With several lighter months still yawning out in front of us, it’s time to fill the days with fun activities for the kids. But they needn’t break the bank – and in many cases can be free. Whether you’re taking the family on a short city break or deep into the countryside, here are some cheap ideas for family days out.
York City Walls
The best way to see the city is to walk its ancient boundary. York’s walls date back to 71 AD and you can still walk around most of them. It’s an evocative and educational way to start your visit.
This 1000-year-old masterpiece is one of the UK’s great buildings. You need to pay but the tickets are valid for a year, which is just as well given that the depth of things to see inside is vast. Very kid-friendly too.
Hunt the cats
Did you know there were 22 cat statues hidden on historic buildings around York’s city centre? Pick up a trail map, with clues, from York Lucky Cats (No 34 The Shambles) and get searching. Fun and free.
Stay at: YHA York
The wild seas that hammer the Pembrokeshire coast are teeming with wildlife: dolphins, seals and porpoises can all be seen – even whales if you’re lucky – as well as choughs, great northern divers and raptors.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail runs along beaches and above cliffs, over estuaries and sandstone bays, offering one of Britain’s best long-distance walks. A taster? Try the Treginnis Peninsula.
Climb Carn Llidi
Looming ruggedly behind YHA St David’s, Carn Llidi is a 181-metre high hill that offers the perfect challenge for budding hikers. The walk from Whitesands Bay is straightforward, and the summit views are massive.
Stay: Find nearby hostels
The Yorkshire Dales, particularly around YHA Grinton Lodge in Swaledale, are prime mountain biking territory, with rides suitable for everyone from berm-hungry experts to family groups. The hostel has cycle storage.
Take a geology lesson
There’s nothing boring about this bit of education. YHA Malham is close to the magnificent Malham Cove, Malham Tarn and Gordale Scar, a limestone ravine that inspires awe, and is fun for a run-around too.
Go to the falls
The Aysgarth Falls are one of the Dales’ most fetching beauty spots, with some easy walks close by. The falls even feature on screen in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves, which brings us neatly to
Stay: Find nearby hostels
Explore Robin Hood country
Sherwood Forest will forever be synonymous with the legend of Robin Hood. The 450-acre country park offers marked trails, bike hire and the famous Major Oak, the tree where the outlaw once hid.
Get arty in Nottingham
Nottingham is one of the UK’s best value cities, with free galleries such as Nottingham Contemporary and the New Art Exchange. And don’t miss the 500-acre grounds, complete with deer, at Wollaton Hall & Park.
Tread back in time
Ten miles north of YHA Sherwood Forest, Creswell Crags is a high-walled gorge studded with caves. It’s packed with Ice Age history. You’re free to ramble the gorge and lake, but the cave tours and exhibition are ticketed.
Stay: YHA Sherwood Forest
Take to the river
YHA Wilderhope Manor is well placed for watersports on the River Severn. Bring a canoe or kayak, or simply enjoy a picnic on the riverbank. For walkers, the Shropshire Hills are close by too.
Deep in the green West Midlands is a former 11th-century workhouse that is now YHA Leominster. From here you can explore the Tudor magnificence of Ludlow Castle and the region’s famous “black and white” half-timbered villages.
YHA Ironbridge Coalport occupies the former Coalport China Works and is today part of the Ironbridge World Heritage Site, where you’ll find no less than ten family-friendly museums. Who needs London?