's Chair at Canterbury Cathedral - www.britainonview.com
St. Augustine’s Chair at Canterbury Cathedral.http://www.britainonview.com

17.  Evensong at Canterbury and Other Cathedrals

Most of the famous cathedrals in Britain charge entrance fees for upkeep and maintenance. You can attend during worship services for free, however. The only expense will be what your conscience dictates you deposit in the collection box.Evensong, a short, usually sung service at about 5:30 or 6p.m. is a good one to try. Usually the time will be posted on a notice board outside the church.

Eyam Boundary Stone - Richard Fairless/Getty Images
Eyam Boundary Stone marked the edge of the plague village and served as a warning to visitors.Richard Fairless/Getty Images

18.  Eyam the Plague Village and the Riley Graves

Eyam, a Derbyshire village in the Peak District, is the site of one of the most courageous stories of the 17th century. In 1665 the plague arrived in Eyam (pronounced eem), probably on second hand clothes from London delivered to a local tailor. On the advice of their vicar and their Puritan minister, the villagers voluntarily quarantined themselves to prevent the spread of the disease. Exact numbers of survivors are disputed but when the first outsiders visited the village a year later, only a quarter of the population remained.Villagers buried their own dead and at the smallest National Trust site, the Riley Graves, farmer and survivor Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six sons, all of whom died within weeks of each other.

Mulberry Bags - ©Ferne Arfin
Mulberry, a UK-based luxury leather goods designer known for its work with colored leathers, has a discount outlet store at Bicester Village.©Ferne Arfin

19.  Fashion Shows

Several of the major department stores and designer discount outlets schedule fashion shows and events. Not only are they free – sometime you even have a chance to win a prize. The best way to find out when and where is to watch the store’s website or sign up for their newsletter. Here are some good bets:

  • Selfridges has a packed schedule of events in its branches throughout the year. When you visit their website, click on the specific store branch you want to visit. Then look for News and Events near the bottom of that page.
  • Liberty Has occasional special events. Get on their mailing list by entering your email in the lower right and signing up for Liberty News.
  • Bicester Village The popular designer discount center near Oxford has something going on almost all the time. Visit their website to sign up for alerts.
Bridge Cottage, Constable Country - © Ferne Arfin
Bridge Cottage, Constable Country. © Ferne Arfin

20.  Flatford Mill and Bridge Cottage

This lovely 16th century thatched cottage, in Suffolk, inspired painter John Constable and was the location of some of his famous paintings of English rural landscapes. The cottage, beside the River Stour now has an exhibition about the artist. It is surrounded by several walks along the Stour and has a riverside tea room. Walk a little further along the path past the cottage and you’ll come to Willy Lott’s cottage. It featured in one of Constable’s most famous paintings, the Hay Wain.

Open: May through September, daily, 10:30a.m. to 5:30p.m. and the month of October, daily, 11a.m. to 4p.m. Reduced hours and days of the week at other times. The cottage may close early in bad weather. If in doubt, telephone +44 (0)1206 298260. Entrance is free but there is a £3.50 charge for parking.

21.  Giant’s Causeway

It’s hard to believe that The Giant’s Causeway on the North coast of County Antrim is not man (or giant) made. The causeway looks like a roadway into the sea. It is made of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some more than 12 meters high, produced by an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones, mostly hexagonal but also with four, five, seven and eight sides, leading from the foot of a cliff into the sea.

The Giant’s Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987. Today it is owned and managed by the National Trust.

Dinosaur model - UlleskelfCreative Commons
Dinosaur at the Great North Museum.UlleskelfCreative Commons

22.  The Great North Museum:Hancock

A new museum in Newcastle upon Tyne that combines the collections of several museums of natural and ancient history. Highlights include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall, objects from the Ancient Greeks and mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. The collections also include live animal tanks and aquaria housing wolf fish, pythons, lizards and leaf cutting ants.

Open: Year round, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday 11am to 4pm.

Hadrian's Wall - Getty Images
Stretch of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. Getty Images

23.  Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall, started during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122, stretched across Northern Britain from coast to coast. It marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire and was the most fortified border in the empire. A great deal of it remains and there are miles of free paths and trails from which to see 14 major Roman sites, forts and museums, countless milecastles and turrets. The UNESCO World Heritage Site can be explored on foot or cycle. There is also a regular bus service along the route of the wall between April and October as well as many local bus services. For bus schedules, see the

Worthy of Constable - View of Windermere from Holbeck Ghyll - ©Ferne Arfin
Worthy of Constable – View of Windermere. ©Ferne Arfin

24.  Hawkshead and Claife

Walk in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter, above Lake Windermere, enjoying classic south Lakeland views of the fells, lakes and villages. The site includes a picturesque white-washed village, hill walks and woodland paths alongside Lake Windermere.The Beatrix Potter Gallery, a 17th century solicitors office in Hawkshead, is now home to a collection of original Beatrix Potter watercolor illustrations. There is an admission charge for the gallery – so to keep things entirely free, bring an easel and do your own watercolors of Beatrix Potter’s favorite views.

25.  Hikes and Walks

Great Britain is walking country and it’s laced with paths and marked routes. From national hiking trails that traverse through gorgeous countryside for hundreds of miles to strolls through historic cityscapes and fragrant forests, UK walks suit every temperment and level of ability.

Whether you prefer a challenging hike in the Lake District, a gentle woodland stroll in a forest park or a discovery filled exploration of a historic cityscape, you can find and map a great walking route.

133637541.jpg - Getty Images
The ruins of Houghton House. Getty Images

26.  Houghton House, Bedfordshire

Not all of England’s great country houses are immaculate, furnished restorations. This 17th century mansion is a romantic ruin – a fitting setting for a gothic ghost story. The house, built for a Duchess in about 1615, was said to be the inspiration for the House Beautiful in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Information panels on the site describe the house, some of which could be the work of Inigo Jones, as well as the estate and views. English Heritage also provide a free, downloadable audio tour. The house is always open until “any reasonable time”.

Jesse Jackson visits the International Slavery Museum - Cate Gillon/Getty Images
Jesse Jackson visits the International Slavery Museum. Cate Gillon/Getty Images

27.  International Slavery Museum

One of Liverpool’s outstanding group of national museums, the The International Slavery Museum opened in 2007 on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. It explores both the historical and contemporary aspects of slavery, the legacies of the slave trade and untold stories of bravery and rebellion among enslaved people. The museum is part of Liverpool’s Albert Docks UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located just steps away from the drydocks where slave trading ships were repaired and fitted out.

Open: Daily 10a.m. to 5p.m. except Christmas, Boxing Day and January 1.

Deer at Knole Park - courtesy of britainonview.com
Deer at Knole Park. courtesy of britainonview.com

28.  Knole Deer Park

Knole is an enormous Tudor house in Kent that has been in the Sackville family since 1566. The roofline alone looks like a small city. No, it’s not free. But the grounds and 1000-acre deer park are free for pedestrians. It is one of the few medieval deer parks to have survived 500 years, and the only one in Kent. A transitional landscape between a medieval game forest and the ornamental parks of the 17th and 18th centuries, survivals of the medieval landscape include hawthorn, oak, yew, hornbeam, silver birch, bird maple and ash trees that once dominated the woodlands of the Weald. The real draw is the herd of 600 fallow deer, wild but curious animals that are incredibly charming.

Lacock-Abbey,-Wiltshire-on-a-frosty-morning-in-late-winter,-its-exterior-represents-Wolf-Hall.jpg - © National Trust Images
© National Trust Images

29.  Lacock Village

The Wiltshire village of Lacock is a snapshot in time – or it would be if snapshots were possible in the 13th century when some of its buildings were raised. It’s so atmospheric that it’s often used as a film location. If it looks familiar, perhaps you’ve seen in a Harry Potter film, Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, The Other Boleyn Girl or Wolfman. There’s an abbey converted to a country house in the 1500s and a museum about photography – both of which have entry fees. But walking around this time capsule of a village, looking around in the shops and wondering at the fact that modern people actually live here is completely free.

Letocetum Roman Baths - Jennifer McLindenCreative Commons
Letocetum Roman Baths in Staffordshire. Jennifer McLindenCreative Commons

30.  Letocetum Roman Baths and Museum

The bath house of a Roman staging post on Watling Street in Wall, Staffordshire. Watling Street is the ancient Roman road that runs Southeast to Northwest across England, probably following the path of an ancient British trackway.

Letocetum is considered to be the finest excavated site of its kind discovered and includes the foundations of an ancient inn and bath house.

Open: The open-air site is open from March to the end of October at any reasonable time. A Roman finds museum is manned by volunteers and is open the last weekend of every month from March to October as well as all Sundays in July and August, from 11am to 4pm.

31.  Loughwood Meeting House

When this simple, thatched Baptist chapel was built against a Devon hillside in 1653, the congregation faced imprisonment or transportation to Australia for practicing a banned faith. The interior of the chapel was fitted out in the 18th century. The chapel, near Axminster, is open 11am to 5pm. Services are held there twice a year and posted on the chapel noticeboard.

Queen's House - Greenwich - Getty Images
Queen’s House – Greenwich. Getty Images

32.  Maritime Greenwich

The maritime history of Britain, navigational and astronomical discoveries and the seafaring deeds that led to voyages of discovery and empire building can all be explored at this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit should include the Royal Observatory – just outside you can stand on the Prime Meridian, or 0 degrees longitude (for a fee). (There is now a charge for entrance to Flamsteed House and the Royal Observatory, where the Prime Meridian Courtyard lies. So if you want to straddle it, admission is charged. However, the wonderful National Maritime Museum  is free. The Queen’s House, which has been closed for restorations, will open in July 2016 to celebrate its 400 anniversary.) Then walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel one of only two pedestrian tunnels under the Thames, for a fabulous view of the entire site from across the river.

Borough Market Bread Seller - Photo: ©Ferne Arfin 2006  Reprint Request
One of several bread stalls at London’s Borough Market. Photo: ©Ferne Arfin 2006 Reprint Request

33.  Markets

Britain’s outdoor and covered markets are a feast for people watching, photo ops and browsing. If you can resist buying anything, they are also free. And it is possible to resist. One of my favorite Saturday morning free outings is Portobello Road Market in London. I go very early, take a sketch pad and mooch around the market, chatting and drawing and not spending a penny.

Some markets, like the Birmingham Bullring Markets have traded in the same spot for hundreds of years. And if you’re cheeky, at food markets, you can nosh your way to a free lunch on samples and tastings. Try some of these:

The Mallard steam train - britainonview/Doug McKinlay
The Mallard, the UK’s fastest steam locomotive, at the Railway Museum in York. britainonview/Doug McKinlay

34.  National Railway Museum

The world’s largest railway museum, with 300 years of rail history, exciting exhibits and iconic objects for families and railroad buffs. Kids can climb aboard some of the world’s most iconic trains – the UK steam engine record setter, The Mallard, a Japanese Bullet Train and a giant locomotive built in Britain for the Chinese railways.

There are daily demonstrations of awe inspiring machinery – like the turntable, for turning locomotives, in the Great Hall; Theatre programs about railway history and railroad inventors, and visits from Thomas the Tank Engine during some school vacations.

Open: Everyday except December 24-26, 10am to 5pm.

Roman Amphitheatre Caerleon, Wales - Chris Mellor/Getty Images
Remains of the Roman Amphitheater at Caerleon in Wales. Chris Mellor/Getty Images

35.  National Roman Legion Museum

In 75AD, the Romans built a fortress in Caerleon, Wales, where they held sway over the local population for 200 years.  The National Roman Legion Museum is built within the remains of this fortress. Here you can find out how they lived on the edge of the Roman Empire in one of only three permanent fortresses they created in Britain. There’s a Roman garden, the remains of a barracks and the most complete Roman amphitheatre in the UK.

 

National Slate Museum - John Hay/Getty Images
National Slate Museum in Wales. John Hay/Getty Images

36.  The National Slate Museum

The museum is located in Victorian workshops near the site of the vast Dinorwig quarry that closed in 1969. Here, the Welsh slate industry, often called the most Welsh of Welsh industries, is explained and explored.

Talks, demonstrations and exhibitions – including a row of quarrymen’s houses – relate the story of slate and the drama of real people’s lives.
Open: From Easter through October, daily 10am to 5pm; November until Easter, 10am to 4pm., closed Saturdays.

Welsh Sheep - Peter Adams/Getty Images
Welsh Sheep. Peter Adams/Getty Images

37.  The National Wool Museum

The beautifully redeveloped Cambrian Mills is the setting for the story of Wales’ wool industry, once the most important and widespread in the country. Shirts and shawls, blankets and bedcovers, woollen stockings and socks were all made in village of Dre-fach Felindre, in the Teifi valley and sent all over the world. Follow the story from Fleece to Fabric, with demonstrations, working looms and interesting exhibits.
Open: From 10am to 5pm daily, April through September, and Tuesday-Saturday, October through March.

126381122.jpg - Getty Images
The Old House, Hereford. Getty Images

38.  The Old House, Hereford

A well-preserved 17th Century half-timbered building, in the middle of Hereford’s modern shopping district. Built in 1621, the house has been a museum since 1929. Furnished in Jacobean period style it has an internationally important collection of English Oak furniture. Don’t miss the rare wall paintings, the four-poster bed, the baby-walkers and the hands on activities for kids.

Open: Year round, Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm, Wednesdays from 10am.

Priors Hall Barn with Dove - David J MorganCreative Commons
Priors Hall Barn in Widdington. David J MorganCreative Commons

39.  Prior’s Hall Barn, Widdington

If you’ve ever wondered how medieval builders raised enormous structures before the advent of steel beams, this huge and beautiful Essex barn will make it all clear. At least 400 oaks went into creating one of the finest surviving medieval barns in England. Tree ring dating has shown it to have been erected in the mid 1400s. The interior aisle and vast open space up to a crown post roof are awe inspiring.

Open: April through September, Saturdays and Sundays only, from 10am to 6pm

Ravenglass Roman Bath House - James StringerCreative Commons
Ravenglass Roman Bath House at about 15 feet tall is one of the UK’s tallest Roman structures. James StringerCreative Commons

40.  Ravenglass Roman Bath house

The bath house of a Roman Fort, these ruins in Cumbria are the tallest Roman structures remaining in Britain. According to English Heritage, who manage the site, the bath house served a fort that guarded a Roman harbor. Soldiers who used the bath house may have served in Hadrian’s fleet. Always open, to “any reasonable hour”, the ruins make a good destination for a walk in the country from nearby Ravenglass Station

41.  Runnymede

In June 1215, under an oak on this meadow west of the Thames, King John signed the Magna Carta limiting his absolute power in relation to 25 barons. The rights outlined then eventually gave rise to the United States Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.Visitors to this peaceful meadow can see:

  • The Magna Carta Memorial erected by the American Bar Association
  • Memorials to John F. Kennedy and the Commonwealth Air Force
  • Several small buildings designed by British architect Sir Edmund Lutyens.

The Queen, heads of state and descentdants of the 25 original barons have planted oaks here over the years.Open: Always open. Car parking closes at dusk.

100376352.jpg - Getty Images
White Horse Hill, aerial image. Getty Images

42.  The Uffington White Horse

Another of England’s chalk figures, and possibly the oldest one. The Uffington White Horse, is partially visible from several vantage points but only completely visible from the air. Recent testing of soil samples from the base of the chalk trenches has established that the horse is at least 3,000 years old. The same tests showed that the horse is in virtually the same position as when he was built by digging trenches and then filling them with blocks of chalk. No one knows why he was built but the White Horse of Uffington has inspired several other contemporary chalk horse constructions throughout Dorset and the west of England.

Mark Dykman/Tour Dust Adventure Travel
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. Mark Dykman/Tour Dust Adventure Travel

43.  Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

Trees, hedges and shrubs planted in the shape of a medieval cathedral. The Tree Cathedral was created after World War I as a gesture of “faith, hope and reconcilliation.”

Today the tree cathedral remains a peaceful place for country walks and walking well behaved dogs. Though not consecrated ground, occasional religious services are held there and the National Trust, which owns the site, is open to applications for more.

Open: Park is open every day from dawn to dusk. Car park hours are seasonal so check the website.

St Fagans National History Museum - Alan NewmanCreative Commons
Cottage interior at St Fagans National History Museum. Alan NewmanCreative Commons

44.  St Fagans National History Museum of Wales

This is one of Wales most popular heritage attractions as well as one of Europe’s best open air museums. Located on the grounds of St. Fagan’s Castle and Gardens, it’s a 100-acre open air museum with forty buildings that have been relocated from all over Wales. Together they illustrate Welsh culture and daily life from Celtic times to the present. The Castle itself is an Elizabethan manor house built in 1580, though heavily remodeled in the 19th century. Around the park, the practice of traditional crafts and activities as well as the rearing of native breeds of farm animals bring Welsh culture through the centuries to vivid life.
Open: Every day, year round, 10am to 5pm.

Art - Martin Child/Getty Images
Martin Child/Getty Images

45.  Sketch in the World’s Greatest Museums

All the UK’s national museums are free. To make the experience of visiting them even more memorable, take along a sketch pad and capture really personal memories. Most of the museums are happy to let you sketch and draw in most of the rooms – except those that have rare and exposed paper or textiles. At the Victoria and Albert they even provide neat little foldaway stools for artists to sit on while they work. As long as you don’t touch the artworks, lean against displays or block other people’s views, you can spend as long as you like sketching away like a 19th century aristo on the grand tour.

Boots and tent - Mike Harrington/Getty Images
Boots and tent. Mike Harrington/Getty Images

46.  Wild Camping in Scotland

Wild camping is what the British call tent camping away from designated campsites. Open access legislation make this easier than it used to be, though it’s still discouraged or banned in most places in England and Wales (See “Off-Piste” Recreation on Open Access Land).But it’s legal in Scotland, where you can pitch your tent freely on all open access land – with a a few guidelines:

  • Camp “lighweight”- ie in small numbers and for not more than two or three nights in one place.
  • Don’t camp in enclosed fields of crops or farms animals.
  • Keep away from buildings, roads or historic structures unless you have the owners’ permission
  • Avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting.
  • Clear all trash, fires or pollutants.
Cattle Grazing Near Silbury Hill in Wiltshire - www.britainonview.com
Cattle Grazing Near Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. http://www.britainonview.com

47.  Wiltshire’s Prehistoric Landscape

Around the town of Marlborough on the eastern edge of Wiltshire, the landscape is dotted with enormous earthworks, ceremonial avenues and stone circles. Some are older than Stonehenge. Among the highlights, within walking distance of each other:

  • Avebury Stone Circles The largest stone circle in Europe, the center of a huge, prehistoric complex and erected about 4,500 years ago. The landscape is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes Stonehenge.
  • Silbury Hill An enormous prehistoric mound, covering five acres and 130 feet high. It was probably built around 2,500 BC.
  • West Kennett Long Barrow One of the largest Neolithic chambers in Britain, this burial place was built about 5,400 years ago.
Thames Barrier - A Sight from the Woolwich Ferry - Getty Images
Thames Barrier – A Sight from the Woolwich Ferry.Getty Images

48.  Woolwich Ferry

The Free Woolwich Ferry Service crosses the Thames between Woolwich and North Woolwich ( part of Greenwich, east of London). The current service, which carries pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks, has been operating since the 1880s – but there has been a ferry service at this point of the Thames since about 1308. During the week, two ferries run, with services leaving at 10 minute intervals from each side. It’s a rough, workaday sort of boat with no frills for foot passengers, but you won’t get a better view of Canary Wharf, the Millennium Dome or the Thames Barrier.Word of advice though – if you are driving, avoid peak periods and rush hours because you might have to wait quite a while for your free ride.

Work by Isamu Noguchi at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Work by Isamu Noguchi at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

49.  Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an outdoor catalog of 20th and 21st century British sculpture. Covering 500 acres of rolling countryside on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, the park presents works of art displayed in a way that only the wealthiest patrons, with vast estates might expect to see them, tucked into leafy glades or perched on the crests of hills. Among the dozens of artists whose works are permanently displayed outdoors are:

  • Anthony Gormley
  • Barbara Hepworth
  • Henry Moore
  • Elisabeth Frink
  • Eduardo Paolozzi

The park is dog-friendly (except for the indoor galleries and garden) and, best of all, but for a small parking fee, this truly wonderful place is completely free.

Allen Banks - Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images
Allen Banks walk in bluebell season. Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images

50.  Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Special Note – As of January 2016, Allen Banks was closed because of severe flood damage from December storms.

The National Trust reported landslips, uprooted trees, fallen boulders and the loss of the favorite wobbly bridge. They hope to reopen the undamaged paths as soon as possible so check their website before planning a visit.

Once the area is restored, this is what you can expect:

About 101 acres of gorge and river scenery that make up one of the great Victorian wilderness walks. The landscape includes a site of special scientific interest,protected for its rare plants, ancient woodlands and wildlife. There are miles of waymarked walks, a reconstructed Victorian summer house and the remains of a medieval tower.

Quotation:http://gouk.about.com/od/freethingstodo/tp/50-free-things-UK.04.htm

Advertisements