In my last post I posted a list of free educational apps and sites, but what about downtime?
As a family of eight going anywhere can end up costing the earth, but after listening to Brad & Jonathan on a ChooseFI podcast talking about the importance of making memories and reading this inspirational and fun post by My Son’s Father on frugal family activities like picnics, nature hikes and bike rides I decided to go one further and make a list of some of the best free places (mostly indoor) to visit in the UK. Fun can be free, too, right?
It’s not an exhaustive list and I expect to add to it, but please send me any of your favourite places to visit that won’t ruin the path to FIRE and I’ll add them to the list.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Aberdeen
Aberdeen Maritime Museum offers visitors a spectacular viewpoint over the busy harbour and takes you through the city’s history from ship building, fishing and then into the more current oil and gas. There’s fine art by artists including Monet, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec as well as Scottish art and modern European art, too, decorative art including design and craft and costume and textiles.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Monday – Saturday 10:00-17:00
Sunday 12:00 – 15:00
Broughty Castle, Dundee
There is a 4 floor museum inside this 15thC coastal fort with great views over Broughty Beach and the Tay estuary (you might even see a pod of dolphins!) Exhibits include displays on the life and times of Broughty Ferry, its people, armour and weaponry, the environment and the wildlife that lives close by – a good range of things to look at for all ages. Children’s play park across the road. There’s a stone spiral staircase so not easily accessible for some visitors.
Broughty Castle Museum
open 10:00 – 16:00 Mon-Sat and 12:30 – 16:00 Sunday.
Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Scottish Highlands.
Open air museum with over 30 historical buildings tfurnished in period styles this museum giving a taste of how local people lived and worked from the 1700s up until the 1950s, including a farmhouse, a smoke house, clockmaker’s workshop, church, post office, joiner’s shop, barn, a tailors/dressmakers shop, schoolhouse (complete with schoolteacher!) and a real old-fashioned sweet shop. There’s a children’s playground, too.
Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, PH20 1AY
Open 10:30 – 17:30 daily
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The National Museum of Scotland is newly redeveloped and displays over 20,000 fascinating artefacts and there’s an indoor play area for children. Have a go in a human hamster wheel to generate energy, or work together to bring a huge Chinese dragon to life. Children can also sit in an FI sports car, or unearth a fossil dinosaur in the Adventure Planet section. There’s a historical dress-up section and an opportunity to design your own couture creation in the Fashion and Style area.
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
Christmas Day: Closed
Boxing Day: 12:00-17:00
New Year’s Day: 12:00-17:00
Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
The world’s only rotating boatlift, which is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland is a magnificent, mechanical marvel.
Designed to replace a series of lock gates built in the 19th century – long since demolished and replaced by housing – The visitor centre is open at no cost to sit and view The Falkirk Wheel and there’s a playground and mini water park for children, and plenty of woodland walks nearby.
Open 7 days a week from 10:00 until 17:30
Reelig Glen, Inverness
Reelig Glen is a picturesque, steep-sided gorge with signposted walks and from here visitors can visit y Craig Phadrig to see an ancient hill fort that dates back to 300 BC. Reelig Glen’s real glory is a stand of Douglas Fir trees that are well over 100 years old. They soar above you to a height of about 170 feet (50 metres). One old giant, Big Douglas, measured over 200 feet (64 metres) in the year 2000 – the tallest tree in Britain at the time.
IV5 7PR is the nearest postcode
Hadrian’s Wall, North of England
Sycamore Gap, Hadrian’s Wall Walk, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 6NW
Ulster Museum, Belfast
The Ulster Museum offers something for everyone and is split into three floors art, history and nature. Its art collection contains one of the finest collections of Irish art in the world, along with collections of sculpture, works on paper, contemporary art, fashion, ceramics, glass, silver and furniture. There’s also information on the history of the people of Northern Ireland and science and nature exhibitions. Come face to face with dinosaurs, visit the 77ft Game of Thrones tapestry or meet an ancient Egyptian mummy. There’s a children’s craft room, too.
Next door is the Botanic Gardens, which is also free. There’s a refurbished Tropical Ravine and the children’s playground is being revamped in 2018.
Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast BT9 5AB
open 10:00 – 17:00 except bank holidays
Parliament Buildings, Belfast
Stormont, Northern Ireland’s striking symmetrical parliament buildings, offers free daily tours. Built in Greek Classical style, the main building is 365 feet wide, representing the number days in a year, and the six floors and six exterior columns represent the six counties of Northern Ireland. During WWII the white Portland stone walls were smeared with cow dung to conceal the building from enemy aircraft. It took seven years to remove and the exterior was left permanently stained. There’s also a gift shop and coffee shop.
Open Monday – Friday 9:00 – 16:00
Free guided tours daily at 11:00 and 14:00
17th Century Walls, Derry
This is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. Approximately 1.5km in circumference, the walls form a walkway around the inner city. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added – magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate.
44 Foyle St., Derry, Co Londonderry BT48 6AT
Open from dawn to dusk
At Ouseburn Farm, there are loads of animals (big and small) that you can help feed and pet. You’ll find grazing animals like sheep and cows in our meadow, and pigs, chickens, ducks and more. Inside, you can get up close and personal with small, furry animals and reptiles. There’s a well-stocked garden and orchard you can explore too.
Ouseburn Farm, Ouseburn Road, Ouseburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 2PA
Open: Mon-Fri: 9:30 – 17:00 Weekend: 10;30 – 16:30
Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
Tyneside Cinema is located in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. It opened in 1937 and is the last surviving news theatre still operating as a cinema today. Take a trip into the past with the free newsreel screenings every day at 11:15. This collection of archive footage and personal anecdotes from the people who have been part of its 80-year history are well worth a visit.
Art Deco in style, the floor on the lower levels is a restored mosaic pattern, while the walls of the second and third floors are covered in clippings and reminders of the cinema’s historic past.
Tyneside Cinema, 10 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6QG
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland
Holy Island is connected to the mainland by a thin causeway that’s covered at high tide. This tiny, five-kilometre-wide island is home to a ruined monastery that was built in the seventh century and sacked by a Viking raiding party around 100 years later, an event that signalled the start of the Viking Age. You can also visit Lindisfarne Castle, owned by the National Trust, and the harbour.
Postcode: TD15 2RX
Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields
Arbeia is based on local excavations and finds and is an exciting reconstruction of Roman life.
Its name means Arab in Latin, reflecting the fact that this garrison was manned by Iraqi legionnaires drafted in by the Romans to guard the entrance to the Tyne estuary. In winter there’s a candlelight tour in December to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
Arbeia South Shields Roman Fort
Open: Easter to October
Monday – Friday 10:00 – 17:00, Saturday 11:00 – 16:00, Sunday 13:00 – 16:00
The Angel of the North, Gateshead
Now 20 years old (and 20 metres high, too) the iconic Angel of the North is one of the most recognisable pieces of public art ever and welcomes visitors to Gateshead. It is believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world,
Designed by world-renowned sculptor Antony Gormley OBE, the Angel of the North was built on the site of former colliery pithead baths.
The Angel of the North is located close to the A1 and is easy to reach by both public transport and car. Find more Antony Gormley sculptures Another Place in Liverpool on Crosby Beach.
The Angel of the North is situated on Durham Rd,
Locomotion, Shildon, Co Durham
This railway museum holds 70+ vehicles from the National Collection: from the earliest locomotives to the newest trains, including the prototype Deltic, British Rail’s prototype Advanced Passenger Train, a snow plough train and the iconic Green Arrow. Some still bear the marks of a hard-working life, while others have been restored—but all tell a fascinating story about how the railways have shaped history. There’s also the private carriage of King Edward VII’s wife, which was built in 1902, and has a private bathroom and dressing rooms.
Locomotion, Dale Road Industrial Estate, Dale Rd, Shildon DL4 2RE
Open 10:00-16:00 in winter and 10:00-18:00 in summer.
Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
This is an excellent day out for all the family. It houses one of the world’s largest collections of working steam mill engines and there are many accessible interactive exhibitions about bygone Manchester. We enjoyed the air and space hall but there are many exhibits relating to significant scientific discoveries made in the Manchester region. What else would you expect from the city that was formative in the Industrial Revolution?
MOSI, Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP
open daily 10:00 to 17:00
People’s History Museum, Manchester
Former Edwardian pumping station chronicling the lives of Manchester’s working people during the past one hundred years.
Open daily 10:00 to 17:00, including bank holidays. On the second Thursday of the month, the museum is open until 20:00. Closed 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January.
Peoples’ History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3E
Manchester Museum, Manchester
The most famous resident of Manchester Museum is Stan the T Rex, a skeleton cast of a fearsome dinosaur thought to be around 65-70 million years old. There’s also Percy the Plesiosaur in the Fossils gallery and artefacts from Ancient Egypt and other ancient civilisations. Great fun for children (of all ages).
Open daily 10:00 – 17:00
Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL
The National Football Museum, Manchester
This hi-tech interactive museum is filled with rare artefacts, such as the shirt worn by Maradona during the infamous hand of god incident. There’s a football hall of fame and you can practise your shooting skills or try out the world’s first football computer games. The Discovery area is for children under 5.
National Football Museum
Open Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00
BFI Mediatheque, Manchester
The Central Library is now home to the British Film Institute’s Mediatheque, where you can choose from more than 2,000 British films and TV shows from its archives to watch in its cool viewing pods.
It’s free to log on and watch everything from movies to documentaries to local archives and kids’ TV, many titles have rarely (if at all) been seen since their original release or broadcast.
Manchester Central Library
St Peters Square
Manchester M2 5PD
Monday to Thursday — 09:00 — 20:00
Friday and Saturday 09:00 — 17:00
Sunday — closed
Science and Media Museum, Bradford
At the National Science and Media Museum, in the heart of Bradford, visitors can explore the science and culture of image, media and sound technologies and their impact on our lives.
There’s a retro games lounge where children (and adults who grew up playing Pacman, etc) can have fun. The Kodak Gallery is an exploration of the history of photography, and the animation and TV galleries are great fun, too. Trace the history of television through a selection of classic TV moments and iconic characters including Wallace and Gromit, the Wombles, characters from Play School and Rainbow, and even one of Doctor Who’s Daleks!
Science and Media Museum, Bradford BD1 1NQ
Open daily 10:00 – 18:00
Bradford Industrial Museum, Bradford
Bradford’s Industrial Museum has permanent displays of textile machinery, steam power, engineering, printing machinery and motor vehicles, along with an exciting exhibitions programme. You can enjoy the splendour of Moorside House where the Mill Manager lived, or visit the Mill-workers’ terraced houses dressed to reflect three different time periods.
Bradford Industrial Museum, Moorside Mills, Moorside Road, Eccleshill, Bradford, BD2 3HP
Tuesday to Friday 10:00 – 16:00
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays 11:00 – 16:00
Closed Good Friday and Mondays except for Bank Holidays.
Saltaire Village, Bradford
Saltaire Village, built in the Italianite style, is named after Sir Titus Salt who built the textile mill Salts Mill and this village for its workers on the River Aire in the 19th century. Salts Mill was opened on Sir Titus Salt’s 50th birthday, 20 September 1853 with a party for the mill workers. There’s a permanent David Hockney exhibition as he lived not far away.
Village open every day, Mill open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. Monday – Friday 10:00 – 17:30 and Saturday/Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
Salts Mill, Victoria Rd, Saltaire, West Yorkshire BD18 3LA (Sat Nav BD17 7EF)
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Nr Wakefield, Yorkshire
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a 500 acre outdoor exhibition of 20th and 21st century British sculpture on the edge of the Yorskhire Dales. Among the dozens of artists whose works are permanently displayed outdoors are Anthony Gormley, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
SatNav WF4 4JX
National Railway Museum, York
An annual visit for us – the NRM is the world’s largest railway museum, with 300 years of rail history, exciting exhibits and iconic objects for families and railroad buffs. Home to The Flying Scotsman, The Mallard and The Duchess of Hamilton steam locomotives but there’s also a Japanese bullet train to sit in, and many other interesting engines and locomotives.
There are daily demonstrations of the turntable, for turning locomotives, in the Great Hall and a Station Hall full of carriages set out as they were in times gone by. From Queen Victoria’s lavish ‘palace on wheels’ to King Edward VII’s well-furnished smoking saloon, discover the most extensive collection of royal carriages in the world. I love looking into those carriages to see how the Royals of days-gone-by travelled in style.
NRM, Leeman Rd., York, YO26 4XJ
Open every day except December 24-26, 10:00 to 18:00
Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
Little knights and warrior queens will love exploring the vast collection of arms and armour and learning about the various combat techniques of Saxons, Vikings and medieval knights. Sometimes there are jousting and falconry displays as well as daily talks by staff dressed as characters from the past.
Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, Leeds, LS10 1LT
Open daily 10:00 – 17:00
The World Museum, Liverpool
The museum covers world cultures, sciences, animals, bugs and dinosaurs. The aquarium features sea life from around the world, there are free performances and films at the Treasure House Theatre and Plaetarium show and kids can see creepy crawlies galore in the Bug House. In the Natural History centre you can get hands-on with animal skulls and even a mammoth tooth.
The World Museum, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EN
Open 10:00 – 17:00 daily.
Tate Gallery, Liverpool
Situated on Albert Docks this is a brilliant place to get children excited about art. Noise is allowed and there are activity packs and art trails. There are also workshops and under 12s get free entry to the special exhibitions. Visit Tate Galleries in London and Cornwall too.
National Maritime Museum Liverpool
Home to the Titanic Story and that of the Lusitania, this fascinating story of maritime life is situated on Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock. Tours of the dock are free but must be booked (Tuesday and Wednesdays). The Seized! gallery in the basement you can follow Matt the customs officer’s trail. Sea Urchins is a drop in play area for under 8’s. There are free maritime-themed activities on offer include costumes, activity sheets and story books.
National Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AQ
open daily 10:00 – 17:00
Otterspool Park and Promenade, Liverpool
With beautiful views across the River Mersey, Otterspool Promenade and Park in South Liverpool is a great place to take the kid, with its new wooden bespoke adventure playground that children can use for free and there is also a sports hub for skateboarders, BMX and scooter riders.
37 Otterspool Drive, Otterspool, Liverpool, L17 5AL
Open 9:00 – 18:00
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, known locally as BMag, is a reminder of the generosity of wealthy Victorian residents. The museum’s collections range from Renaissance paintings to 9,000 year old Middle Eastern treasures and it has an outstanding collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Open every day except December 25, 26 and January 1; Monday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 to 17:00
Donkey Sanctuary, Sutton Coldfield
The centre currently has 18 donkeys who are either out in the paddocks or in the yards, depending on the weather.
Pilkington Donkey Centre, Town Gate, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham B74 2YT
Open 10:00 – 15:00 at weekends and some bank holidays.
The Tolkein Trail, Birmingham
JRR Tolkein, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, grew up in the city of Birmingham and parts of it inspired the imaginary people and places in his epic fantasy tales. There’s a Tolkein Trail to follow which maps places where he once lived, played and studied such as Sarehole Mill, Joy’s Wood and Moseley Bog. Leaflets available from the Tourist Information board.
There’s also another Tolkein Trail in Lancashire, in and around Stonyhurst College, where he stayed during WWII when he was writing Lord of the Rings.
Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Lincoln
This museum features an eclectic and fascinating range of more than 250,000 objects – covering commercial, domestic, agricultural, industrial and community life in Lincolnshire from 1750 to the present. There are regular craft activities and a playground, as well as a treasure hunt.
Museum of Lincolnshire, Burton Road
Lincoln, LN1 3LY
Open daily, seven days a week from 10:00 to 16:00
National Slate Museum, Llanberis
The National Slate Museum sited in the Victorian workshops built in the shadow of Elidir mountain. The museum tells the story of Welsh Slate set in the vast Dinorwig quarry which closed in 1969. Travel into the past of an industry and a way of life that has chiselled itself into the very being of this country. The workshops are set out as though quarrymen and engineers have just put down their tools and left for home, and there are talks and demos to give you an insight into quarry life.
National Slate Museum, Llanberis, Gwynedd LL55 4TY
Easter – October: 10.00 – 17:00, daily
November – Easter: 10:00 – 16:00, closed Saturdays
The Big Pit Museum, Torfaen, South Wales
Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain’s leading mining museums. It boasts a multi-media tour of a modern coal mine with a virtual miner and an opportunity to go in a pit cage down to 300 feet underground with a real miner and see what life was like for the thousands of men who worked at the coal face. Visit the stables where the pit ponies lived and learn about the geology and uses of coal, life in mining towns including mining disasters and rescue, and get a closer look at some mining memorabilia. Many of the surface exhibitions and displays are housed in the original colliery buildings.
Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, Torfaen
Open 9:30 – 17:00 daily
Avebury Stone Circle, Avebury
After Stonehenge, Avebury is Britain’s best-known and biggest ancient stone circle. The difference is that at Avebury you can walk among and touch the stones, and have a look around the village, too. Archaeologists have found a striking and apparently unique square monument beneath the circle which may be an early Neolithic house.
Postcode: SN8 1RF
Cumberland House Natural History Museum, Portsmouth
With more than 114,000 natural science artefacts, an observational beehive and a butterfly house, this museum is a must-see if you’re visiting Portsmouth.
Southsea, PO4 9RF
Open Tuesday-Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. Closed on Mondays (apart from Bank Holidays)
April – September: 10:00 – 17:30
October – March: 10:00 – 17:00
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Closed Mondays and bank holidays.
Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth, Cornwall
Don’t be fooled by the austere facade to the building. The gallery has over 2,000 artworks that range from Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist paintings to contemporary prints, photography and a children’s illustration archive. You’ll find Picasso, Alfred Munnings and Banksy here as well as John William Waterhouse and Henry Scott Tuke. There’s also the largest contemporary collection of automata in a public museum. Falmouth is actually renowned for its automata makers especially Peter Markey, who taught for many years in Falmouth, encouraging pupils in automata making. Very child-friendly with frequent family workshops, including those for home educated families and Baby Jam and Baby Paint sessions.
Falmouth Art Gallery
The Moor, Falmouth
Cornwall, TR11 2RT
Open Monday – Saturday 10:00-17:00, closed some Bank Holidays
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
The site of the 2012 Olympic Games, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is free to visit every day of the week. It’s home to the London Stadium, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the London Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – as well as parklands, waterways, playgrounds with treehouses and rockpools and cafes.
Postcode E20 2ST
Open 24 hours a day, every day
Bank of England Museum, London
Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AH
Crystal Palace Park, London
Follow the lakeside trail to spot the extinct beasts – there are over 30 heritage-listed statues here, which were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins when the park opened in the 1850s. Then head to the playpark for more dino-themed fun with bones and hatching eggs to discover in its sandpit. There’s a maze and a boating lake, too.
Crystal Palace Park, 42 Thicket Rd, London SE19 2GA
Natural History Museum, London
This is such a huge museum with so much to see it’s impossible to see everything in one trip. The thousands of exhibits relate to everything from dinosaurs, human evolution and volcanicity to marine life, biology and geology.
The Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD
Open every day 10:00-17:50
Last entry 17:30
Closed 24-26 December
Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, Changing the Guard every day at Buckingham Palace, or if you want a glimpse of the Queen, line the Mall to see Trooping the Colour (in June) or attend the State Opening of Parliament.
The Notting Hill Carnival, held on August Bank Holiday weekend, features 20 miles of colourful costumes and hundreds of Caribbean food stalls. Sunday is the Children Parade and Family Day.
The world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival has a packed programme of arts and performances, and many of them are free.