I was born and raised in the UK, and although I’ve spent a lot of my later life travelling, I have a new-found appreciation for my country. So, I want to share some of the best cheap places to visit in the UK on a budget, so you can enjoy exploring the United Kingdom without breaking the bank.
The Gower, Swansea
When the sun is out, it’s time to hit the beach. The Gower in Swansea, Wales is not only a cheap destination but is also one of the most beautiful landscapes in the whole of the UK.
Aside from the petrol costs, you will only need to buy essentials like food, water and sunscreen and you are set for the whole day. The Gower is perfect for everyone and is a great place to get the kids out of the house this summer. Some of the best beaches in the country can be found here, such as Three Cliffs Bay and Rhossili Bay.
Before you leave Swansea, take a walk through the Mumbles area. It is full of unique shops and cafes to chill out at. Talk a stroll along the pier or visit the castle which is only a short walk away from the seafront for a brief history of the area.
This city is full of culture and there are many cheap things to do in Bristol. Harbourside has plenty of vibrant and exciting events that happen on a regular basis and, especially in the summer, there are all sorts of food, drink and music festivals going on. Even when the moon comes up, the city is alive.
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Bristol also has the famous balloon festival that occurs every year which is a must-see. The sheer number of them is overwhelming and when they are actually up in the sky, they provide a spectacular sight. The festival lasts for a couple of days so you will have more than one chance to enjoy this amazing event. You will be able to see them from anywhere in the city so find a park with a good view of the skyline and enjoy!
The city is close enough to visit on a day trip from London or spend some more time there and you can explore the region around Bristol too, visiting Stonehenge, Bath, Cheddar Gorge, and further south into Devon and Cornwall.
Staying in the South West area and one of the original spa towns in the UK, Bath is a cheap place to visit and it is free to see the outside of the Roman baths and take in the essence of what this historic town was like. Bath is also one of the prettiest places to visit in the country.
This makes it a very cultured day out where you don’t have to spend any money to appreciate it in all its glory. There are old-fashioned pubs and restaurants that have been around for centuries and still have their original feel too.
Away from the summer, Bath is also a great place to visit during Christmas! Its famous market is full of cheer and the atmosphere it creates is second to none. The stalls that surround the Abbey are brimming with homemade and local treats, and it truly brings out the Christmas spirit in everyone.
The birthplace of famous musicians such as Oasis and Joy Division, Manchester is one of the UK’s most famous cities and is always full of life and things to do for cheap.
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Manchester is also famous for sport, in particular, its roots in football. For a fan, there is no better place to visit in Manchester than the National Football Museum. Not only is it free, but you can also take your own penalties and learn about the history of the sport. And of course, two of the biggest clubs in the UK are in Manchester – Manchester United and Manchester City, so you can visit their stadiums too for a fee.
Aside from the sport, Manchester also has plenty of other attractions to visit on a budget. The Northern Quarter is a focal point for design and a great place to do some shopping. You will only find original stores here that contain everything from galleries to record shops. Whatever your taste, you will not be disappointed, and the same goes for Manchester’s legendary nightlife too!
Leeds is a wonderful choice for a cheap place to visit in the UK, especially for a city break. There are accommodation options for all budgets in or close to the city centre, from hostels to B&Bs and budget hotels.
Leeds is a university city (and where I spent 10 years), so has plenty to cater for cash-strapped students and visitors. Leeds is well-known for its excellent shopping, with big name brands and independent shops right across the city. You can find plenty of things to do in Leeds to keep you busy, including several free museums and the beautiful ruins of Kirkstall Abbey.
Foodies will enjoy visiting Kirkgate Market and checking out some of the delicious food on offer in Leeds, with a huge choice of restaurants and cafes to try. Sports fans can watch a Leeds United Game, or a cricket match at Headingley, another part of Leeds which is popular with students.
Leeds is also a great base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales, which you can reach a short drive outside of the city. Nearby towns such as Otley, Ikley and Saltaire are also worth visiting.
Less than an hours’ drive from Leeds is another fabulous and cheap place to visit. York is one of my favourite cities in the north of England and would make a wonderful weekend break or a day trip from Leeds. York is famous for its chocolate heritage, so be sure to visit at least some of the chocolatiers in York to sample their wares!
Harry Potter fans will adore The Shambles, York’s narrowest street which is said to be an influence for Diagon Alley (among other places in Edinburgh!). The street is full of independent shops and the food market close by is a great place to grab some lunch. Alternatively, treat yourself to an afternoon tea – you are on holiday after all!
Other free things to do in York include admiring the stunning York Minster (although it is well worth paying the entrance fee to go inside), walking the city walls and following the Cat Trail to spot cat statues all around the city.
The National Railway Museum is a wonderful free museum for children and adults alike and is home to the world’s fastest steam locomotive, the Mallard, as well as other notable trains including a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket.
It seems that the further north you go, the prices get lower! Northumberland is England’s northernmost county and would make a great day trip from Newcastle or Edinburgh, or take your time and spend a couple of nights here.
Alnwick is the county town of Northumberland and the perfect base for your trip to Northumberland. Alnwick Castle is a must-visit, although entry tickets aren’t cheap, I enjoyed exploring the grounds, spotting Harry Potter filming locations and taking a broomstick lesson! The Alnwick Garden is also lovely to visit if your budget can stretch to it.
From Alnwick, take a trip to Northumberland National Park, where you can walk along a section of Hadrian’s Wall, and learn about Roman history at one of England’s most important historical sites. Walking Hadrian’s Wall is free, and English Heritage members get free access to the museums and forts along the wall.
Kielder Forest and Reservoir are wonderful places for walking and mountain biking, all free to explore once you’ve paid for parking. Parts of Kielder Forest around the observatory are designated as a Dark Sky Preserve, so it’s also a great place for stargazing. Don’t forget about Holy Island, a unique place to visit and great for nature lovers.
If you have a decent amount of time for a cheap UK holiday, explore the Highlands. There are so many free attractions that you can do here which are perfect for everyone and the Scottish countryside is incredible.
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The Malt Whisky Trail, for example, is set right in the middle of Speyside. Speyside is actually home to more than half of the whiskeys in the whole of Scotland. There is so much to discover here. Along the way you will come across different distilleries, each one having their own unique style and history.
The vast landscapes provide amazing opportunities to go for extended walks and hikes, discover little coves hidden in the mountains and shrouded by stunning waterfalls. The scenery here is untouched and when the sun goes down, look up to the sky to see the Milky Way in all its glory. There is little to no man-made light to obscure the view of the great galaxy we are a part of.
So there you have it, some of the best cheap places to visit in the UK for a holiday or a great day out while keeping your wallets and purses as full as possible.
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6 thoughts on “Cheap Places to Visit in the UK on a Budget”
These are such great tips! I had no idea Bristol had a balloon festival, I’ve actually never been to Swansea, and I didn’t realize some of these places like Manchester were actually cheaper! I now have a new summer bucket list – thanks for this post!
I visited UK a few years ago and totally wish I’d known about all these things back then. The Bristol Balloon Festival is totally my jam and I’m so glad to have learnt about it now. The Malt Whisky Trail is going up on my bucket list for sure too. Gosh this really does make me wanna fly back to Europe right this second now!
I only went briefly to Scotland so I definitely need to go back and explore more, it is just sooooo beautiful!
It is tough to choose what to do in a short time, but usually there is no bad choice! At least you have a good excuse to come back to the UK soon to visit some more places! 🙂
I have so much left to explore in the UK that as I was reading your post, I realised, I have not been to any of the places mentioned here. I was in the UK, 10 years ago, for 10 days and I have very little memory of things that I saw (I was mostly in London and Wales). But I regret missing a trip to the Scottish Highlands, having heard so much about the landscapes and being a nature lover myself. Also, Manchester and Bath are two places I read a lot about recently and it makes me want to go back soon. The Gower in Swansea looks superb!
I’d love to see the Scottish Highlands, and on a budget too! The land is glorious, and it looks so remote too. I never knew the UK had its own balloon festival in Bristol, so will make a future mental note of this! I love Bath, and have visited twice!