Summer 2019: 15 free things to do, from Edinburgh Fringe to the Tolkein Trail

From historical trails to galleries and festivals – there's plenty to keep you busy this summer

Roisin O'Connor@Roisin_OConnor
Monday 19 August 2019 09:31
A performer at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019
A performer at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019

Summer holidays can be tough if you're on a budget and looking for ways to entertain yourself, your friends or even the whole family.

Fortunately, there are thousands of free events taking place around the UK until September that are educational, entertaining, or both!

From historical trails to galleries and festivals, here are 15 free culture events you can check out this summer.

Visit a museum

There are hundreds of world-renowned museums around the UK that offer a diverting and educational experience for all the family. Whether it’s meeting “Hope”, the blue whale skeleton on display in the Natural History Museum in London, or visiting the National Football Museum in Manchester, there are plenty of free exhibitions running all year round.

Celebrate your love of books

The literacy charity Bookstart puts on thousands of free events for children and young people in libraries and community areas around the UK. You can see what’s currently on offer on their website.

Go to the cinema

Cynics may scoff, because yes, the cinema now has a reputation for ripping off many a film fanatic. But website Show Film First will keep you up to speed with how to get free cinema tickets to selected showings around the UK. It’s first come first served, so you’ll need to check regularly to see what’s on.

Sculpture trail

The Royal Forest of Dean has a sculpture trail near Cinderford, Gloustershire that features exquisite artworks set against a backdrop of beautiful woodland. It’s open from dawn until dusk each day – more info at

Notting Hill Carnival


The legendary event features 20 miles of brilliant costumes, dancers, performers and Caribbean food stalls. The children’s parade and Family Day both take place on 27 August from 9am to 8pm.

Visit Salford Quays

Home to the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry and Ordsall Hall, the Quays have more than enough to keep you occupied for an entire day out with the family. There are also plenty of screenings and events going on at MediaCityUK’s Piazza – details at

Brush up on your history

In Leeds you can visit the Royal Armouries Museum, which houses a whopping 8,500 medieval artefacts and live jousting sessions on selected dates. More info at

The Robin Hood Festival

If you happen to be around Sherwood Forest between 5 – 11 August, the Robin Hood festival offers archery, story-telling, medieval music and traditional food. You can even watch a performance of the hero himself escaping the evil Sheriff. Learn more at


The Margate amusement park has a Roller Coast festival that’s mainly free and takes place between 19 July to 1 September. There’s a different theme each week, from science to superheroes – for Carnival Week guests can learn how to make festival masks and dance the samba, while Street Fest offers BMX stunts. You can also explore the Margate Caves, which reopened this summer for the first time in 15 years.

Attend a regatta

Salcombe Regatta in Devon has a sandcastle competition, an ice-cream-eating contest and a firework display. It’s mostly free from 3-10 August.

Follow in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps (literally)

For the Lord of the Rings fans in your family – Birmingham’s Tolkien Trail leads you to the places and people who inspired both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Maps are available from local tourist information centres, or you can find out more at

Or if you prefer Jane Austen

Mrs Bennett (far left) in the 2005 film of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

You can enjoy a similar day out in Jane’s favourite city, Bath, with a free audio tour that will guide you around this beautiful Georgian city. Learn more at

For Dylan Thomas fans

The Laugharne boat house where Dylan Thomas lived and worked in the final years of his life, looking out over the estuary and the trees beyond, which is said to be the inspiration for Under Milk Wood.

Dylan Thomas fell in love with the stunning estuary town of Laugharne, Camarthernshire, in 1934, and lived there on and off for almost two decades. There’s plenty to expliore, from Castle House on Market Street where Dylan and Caitlin McNamara first got together in 1936, and the Cross House Inn – one of three pubs frequented by Dylan when he first lived here, writing up ideas for new poems on Woodbine cigarette packets. Adults should try a glass of Penderyn whisky (sadly not free) after a stroll via The Boathouse, where you can peek into Dylan’s writing shed.

Edinburgh Fringe

(Getty Images

Taking place from 1 – 25 August, Edinburgh’s famous festival also has a record-breaking 9237 free performances taking place across 402 shows this year. There’s also a children’s programme with special events scheduled for the summer holidays. Details at

Explore a maze

In Larne, County Antrim, there are 191 hectares of mixed woodland and walking trails to enjoy at Carnfunnock Country Park. There’s also mini golf, and a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland. Some activities may require a fee. Visit for more details.

Help prevent hay fever symptoms

While spring brings warmer weather it also marks the start of the hay fever season. If you’re one of the 18 million people affected in the UK, it makes sense to try to help prevent the symptoms of hay fever. A single dose of Pirinase Hayfever Relief For Adults 0.05% Nasal Spray in each nostril once a day could help relieve sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes. Find out more here, or click here to buy online

For the relief of allergy symptoms. Pirinase Allergy 0.05% Nasal Spray contains fluticasone. Always read the label.

Trademarks are owned by or licensed to the GSK group of companies.

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