Wallets at the ready! The summer holidays are fast approaching and that can mean only one thing; six whole weeks of overpriced attractions, exorbitant entertainment and daylight robbery of epic proportions. But fear not, we’ve put together our top free things to do in Wales this summer so the school holidays needn’t mean bankruptcy…
1. Catch the World Alternative Games
Head to Llanwrtyd Wells this August to catch sight of some of the wackiest competitions you’re ever likely to see. Sunday the 10th of August alone will see people compete in finger jousting championships, worm charming, a space hopper race and a hide and seek competition. Other highlights include the zombie race, the Russian egg roulette and the gravy wrestling championships. For a full list of events, visit: http://www.worldalternativegames.co.uk/events/
2. Explore the depths of Big Pit
How much money can you possibly spend underground? Big Pit is officially one of the country’s top attractions and, best of all, it’s free! You can take a tour of a modern mine with a virtual miner in the gallery but the star attraction has to be the chance to head 300ft underground to find out how the miners of yesteryear spent their days. Enough history to ensure your little ones learn something, but enough excitement that they won’t mind!
3. Explore the country’s interior on foot
As stunning as the coastline may be, Wales is home to such a variety of landscapes that it is well worth wandering inland! The Brecon Beacons is a great place for family-friendly hiking (even the mighty Pen y Fan!), or you could explore the Elan Valley, Wales’ beating heart and enjoy some of the most scenic and rugged walking that the country has to offer.
4. Visit a museum
One of the best things about Wales is the wealth of free museums there are to visit. Stare in awe at the dinosaurs at Cardiff’s National Museum, explore Welsh culture and history at St Fagans National History Museum or get hands-on with traditional wool techniques at the National Wool Museum. Maybe even get close up with a Roman Centurion at the Roman Museum. For a full list of free museum in Wales, visit: http://www.wales.com/en/content/cms/English/About_Wales/Arts_Culture/Museums_of_Wales/Museums_of_Wales.aspx
5. Nocturnal Nature Hunt at Elan Valley Trust
What better way to celebrate the passing of yet another fantastic summer holiday than with this fascinating nocturnal nature hunt. Taking place on Sunday the 31st of August at 8pm, you’ll search the night for nocturnal wildlife using bat detectors, moth traps and trail cameras. You’ll also get to learn some techniques to help discover what wildlife is lurking in your own garden. Be sure to bring warm clothes, stout footwear, a torch and insect repellent along with you!
For further details see www.elanvalley.org.uk
6. Dolphin spotting in Ceredigion
Cardigan Bay is home to the largest pod of bottlenose dolphins in Europe and there are many dedicated bout tours such as A Bay to Remember that’ll take you out to get up close and personal. If you don’t mind admiring them from a little further afield, you could skip the boat charge and pick a nice spot along the coast to stop with a picnic while keeping those eyes peeled for dorsal fins.
7. Walk the Wales Coast Path
Wales is famous for its 870-mile coastal path – the world’s first uninterrupted route along a national coast. So regardless of whether you’re a dedicated hiker or simply after a quick afternoon stroll, there’s plenty of reason to lace up your walking boots. The Coastal Path also makes for some great cycling and you’d be surprised by the variety of wildlife you’ll see along the way.
8. Free family events at the National Wool Museum
There’s a free exhibition titled ‘A Dark Cloud Over the Woollen Industry’ running until November, plus kids can go and take part in a variety of hands-on activities including a series on ‘Three cool things to make with…’ a rubber band, a paper clip and a lolly stick. Families can also follow the ‘Woolly Tale’ trail for free, which gives an insight into the wool-making process, from fleece to fabric. For all museum events, visit: https://www.museumwales.ac.uk/whatson/?site=wool
9. The Old Station Tintern
Not only has this been voted the best tea room in Wales by the National Tourism Awards 2013/14, it is also a fantastic place to bring kids with a play area, a mile-long riverside walk, a model railway and a full daily children’s activity programme. They can also ride a miniature railway (a small charge applies) and enjoy the museum and historical film show in the on-site railway carriage.
10. Free tastings at Parva Farm vineyard
Are your kids that little bit older and keen to taste some authentic Welsh wine? Parva Farm is offering free wine tastings at their vineyard shop (open 1pm – 5.30pm all week except Wednesdays). For a small extra charge you can also go on a vineyard tour to find out what makes Welsh grapes so special.
11. Free pony rides at Greenacres Stables Riding Centre
Head down to Greenacres Stables on Saturday the 26th of July between 2pm and 5pm and you’ll be able to enjoy free pony rides, as well as a show jumping demonstration at 3.30pm.
12. Take a bite out of a food festival in south west Wales
Wales is known for being home to some fantastic local producers, so why not head along to some of south west Wales’ food and drink festivals this summer? There’s Lampeter Food Festival (26th of July), Cardigan River festival (16th of August), Haverfordwest Beer and Cider festival (23rd – 25th of August) and Narberth food festival (27th – 28th of September). Yum
13. Explore Kenfig National Nature Reserve
It costs nothing to wander round this fascinating reserve and learn more about a variety of unique Welsh flora and fauna, including the rare fen orchid. This will also be the home of the gruelling The Celts: Survival Run 50k obstacle course in August.
14. Music in the Park, Bryngarw House
Through August there will be the chance to head to Bryngarw House and Country Park to enjoy some awesome live music on the lawns. There’s entertainment for the children too, with interesting characters to meet, music and games to enjoy and challenges to complete.
15. Go mountain biking at Darren Fawr
Whether you’re after family-friendly and traffic-free routes or some testing mountain biking up in the Welsh hills, why not get fit for free this summer. For the ultimate test, why not see if the family can conquer the Darren Fawr mountain biking trails and then make it all the way down to the beach in one route.
16. Cycling in the Cambrian Mountains
The Cambrian Mountains in mid Wales is one of the remotest destinations in the UK, with mile-upon-mile of stunning traffic-free cycling to be enjoyed. In fact, the cycling is so good that the Tour of Britain will be passing by here in September so we’d recommend getting in quick before the crowds arrive! Also consider visiting the National Cycle Museum (for a small charge).
17. Go on a self-guided Hinterland tour
Many would argue that one of the biggest stars of BBC’s Hinterland is actually the Welsh landscape. Why not enjoy a driving tour of the Cambrian Mountains and Ceredigion to take in some of the best views as shown on TV: Devil’s Bridge, Aberystwyth etc. Alternatively, pay to take a tour with Cambrian Safaris.
18. WaterAid Awareness Day, Elan Valley
Takes place on Saturday the 16th of August. Come along to find out about Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s charity of choice WaterAid and all the hard work they’ve been doing in developing countries to provide safe drinking water and safe sanitation. You can learn how to get involved yourself and start helping, plus there will be games to take part in and prizes to be won. The event starts at 10am at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, finishes at 3pm and, of course, is free to enter!
For further details see www.elanvalley.org.uk