MUSEUMS – Most UK museums in and out of London are free! And the category of “museum” goes beyond stuffy old galleries of paintings (though there are some amazing ones in that category as well!). A sampling of some of these include:
- The House of Marbles – A working glass, marble, and vintage toy factory with a shop and playground.
- Hull Maritime Museum – A museum of all things maritime (including a full whale skeleton!)
- National Football Museum – Crazy about football? This museum is the place to go! It has displays on fans, stadiums, the game, as well as a hall of fame.
- Many, Many More!
Two of my favorite museums are in South Wales:
- Big Pit – A real coal mine. They take you down the elevator and you walk in the actual mines. I have to say this experience was one of the most chilling ones I’ve had. There really is no light down there at all. Your eyes never adjust when they turn the lamps off.
- St. Fagan’s National History Museum – This outside museum is a large collection of historic buildings from all over Wales that have been moved into one large park. Walk through Welsh history. Visit the traditional Welsh bakery (since the museum is free, spend a couple pounds on yummy bread!), see a blacksmith at work, and walk through traditional Welsh row houses decorated in various time periods throughout history. I just love it here!
GET OUTSIDE – There are so many beautiful hikes and walks throughout the country that are all free (or a just a few pounds for parking). There’s no way to include all of the possibilities here, but a few of our favorite experiences were:
- Malham Cove – It’s a beautiful walk to the cove and a million steps to the top with sweeping views of the countryside. The road we took up to Malham was one of the most picturesque roads we’ve ever traveled.
- Brimham Rocks – This place tops my list for my unexpected favorite. This large park is full of crazy rock formations that you can just climb all over! It was beautiful, fun, adventurous, and each formation was so different! (I look forward to bringing my kids there.)
- Orrest Head – There are hundreds of beautiful hikes in the Lake district with amazing views of the surrounding areas, but if you’re doing a quick visit to this part of the country and you’re staying in Windermere, this was a simple hike with rewarding views!
- Avebury – The entire town of Avebury is part of the largest stone circle. Though the stones aren’t as large or close together as Stonehenge, they’re just out among the fields and I really enjoyed the little village and walking around the stones.
- Caerphilly Castle – Though you have to pay to go inside the ruins, walking completely around the moat is an amazing experience. It would be fabulous to just have a 13th Century castle ruins in the background of daily life!
NATIONAL TRUST TOURING PASS – For overseas visitors, you can become a short-term member of the National Trust. Mr. T and I bought a 14-day 2-person pass for a total of £57. This pass allowed us into nearly all of the National Trust locations throughout the UK for free. We loved the freedom this pass provided us. We were able to just stop in to any National Trust site we passed that sounded interesting. Most we had planned in our itinerary, but a few we happened upon along the way. A few of the places we enjoyed were:
- Stonehenge – The pass also gets you in to Stonehenge (though you have to book online because Stonehenge is run by English Heritage). If you feel the need to visit here (and you might as well if you have the touring pass that gets you in free!), book your tickets for the very first thing in the morning and take the first shuttle you can get straight out to the stones to get pictures before the crowds arrive. Then you can visit all the other areas of the visitor’s centre when you are done looking at the actual stones.
- Fountains Abbey – There is something so peaceful to me about a giant cathedral ruin with grass growing inside. I simply love Fountains Abbey. Definitely walk to Anne Boleyn’s seat for the view of the cathedral from there.
- Powis Castle – Wales is full of castles and this is one we happened upon while driving. It is a similar time period to Caerphilly Castle, but instead of being left to ruin after the Medieval Wars, Powis was inhabited all the way up until 1988! The castle and extensive gardens are in immaculate shape and were fun to visit.
- Use ATMs, but be careful which debit card! – ATMs will give you the best exchange rate, but most of the big American banks will charge you exorbitant fees for withdrawing cash overseas. Wells Fargo, for example, will charge you $5 for each withdrawal AND a 3% charge of anything you withdraw. Yikes! I used my Capital One 360 Debit Card and was never charged any fees! Just be sure to only use bank ATMs (not random ones at the airport!). Sometimes they’ll try to trick you by putting a non-bank ATM next to a Bank ATM, so look for a bank name before withdrawing cash.
- Don’t Pay Foreign Transaction Fees – Enough credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees these days that it seems silly to pay something like 3% on every purchase when you could avoid it. Make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Traveling makes the world a smaller, friendlier place. Get out there and explore the amazing world in which we live!