50 Free Things to Do in the United Kingdom

Tourist with backpack walking on Regent Street in London, UK

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Vacation fun in the UK doesn't have to cost a bundle—in fact, it doesn't have to cost a penny. That's because 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, bird watching, kite flying, and more. If you're looking for a way to save money on your trip to the United Kingdom this year, take a look at these.

01 of 50

Explore the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum

Arbeia Roman Fort
Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images
Baring Street, South Shields NE33 2BB, UK
Phone +44 191 277 1409

The Arbeia Roman Fort once housed the garrison that guarded the entrance to the Tyne estuary. Although a large portion of the fort was destroyed, the site was reconstructed based on excavations and finds from the historic fort.

The Romans thought nothing of moving legions of their soldiers wherever they were needed in the Empire, and this garrison was manned by Iraqi legionnaire, which is reflected in its name, Arbeia, that means "Arab" in Latin. If you go during the winter, check the museum's calendar and time your visit for a candlelight tour in December to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

02 of 50

Enjoy the View at Arthur's Seat

View from Calton Hill
Ferne Arfin
Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh EH16 5HX, UK

Arthur's Seat is an extinct volcano and 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 its crest take in Edinburgh Castle, the sea, the distant mountains of the Western Highlands and the entire city. If you don't like to climb, there's a bus (for a small cost) that goes up into Holyrood Park, which is almost at the peak of the hill.

03 of 50

Relax at Beautiful Beaches

The West Pier Brighton at Sunset
Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images
Kynance Cove, Mullion, UK

The United Kingdom has some of the world's most beautiful beaches, which may not be surprising considering that Britain is an island kingdom with nearly 7,800 miles of coastline. In fact, nowhere in the entire country is more than two hours from a beach.

However, U.K. beaches are not the sort of beaches where you can bask in the sun (not very often, anyway) or spend hours swimming in warm seas. The water, even on those washed by the Gulf Stream, is pretty chilly. Fortunately, what these beaches lack in tropical charm, they more than make up for in sheer drama—these are some of the most beautiful and isolated free beaches in the world for walking, surfing, exploring, and wildlife watching.

If you are a fan of the show "Poldark," you really should visit Kynance Cove, one of the locations that double as Nampara in the series—and where Demelza and her lieutenant have an illicit moment in the 2017 season ender.

04 of 50

Marvel at the Big Pit and National Coal Museum

The Big Pit coal museum in wales

Martin Alvarez Espinar/Flickr

Pontypool NP4 9XP, UK
Phone +44 300 111 2333

The Big Pit Coal Mine is a modern, operational coal mine that also features the United Kingdom's National Coal Museum, complete with galleries, exhibitions, and historic artifacts centered around the history of coal in the U.K.

Guests can meet a virtual miner in the Mining Galleries, explore exhibitions in the Pithead Baths, and wander through historic colliery buildings open to the public for the first time. The highlight, however, is the world-famous underground tour that takes visitors 300 feet underground to the coal face with a real miner. Located in Blaenavon, Wales, it is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape UNESCO World Heritage site

Stop off in the gift shop to pick up a made-in-Wales brass Davy Lamp, the miners' lamp invented in 1815 by Sir Humphrey Davy as a safer alternative to taking candles underground, which has been used right up to modern times.

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05 of 50

Browse Paintings at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Bob Hall/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH, UK
Phone +44 121 348 8032

The city of Birmingham was one of the manufacturing centers of 19th century Britain, and 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 this 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. It's one of the largest collections of this once-radical school of art in the world, and the collection is searchable online.

06 of 50

Pay Respects at Bury St. Edmunds

T Sherratt/Getty Images
Bury St Edmunds, Bury Saint Edmunds, UK

St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, was martyred by Danish Vikings and (before St. George) was a 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. Stroll in the Abbey Gardens to watch a typical English game of lawn bowls, and, if you can't stay away from shops, the window browsing can be very satisfying.

07 of 50

Stand in the Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick, Lake Distict, UK
joe daniel price/Getty Images
Castle Lane, Keswick CA12 4RN, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

On your travels throughout England, don't miss out on this ancient stone circle high up in the Lake District near Keswick. The Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is made of 33 stones, was erected about 3,000 years ago, and the view of snow-capped Helvellyn and High Seat you'll witness from this site is unforgettable. In delightfully English fashion, English Heritage, which manages the site, says that it is open "at any reasonable time during daylight hours."

08 of 50

Uncover the Cerne Abbas Giant

Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorest, UK
Josie Elias/Getty Images
The Giant Inn, 24 Long Street, Cerne Abbas, Dorchester DT2 7AL, UK
Phone +44 1297 489481

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 organization 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."​

Although no one is quite sure how long ago the Cerne Abbas Giant was constructed, he was buried in the grass during World War II to prevent him from becoming a landmark for the Luftwaffe. When he was uncovered after the war, archeologists discovered his base was larger than originally assumed.

Sometimes called The Rude Man, he has often been the location of pranks. In June 2017, in a coarse joke about standing up for Britain, someone wrote "Theresa" on the Giant's rudest rude bit. (Don't bother looking for it, though. The National Trust has since had the name removed.)

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09 of 50

Wander Through Chester Roman Garden

Chester Roman Garden
Alan Novelli/Getty Images
Pepper Street, Chester CH1 1DQ, UK
Phone +44 1244 402260

Chester, or Deva as it was known in Roman times, was an important Roman city, not far from Hadrian's Wall. The city's Roman Garden, between Pepper Street and the River Dee, was created during the 1950s to display fragmentary finds from the 19th century, which were uncovered during construction and road work in the region.

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

10 of 50

Watch the Chester Town Crier High Cross Proclamation

Chester Town Crier
Chris Mellor/Getty Images
46 Watergate Street, Chester CH1 1NP, UK

The medieval tradition of the Town Crier lives on in Chester, 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 summer, make your way to the High Cross at the pedestrianized intersection of the city's four main streets. This location is 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 the traditional 17th-century dress. Proclamations take place Tuesday through Saturday at noon.

11 of 50

Sing Christmas Eve Carols at Kings

Dramatic wide angle of the outside of Kings College building in Cambridge
Michael Godek/Getty Images
King's Parade, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK

The Christmas Eve Carol service, known as the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, is held at King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England, and has been broadcast by the BBC World Service since the 1930s. It is one of the most famous carol services in the world, and millions of recordings of performances have been sold worldwide.

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.

12 of 50

Discover Old Parish Churches and Churchyards

St Botolph's Church
Barbara Eddowes/Getty Images

England is dotted with small, 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.

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13 of 50

Spend the Day at City Parks

Isabella Plantation
Simon McGill/Getty Images
Richmond Park, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3RS, UK

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, a stunning azalea 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 London, contain some of the earliest curvilinear glass pavilions ever built. These historic glasshouses were restored for the new Millennium and reopened by the Prince of Wales in 2003.

Additionally, York's Museum Gardens holds the ruins of a 900-year-old Benedictine abbey, a Roman fortress, a medieval hospital, and more.

14 of 50

Attend Concerts and Performances

Exterior of the National theatre

 TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

London SE1, UK

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 grounds. Wherever you go in the U.K., it's not difficult to find free lunchtime concerts and performances. Here are a few favorites:

15 of 50

Go Cycling in Britain

Cyclists on towpath, Bath to Bradford-on-Avon canal, Wiltshire UK
Environment Images/UIG/Getty Images

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

For more information, 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.

16 of 50

Duxford Chapel

Duxford Chapel
James Stringer/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0
Station Road East, Whittlesford, Cambridge CB22 4NL, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Duxford Chapel is a 14th-century chapel in Cambridgeshire that historians suspect may have originally served as a hospital. However, 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 its apparently ecclesiastic windows. Now, Duxford Chapel is cared for by English Heritage and welcomes guests to take a free tour of the grounds. However, the interior, with its exposed beam ceiling, is even more interesting than the exterior.

Keep in mind when visiting that there are no facilities on site. However, there is a pub nearby and the chapel is on the edge of a village, so you won't be too far from food or bathrooms if you decide to stop by.

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17 of 50

Attend an Evensong at Canterbury and Other Cathedrals

First Performance By The Newly Formed Canterbury Cathedral Girls Choir
WPA Pool / Getty Images
Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH, UK
Phone +44 1227 762862

Most of the famous cathedrals in Britain charge entrance fees for upkeep and maintenance; however, you can attend during worship services for free. The only expense will be what your conscience dictates you deposit in the collection box.

Evensong is a short service that is usually performed in song at about 5:30 or 6 p.m. These short services offer a great chance to get an inside look at famous cathedrals for free. Usually, the time will be posted on a notice board outside the church.​

18 of 50

Pay Respect at Eyam (the Plague Village) and the Riley Graves

Eyam Boundary Stone
Richard Fairless/Getty Images
Eyam, Hope Valley S32, UK

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.

You can visit the village itself and the Riley Graves for free, but if you'd like to delve a little deeper into the story, there are guided tours of the village and the plague history from Eyam Hall, but there is an admission charge.

19 of 50

Attend Fashion Shows

Kenneth Cole Personal Appearance at House of Fraser Oxford Street
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB, UK

Several of the major department stores and designer discount outlets schedule fashion shows and events. Not only are they free, sometimes 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: Routinely hosts 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: Occasionally hosts events. Get on their mailing list by entering your email in the lower right side of their website to sign up for "Liberty News"
  • Bicester Village: Popular designer discount center near Oxford that has something going on almost all the time
20 of 50

Step Into a Painting at Flatford Mill and Bridge Cottage

Bridge Cottage, Constable Country
Ferne Arfin
Flatford Mill, East Bergholt, Colchester CO7 6UL, UK

Located in Suffolk, the Flatford Mill and Bridge Cottage is a 16th century thatched cottage known to have inspired the works of painter John Constable and even served as the setting for several of his rural landscape pieces. The cottage, beside the River Stour, now has an exhibition about the artist.

The cottage is also 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, which is featured in one of Constable's most famous paintings, "The Hay Wain."

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21 of 50

Climb the Giant's Causeway

Giants' Causeway, Ireland
Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images
Giant's Causeway, Bushmills BT57 8SU, UK

It's hard to believe that The Giant's Causeway on the North coast of County Antrim is not man-made. The causeway looks like a roadway into the sea and 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.

22 of 50

Be Awed at the Great North Museum of Hancock

Great North Museum: Hancock
Andrew Curtis/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0
Great North Museum-Hancock Barras Bridge, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PT, UK

The Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle upon Tyne combines the collections of several museums of natural and ancient history across the world. Highlights include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, objects from the Ancient Greeks, 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. Visiting the museum is completely free of charge, but donations are accepted (and welcomed).

23 of 50

Walk Along Hadrian's Wall

A scenic view of a field with hadrian's wall cutting through it

TripSavvy / Chris VR

Brampton CA8 7DD, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Construction for Hadrian's Wall started during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 and was built to stretch 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.

Now, a great deal of Hadrian's Wall still remains, and there are miles of free paths and trails from which to see 14 major Roman sites, forts, and museums as well as countless mile-castles and turrets. The UNESCO World Heritage Site can be explored on foot or cycle, but there is also a regular bus service along the route of the wall between April and October.

24 of 50

Enjoy the View at Hawkshead and Claife

Hawkshead, Cumbria, England
VisitBritain/Britain on View/Getty Images
Main Street, Hawkshead, Ambleside LA22 0NS, UK
Phone +44 15394 36355

Walk in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter, above Lake Windermere, enjoying classic south Lakeland views of the fells, lakes, and villages at the Hawkshead and Claife overlook. 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.​

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25 of 50

Hike, Walk, or Jog Across the U.K.

Rear View Of Man Climbing Mountain Against Sky
Nicolas Holtzmeyer / EyeEm / Getty Images

From national hiking trails that traverse the gorgeous countryside for hundreds of miles to short paths carved through historic cityscapes and fragrant forests, there is a U.K. walk to suit every mood 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 before you arrive and set out entirely free of charge when you land in England.

26 of 50

Houghton House, Bedfordshire

Old Ruins Of Houghton House On Grassy Field Against Sky
Daniel Sambraus/Getty Images
Houghton House, Pine View Park, Bedford MK45 2EZ, UK

Not all of England's great country houses are immaculate, furnished restorations. In fact, the 17th-century Houghton House mansion is considered a romantic ruin, which would make 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 as well as the estate and views. The house is always open until "any reasonable time," and English Heritage also provides a free, downloadable audio tour to enjoy when you visit.

27 of 50

Learn History at the International Slavery Museum

Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AQ, UK
Phone +44 151 478 4499

One of Liverpool's outstanding group of national museums, 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. It is open daily except Christmas, Boxing Day, and January 1.

28 of 50

Spot Wildlife at Knole Deer Park

Fallow Deer in Kent, England
DavidCallan/Getty Images
Sevenoaks TN15 0RP, UK

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, and although there's an admission fee to enter the house, the grounds and 1,000-acre deer park are free for pedestrians.

Knole Deer Park 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. However, the real draw is the herd of 600 fallow deer, wild but curious animals that are incredibly charming.

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29 of 50

Lacock Village

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
National Trust Images
Lacock, Chippenham SN15, UK

The Wiltshire village of Lacock is a snapshot in time, and it's so atmospheric that it's often used as a location for period films. If it looks familiar, perhaps you've seen in a Harry Potter film, "Pride and Prejudice," "Cranford," "The Other Boleyn Girl," or "Wolfman."

The village is now home to an abbey converted to a country house in the 1500s and a museum about photography, both of which have entry fees. However, 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.

30 of 50

See the Letocetum Roman Baths and Museum

Letocetum Roman Baths
Jennifer McLinden/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
Watling Street, Lichfield WS14 0AW, UK
Phone +44 121 625 6820

The Letocetum Roman Baths are considered to be the finest excavated site of their kind and include the foundations of an ancient inn and bath house. These bathhouses once served as a staging post and place for Roman soldiers to relax while traveling across England.

The Letocetum Roman Baths and Museum are located on Watling Street, the ancient Roman road that runs from Southeast to Northwest across England, probably following the path of an ancient British trackway, which is still in use today.

31 of 50

Loughwood Meeting House

Loughwood meeting house
Adrian Farwell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0
Loughwood Lane, Dalwood, Axminster EX13 7DU, UK
Phone +44 1752 346585

When this simple, thatched Baptist chapel known as the Loughwood Meeting House was built against a Devon hillside in 1653, the congregation faced imprisonment or transportation to Australia for practicing a banned faith. While the house has seen various states of repair over the years, the interior of the chapel was fitted out in the 18th century. Today, the chapel—which is found near Axminster—is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers two services each year that are posted on the chapel noticeboard.

32 of 50

Maritime Greenwich

Spiral staircase, The Queen's House, Greenwich
Peter Adams/Getty Images
Romney Road, London SE10 9NF, UK
Phone +44 20 8858 4422

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 the Maritime Greenwich. This wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the wonderful National Maritime Museum as well as the 400-year-old Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones and restored in 2016. 

If you'd like to stand on the Prime Meridian or straddle 0 degrees longitude, you'll have to pay for admission to the Prime Meridian Courtyard, just outside the Royal Observatory. However, so much else is free at this fabulous site. Finish your visit with a 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.

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33 of 50

Shop, Dine, and Explore City Markets

Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill
Maremagnum/Getty Images
73a Lewisham High Street, London SE13 5JX, UK

Britain's outdoor and covered markets are a feast for people watching, photo ops, and browsing. In London, locals love the Portobello Road Market, and elsewhere in the country, some markets, like the Birmingham Bullring Markets, have traded in the same spot for hundreds of years. While buying anything at the shops or getting food will cost money, you can usually score some tasty free samples from many of the restaurants and food kiosks in these markets. Try some of these:

34 of 50

Climb Aboard the National Railway Museum

The Mallard steam train
britainonview/Doug McKinlay
Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ, UK
Phone +44 330 058 0058

The world's largest railway museum, the National Railway Museum features over 300 years of rail history, exciting exhibits, and iconic objects for families and railroad buffs of all ages. Additionally, kids can climb aboard some of the world's most iconic trains including the U.K. steam engine record-setter The Mallard, a Japanese Bullet Train, and a giant locomotive built in Britain for the Chinese railways.

The museum also offers 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.

35 of 50

Storm the Fortress at National Roman Legion Museum

Roman Amphitheatre Caerleon, Wales
Chris Mellor/Getty Images
High Street, Caerleon, Newport NP18 1AE, UK
Phone +44 300 111 2333

In 75 A.D., the Romans built a fortress in Caerleon, Newport, Wales, where they held sway over the local population for 200 years. Now, hundreds of years later, the National Roman Legion Museum sits 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 the Romans created in Britain. The grounds are also home to a Roman garden, the remains of a barracks, and the most complete Roman amphitheater in the United Kingdom.

36 of 50

Tour the National Slate Museum

National Slate Museum
John Hay/Getty Images
Llanberis, Caernarfon LL55 4TY, UK
Phone +44 29 2057 3700

The National Slate 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 who helped to harvest it from the quarry.

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37 of 50

Get Comfortable at the National Wool Museum

Herd of Sheep in Hilly Countryside in Wales
Chris Jongkind/Getty Images
Dre-Fach Felindre, Felindre, Llandysul SA44 5UP, UK
Phone +44 29 2057 3070

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, and woolen stockings and socks were all made in the village of Dre-Fach Felindre, in the Teifi valley and sent all over the world. Stop by the National Wool Museum to follow the story from "Fleece to Fabric," with demonstrations, working looms, and interesting exhibits.​

38 of 50

Tour the Black and White House

hereford house
Glenn Strong/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
High Town, Hereford HR1 2AA, UK
Phone +44 1432 260694

The Hereford House—also known as the Black and White House—is 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. Formerly known as the Old House Museum, the Black and White House is no longer free, but the admission is a bargain.

39 of 50

Explore Prior's Hall Barn, Widdington

Prior's Hall Barn Widdington
David/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
High Street, Widdington, Saffron Walden CB11 3SB, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

If you've ever wondered how medieval builders raised enormous structures before the advent of steel beams, the huge and beautiful Prior's Hall Barn in Essex 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.

40 of 50

Marvel at Ravenglass Roman Bath House

Hadrianic Bath House of Ravenglass Roman fort
 Carole Raddato/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Walls Drive, Ravenglass CA18 1SR, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

The Ravenglass Roman Bath House was the bathhouse of a Roman fort, and these ruins in Cumbria are the tallest Roman structures remaining in Britain. According to English Heritage, who manage the site, the bathhouse served as a fort that guarded a Roman harbor. Soldiers who used the bathhouse may have served in Hadrian's fleet. The ruins make a good destination for a walk in the country from nearby Ravenglass Station.​

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41 of 50

See the Magna Carta at Runnymede

Sothebys Auctions Off Rare Copy Of Magna Carta
Michael Nagle/Getty Images
Windsor Road, Old Windsor, Englefield Green, Windsor TW20 0YU, UK
Phone +44 1784 432891

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, and several small buildings designed by British architect Sir Edmund Lutyens, who also designed New Delhi.

The Queen, heads of state, and descendants of the 25 original barons have planted oaks here over the years.

42 of 50

See the Uffington White Horse

White horse Uffington, Berkshire
Gary Chalker/Getty Images
Dragon Hill Road, Uffington, Faringdon SN7 7QJ, UK
Phone +44 1793 762209

The Uffington White Horse is another of England's chalk figures, and possibly the oldest one. It 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.

43 of 50

Don't Get Lost in Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
Mark Dykman/Tour Dust Adventure Travel
Whipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LQ, UK
Phone +44 1582 872406

The Tree Cathedral was created after World War I as a gesture of "faith, hope, and reconciliation." In order to form this unique structure, trees, hedges, and shrubs were planted in the shape of a medieval cathedral.

Today the tree cathedral remains a peaceful place for walks and casual afternoons spent in the English countryside. Though not consecrated ground, religious services are occasionally held there and the National Trust, which owns the site, is open to applications for more.​

44 of 50

Get Educated at St. Fagans National History Museum of Wales

St Fagans National History Museum
 Archangel12/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
St Fagans, Cardiff CF5 6XB, UK
Phone +44 300 111 2333

The St. Fagans National History Museum of Wales 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 40 buildings that have been relocated from all over Wales.

Together, these buildings 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.

Continue to 45 of 50 below.
45 of 50

Sketch in the World's Greatest Museums

A woman sketching inside the museum

 TripSavvy / Gautier Houba

Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL, UK
Phone +44 20 7942 2000

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 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.

46 of 50

Traverse Wiltshire's Prehistoric Landscape

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire
VisitBritain/Britain on View/Getty Images
Avebury, Marlborough SN8 1RF, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Around the town of Marlborough on the eastern edge of Wiltshire, the landscape is dotted with enormous earthworks, ceremonial avenues, and stone circles, some of which 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. It is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe
  • West Kennett Long Barrow: One of the largest Neolithic chambers in Britain, this burial place was built about 5,400 years ago
47 of 50

Take a Ride on Woolwich Ferry

UK - London - Woolwich ferry and Canary Wharf
Corbis/Getty Images
New Ferry Approach, London SE18 6DX, UK
Phone +44 20 8853 9400

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. If you are driving, avoid peak periods and rush hours because you might have to wait quite a while for your free ride.

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Walk Through Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, open air museum
Andrea Pistolesi/Getty Images
Wakefield WF4 4TR, UK

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an outdoor catalog of 20th and 21st-century British sculptures. 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, and Eduardo Paolozzi. The park is dog-friendly (except for the indoor galleries and garden) and, best of all, this truly wonderful place is completely free except for a small parking fee.

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49 of 50

Explore Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Allen Banks
Roger Coulam/Britain on View/Getty Images
Bardon Mill, Hexham NE47 7BP, UK
Phone +44 1434 321888

About 101 acres of gorge and river scenery make up one of the great Victorian wilderness walks known as the Allen Banks and Staward Gorge trail. 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.

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Wild Camping in Scotland

Wild camping in Scotland
Justin Lambert/Getty Images

Wild camping is what the British call tent camping away from designated campsites. Open-access legislation makes this easier than it used to be, though it's still discouraged or banned in most places in England and Wales.

However, it is legal in Scotland, where you can pitch your tent freely on all open access land, with a few guidelines:

  • Camp "lightweight" (i.e. 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.
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50 Free Things to Do in the United Kingdom