We know how hard it can be to scrape together the cash to go abroad. So why bother with the stress when there are loads of great ways to have a lovely time on the cheap right here in the UK. Whether it’s a holiday by the sea, a city break or an escape to the country, Britain has plenty to offer, even if the sun isn’t out.
Read on for our ideas on how to enjoy great cheap holidays close to home.
One of the best things about Britain is the great British outdoors. Embracing it is a great way to enjoy a cheap holiday. Whether you’re looking to go to the beach or off on a hike around the countryside, there are tons of great locations that will save you a packet. The only costs you need to think about are accommodation and travel.
Britain’s 6,000 miles of coastline offers visitors some of the most stunning beaches in the world. Whether you want to enjoy building sandcastles, the different watersports available or spotting rare wildlife there’s plenty to do all over the country.
There are loads of fun things to do in Cromer, starting with the lovely sandy beach which provides endless hours of sandcastle building, beach games and kite flying. Try Amazon.co.uk for all your beach shopping. Swimming in the sea is also great fun for kids and the beach is monitored by lifeguards throughout the main holiday season. Cromer’s pier has also been recently renovated and its end-of-the-pier show is well worth a trip. If the rain hits there are also plenty of indoor activities to take part in, including a visit to Cromer Museum for a guide to the town’s colourful past or a trip to Cromer’s Regal Movieplex. Climbing Cromer’s 14th-century church tower is also a great way to entertain the kids, as well as providing spectacular views of the North Norfolk countryside and the North Sea.
Cromer is easily accessible by train. For discounted tickets, book in advance with sites like The Trainline. You can also get there by bus with National Express or Megabus, as a cheaper alternative to a car.
One of the main considerations when picking where to go is accommodation. One of the cheapest ways to stay in Cromer is camping. Plots start from £7 and although there are tents that are pricey, you can get great deals on them right now from places like Argos (starting at £10.99), as well as most supermarkets, like Tesco (from only £8) and Asda (from £12). Check out Enjoy England for a great range of campsites.
If you fancy a bigger seaside resort, then Brighton is a great place to visit. It has the famous Brighton beach, all the amusements of the pier and the marina along the seafront. There are also the many museums, galleries, shops in town, plus the amazing Sea Life centre to keep children occupied. The city’s beautiful regency architecture can be easily appreciated by walking around or as you wander towards the 17th-century Brighton Lanes, the best place for shopping for famous labels, antiques and jewellery. If you fancy something a bit more lively why not experience the energy of a day at the races at Brighton racecourse, or try your hand at sailing along the waterfront?
Getting to Brighton is really easy, with trains leaving London regularly and the centrally-located station providing easy access to all of the town’s major sites. There are loads of train offers on at the moment, particularly if you’re travelling as part of a group or as a family, including First Capital Connect’s Groupsave tickets, where four travel for the price of two. As an even cheaper alternative, National Express tickets between London and Brighton start at £5 per adult at the moment.
For cheap accommodation indoors, try staying in empty university accommodation as student enjoy their summer holidays. Rooms are available from Brighton university from £29 per night and don’t worry – university accommodation has really improved over the last few years, so there’s no need to worry about dirty showers and untouchable kitchens.
Tenby is a great place to visit with family. Set in a beautiful location in Pembrokeshire, Tenby has three beaches for you to enjoy. While South Beach is great for surfers and windsurfers, there are watersports like canoeing and swimming available at North and Castle Beach. Castle Beach is a great place for a day out, with lifeguards, toilets and deckchair hire located here. North Beach is the best spot for looking for wildlife in rockpools, so get your fishing net at the ready. Plus, if all those beaches weren’t enough for you, there’s the pretty Caldey Island just a quick boat ride away, where you can enjoy the sand between your toes in Priory Bay, or visit the village with its historical Old Priory.
Getting to Tenby is possible by car, train and coach. Tickets are available from National Express (both for coaches and trains), as well as the Trainline.
If you’re travelling with a large party and can’t bear the thought of a wet tent or endless games of Scrabble in a caravan keeping out of the rain, then hostels are another cheap option for accommodation. Manorbier Youth Hostel near Tenby has beds from £17.50 a night, which can be a major saving if you haven’t already got a tent handy.
Castle Bay, Barra, Outer Hebrides
If you’re looking for a remote island getaway, Castle Bay is perfect. Situated in the idyllic Outer Hebrides, the village’s main attraction is the fortress in the bay. Accessed by a small ferry, this intriguing landmark adds to the many sights to be seen, including the rare wildlife of seals, golden eagles, otters and puffins. The beaches are among the most spectacular in the world and the more active among you can really explore the island’s coastlines by trying your hand at sea kayaking.
For cheap accommodation, try Dunard hostel. Situated in the Castle Bay village, this family-run hostel offers rooms from £17.90 and offers great views of the bay. Travelling to the Outer Hebrides is really only accessible by car, but try car sharing if there are only two of you and split the cost of petrol and the boat over to Barra island.
Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
For families travelling to Northern Ireland, Ballycastle is a fab place to visit. Located in County Antrim, there’s the attraction of a river as well as the seafront with its marina and golden sandy beach. It’s also a good base to start from to explore Giant’s Causeway.
For completely free accommodation why not try house swapping? This involves exchanging your house with someone else’s for a week. All you need to do is sign up on websites, such as Love Home Swap, or you can also search on Gumtree for private advertisements in the local area. Having found a house you contact the home owner to arrange a swap. While giving your house keys to a random stranger can be scary, you have to remember that they’re letting you into their home as well. Take a look at our full article on house swapping here.
Getting to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK involves either a flight or a boat trip. As boats are quite expensive at the moment, it’s cheaper to fly. EasyJet have great cheap flights to Belfast, with prices starting at £29.99.
The great British countryside is renowned throughout the world and includes 14 national parks and 49 designated areas of outstanding natural beauty. Whether it’s climbing Scotland’s magnificent Ben Nevis, rambling along England’s South Downs or enjoying the views from the dramatic cliffs of Binevenagh in Northern Ireland, there’s plenty to see on foot.
The Peak District
For a really great and easily accessible trip to the country, trying visiting the Peak District. As the world’s second most-visited National Park, the Peak District has plenty to offer. Whether it’s walking, cycling, climbing, paragliding or caving, there are loads of ways to explore depending on how active you’re feeling. If you’re keen on cycling then the Pennine Cycleway passes through the Peak District, before heading up north through Yorkshire and Northumberland. Starting at Derby railway station, it’s easily accessible by train. If you’re with children and don’t fancy cycling in the city, the Tissington Trail follows a former train line, so is an even route to follow which allows you to enjoy the scenery while you cycle.
Due to the Peak District’s central location, access into main towns such as Matlock is easy on the train and discounted tickets can be found on The Trainline. If you want to take the cheaper option of a coach, you can get buses with Megabus and National Express to main cities just outside the Peak District, such as Sheffield or Derby, and then use public buses to get to more remote locations. Youth hostels in the Peak District start from £10 and can be found on the visit Peak District website. This site is also great for accommodation such as camping (plots start from £1!), or you can look for caravans to rent. Caravans can start at around £500 per week in the peak season (July and August), but as many of these accommodate two families the cost can be halved. Rent a Holiday Caravan has a wide range of caravans from all over the UK.
It’s not only London that offers the attractions of the city. There are many historic cities around the UK, such as York, Lincoln, Edinburgh and Bath. These all offer historical sights along with more modern attractions. There’s also shopping, exciting nightlife, theatres and galleries, which you can also find in cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Liverpool. See Jasmine’s article about holidaying in Merseyside here.
While camping in cities is impractical, hostels and house swaps are still a popular way to stay and save cash. You could also try finding a cheap hotel. Sites like Laterooms and Expedia will search for the cheapest late deals for you, while specific hotels will often feature deals on their website. Travelodge are currently offering rooms for £21 per night and Holiday Inn have up to 45% off rooms in the UK this summer.
Travelling to big cities is really easy on a train with The Trainline, on a coach with National Express or on a plane if you’re travelling long distances or over the Irish Sea.
If you’ve already chosen your location and are looking for camping or caravan accommodation, The Camping and Caravanning Club have loads of sites available. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an outdoors experience without having to lug a tent about, try camping barns. While you still need the camping stove and sleeping bag (Cheap sleeping bags are available at Tesco) there’s no tent necessary. See Farm Stay UK for sites in your destination. This site also has details on bunkhouses, which are a good alternative to a hostel. They have more facilities than camping barns, but you still need to take your own sleeping bag.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, why not try staying in a tipi? Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall, offer you the opportunity to stay in a tipi at very reasonable rates.
If you plan to visit lots of different places in the UK, you can purchase a Brit Xplorer pass from National Express for £79, which allows unlimited travel in England, Scotland and Wales for a week.
You can buy a Family & Friends railcard which allows four adults and four children to travel on one card. The pass costs £30 and saves adults a third off all fares and 60% off children’s fares on travel throughout the UK. To buy your pass visit the Family & Friends railcard website.
If you’ve got friends coming over from abroad, they can buy a BritRail Pass that allows them to access trains all over the UK and if you travel with them, then you too can benefit from their discounts. Brit passes cost £369 for 15 days’ travel, although you can buy tickets for less if you don’t want to travel on all 15 days and can be bought from the BritRail Pass website.
If you want a more eco-friendly way to see the country, then cycling holidays are a perfect solution. While travelling light is essential, this can be a really enjoyable way to see the country and it’s free travel! Easier destinations are the flatter areas of the UK. Great routes include Fakenham to Harwich – encompassing Norfolk and Suffolk, England and the Loughshore Trail, Northern Ireland. Tougher routes can be found in Scotland around the Lochs and Glens North. With these holidays you’d have to find places to set up your tents on your own or find hostels en route. But if you want a more structured holiday that includes accommodation and bike hire you can use travel websites like Wheely Wonderful Cycling. Prices start from £155 for adults and £120 for children.