A break in Britain won’t break the bank! It’s possible to explore the UK on a budget, from great value accommodation that’s big on the personal touches to free days out and easy-peasy transport. And you’ll still get that money-can’t-buy wow factor, we promise. Here are our tips to help you get more bang for your buck:
Bristol is Banksy’s original canvas and buzzes with international artists and fresh artworks. Venture off the beaten track on a street-art tour (£9.20) by active members of the street-art community and see artists in action and legendary graffiti.
Step inside many of Britain’s awesome churches and cathedrals for free. For extra tingles down your spine, catch one of Westminster Abbey’s free choral performances in London or King’s College Chapel’s world-renowned Christmas Eve carol services in Cambridge.
Edinburgh Fringe festival
With performances spilling into the streets and a generous assortment of free and great-value tickets, Edinburgh’s world-class arts festival is a pleasurable assault on the senses but definitely not on the bank balance.
This British institution doesn’t have to cost a small fortune – it’s not just for royalty, you know. Try Manchester’s super-cute and cool Teacup Kitchen where £16 will get you a three-tiered (i.e. extremely filling) slice of heaven.
London’s West End is on every culture buff’s bucket list, and those in the know spend less on the experience. The Globe, whose boards have been trodden by A-list actors including Mark Rylance (Thomas Cromwell in the acclaimed TV adaptation of Wolf Hall), sells standing tickets for just £5. If you’re a spur-of-the-moment kind of traveller, check TKTS for on-the-day bargains.
Subscribe to Groupon for a vast range of discount vouchers valid across the UK. You’ll find accommodation in stately homes and castles for well under £100 per night, 50% off luxury afternoon tea experiences and a few ideas to tempt you off the beaten track too.
Attractions in London
Did you know that there are loads of things to do in London that don't cost a penny? Big-hitters such as the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, V&A and Tate Modern are utterly free – that’s almost a week of free activities already!
Lords & ladies
Britain is chock-full of castles and stately homes so it’s well worth investing £25 in a National Trust touring pass (Discover Ticket in Scotland, £22.50) for free entry to 300+ homes, gardens and castles. Just waltz in as if you own the place!
Rather than paying for individual journeys on London’s Underground (or 'Tube' as the locals call it), save money with an Oyster card and a free rail and Underground map. You’ll be swiping through the barriers just like a Londoner.
You can sample the very best of British cuisine at a fraction of the price. For example, opt for lunch instead of dinner in London’s Arbutus and feast on three courses of Michelin-starred modern British classics for just £23.
Britain is a great place to pick up designer bargains with a unique story behind them. Start at the Chanel factory shop in Hawick, Scottish Borders, for luxury tweed and cashmere bargains. If it’s good enough for Coco…
Britain’s rail network is extensive, great value and world class. Well, we have been doing it longer than any other country in the world, after all. Get from London to Edinburgh in 4hrs 22 mins, to Cardiff in 2hrs 3 mins and York in 1hr 50 mins. Book ahead via National Rail for the best prices, or invest in a Britrail pass if you’re planning to do a lot of rail travel.
You can have luxury and a great location for outstanding value. In central London for example citizenM Bankside has all the luxuries you love without the fuss you don’t for just £109. And we’ve already talked about vouchers – another way to find luxury accommodation on a budget.
Most British cities offer free walking tours. Volunteer guides do free tours of gorgeous Georgian Bath, or download the free Manchester Walking Tour, Glasgow music tour and London’s Walking with Dickens apps. Fans of the glorious game can head behind the scenes on great value stadium tours too – Manchester City’s tour is just £14. And Manchester’s National Football Museum is completely free!
Britain is peppered with ancient burial grounds, stone circles and enormous figures carved into hillsides. Just down the road from Stonehenge is Avebury, a village built around a stone circle around which you can wander freely. And in Northern Ireland you’re free to explore the wild and atmospheric Beaghmore Stone Circles.
Pubs and inns are fabulous for great value accommodation and dining with a taste of tradition. For just £47 you can check in to Glencoe’s 300-year-old Clachaig Inn, with its hearty Highlands food, live music, malt whisky bar and cosy log fires.
Did you know that Wales is the only country in the world with a hiking trail tracing its entire coastline? The Wales Coast Path takes you past Rhossili Bay, one of the world’s top beaches, and the Isle of Anglesey, where Wills and Kate set up home.