The best things in life, as the saying goes, are free. In Wales, the mountains, beaches, sunsets and views are all on the house. But, apart from all that fab stuff that nature has provided, there are some superb free attractions.
There are plenty of paid-for boat trips which go out into Cardigan Bay to say hello to the resident dolphins, porpoises and seals, as well as exotic visitors like whales and harmless sharks. But, if you don’t want to spend a penny, just sit on a clifftop somewhere gorgeous, like Mwnt in Ceredigion, and watch the wildlife glide through the waters beneath you.
Most people have a smartphone with GPS these days. It’s all you need to go Geocaching, a global game of hide-and-seek with almost two million hidden ‘treasures’. The folks in Brecon Beacons National Park have really got the geocaching bug: they’ve planted 180 caches for you to find around the park. Natural Resources Wales also have two geocaching trails at Coed y Brenin Forest Park, near Dolgellau. Children (and adults) will never again be bored on country walks!
Margam Country Park
The magnificent castle, 18th century orangery, ornamental gardens and deer park at Margam Country Park in Port Talbot are set in 1,000 acres of lovely countryside. In addition, there’s a narrow gauge railway, adventure playgrounds, a nursery rhyme-themed children’s area and a rare breeds farm trail to keep you busy. Entry to the park itself and most of its attractions are free, but some days there are special events so entry charges apply.
The entire 870-mile Wales Coast Path is free for everyone to explore. One place, Llanddwyn Island, is well worth a visit if you’re after something fairytale-like. This magical ‘island’, which is rarely cut off completely by water, is the setting for the perfect family adventure in Anglesey. Walk through the nature reserve to reach an old lighthouse and ruined chapel.
Our seven National Museums are spread all over Wales. Between them, they cover all aspects of Welsh life and history, ancient and modern. There’s art, culture, natural history, coal, wool, slate, industry, Roman heritage and more, with each venue offering brilliant family days out. Remarkably, considering the world-class collections they hold, they’re all free to visit.
Search for more museums across Wales
September is a month of bargain thanks to the Open Doors Days scheme organised by Cadw. It offers free access to a variety of buildings and heritage sites across Wales, as well as events of all kinds. Entrance fees are waived, while places that were already free offer something extra, such as behind-the-scenes tours and exhibitions
St Davids Cathedral
Britain’s smallest city has one of its prettiest cathedrals. St Davids Cathedral was built in the 12th century from gorgeous honey-coloured stone on the site of a monastery founded 600 years earlier by St David himself. It’s a fabulous place to visit and, like other places of worship, free to enter (although a modest donation is always warmly welcomed).
Oriel Ynys Môn
The Oriel Kyffin Williams gallery within Oriel Ynys Môn is dedicated to Wales’s most celebrated artist. It always has some of his most stunning work on display. Elsewhere in the building are ever-changing exhibitions by other artists, sculptors and craftworkers, as well as an excellent museum about Anglesey’s history and a rather good café.
One of the greatest feats on Wales’ canals is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Llangollen. It is so special that it forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with 11 miles of the Llangollen canal. You can walk along the top of the 40m-high aqueduct if you’re feeling brave (it measures just over 300 metres in length) or walk underneath it. Either way, the 19 arches are worth checking out.
Find out what it's like to work on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Alice in Wonderland Trail
The story goes that, back in the 1860s, Alice Liddell (the real Alice in Wonderland that inspired Lewis Carroll) spent many summer holidays in Llandudno. While historical records aren’t crystal clear on this tale, Llandudno has staked its claim to an Alice connection since 1933, when a statue of the White Rabbit was erected there. Today, you can follow the Alice Town Trail of over 50 3D statues and figures of Carroll’s characters around Llandudno, either by paper map (available at the tourist information centre), by downloading a Alice Town Trail mobile app or by simply trying to find them as you walk around the town.