50 things to do that won't break the bank in the Summer Holidays
It's 2023, inflation is high, belts are being tightened, but there's still six weeks of summer stretching ahead in front of us.
But don't fear, there's plenty of free things to see and do across Shropshire this sunny season, from playing knights in historic ruins, hunting for treasure or picnicing in one of the many parks the county has to offer.
To make it a little easier, we've compiled a list of some of the free or inexpensive things to do over the summer holidays.
So pack up the kids and check out what you could do for less than or around the price of taking the family to the cinema.
Watch dozens of hot air balloons take to the sky at one of two balloon festivals this summer. The Oswestry Balloon Carnival (Aug. 19 & 20) and the Telford Balloon Fiesta (Aug. 25 to 27) are set to fill the sky with colour over two weekends in August. Entry is free for both, tickets are not required and a large host of food, stalls, music and entertainment will accompany the celebrations.
Tour the ruins of Haughmond Abbey. The extensive remains of an Augustinian abbey just outside of Shrewsbury make the perfect picnic area. Parking and entry is free, and the site is open from 10am to 6pm throughout the summer.
Reach new heights at one of the county's rock climbing centres. Newport Rock is back up and running after a re-fit last year and host kids clubs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (Adults £9/Concessions £7.50/Kids Clubs £12). The Climbing Hut at Shrewsbury also have a range of kids clubs and a clip-n-climb action wall with 23 fun and challenging themed climbs to choose from (Action Wall £15).
Visit your local library. Both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin library services are hosting a range of events throughout the summer holidays. Whether you're signing up for the Summer Reading Challenge, taking part in lego club, craft events or story walks with local story tellers - there's plenty of free, or very affordable, things on offer. More information available online at telford.gov.uk/libraries or shropshire.gov.uk/libraries
Play kings and queens at Whittington Castle. England's first community run castle is completely free to enter, with a small charge for parking. The strikingly picturesque and romantic ruins are steeped history, border warfare, romance and legend - making the perfect setting for a medieval themed picnic.
Wish upon a shooting star at one of Shropshire's stargazing spots. There are plenty of quiet spaces away from the lights of the towns to be in with a good chance of spotting a shooting star or two. Bury Ditches in Clun; Carding Mill Valley; Lyth Hill near Shrewsbury; Pole Cottage and Shooting Box carparks in Church Stretton; Clee Hill near Ludlow and Stiperstones are all recognised for their low levels of light pollution. The Perseid meteor shower is active between July 17 and August 24, peaking between August 12 and 13. Pick a clear night, take a blanket and just look up.
Take your little dragons on a forest adventure at Haughmond Hill. The Zog family activity trail takes little adventurers through the stunning scenery of Haughmond Hill while they learn about caring for forests and how forests care for them. The ‘Zog: A Forest Adventure’ app is available to download free of charge from the app store, and physical packs can be purchased from the Haughmond Hill Café during opening hours and cost £4. The latest data suggests parking costs around £2 to £4.
The British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry has over 60 acres of sculptures and art work and boasts the title of the UK's largest metal safari park. For adults it is £7.50 or £5 for concessions, but it’s completely free for children under 18. More information available at: britishironworkcentre.co.uk
Get ready for take off at RAF Cosford. The RAF Museum Midlands has hundreds of aircraft, vehicles and military equipment to look at, as well as a playground for youngsters. And entry is free for everyone. This summer, the museum is hosting a collaboration with Horrible Histories, to bring to life the Terry Deary creation in an interactive family experience. Group tickets for the two-hour Up In The Air Adventure cost £25 for up to five people, or £7.50 each. More information available at: rafmuseum.org.uk/midlands
Get out the bino's for a bit of bird spotting. Shropshire is chock-full of wetland, moorland and farmland that makes the perfect place for a bit of bird watching. Take a stroll up the Long Mynd to catch a glimpse of red kites, buzzards and kestrals or a walk around Priorslee's lakes for ruddy ducks, chiffchaffs and tufted ducks. The RSPB has heaps of resources on their website, including a Wild Challenge activity pack encouraging children to complete nature-based activities. There's plenty more sites around the county, for inspiration head on over to: shropshirebirds.com/index/guide-to-birding-sites
Explore the 92 hectares of Telford Town Park. Once voted the UK's Best Park - the huge park is jam-packed with playgrounds, picnic spots and a waterplay area - all free of charge. The 227 acre site is also home to Telford Exotic Zoo (adults £8/children £7) and Wonderland (£13.50pp).
Climb Telford's most famous hill. Rising 298 metres above Shropshire, The Wrekin is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours. Up and down will take your average family around 1.5 hours, but if you have the whole day why not carry straight on past the hairpin turn for the Halfway House, and spent a bit longer circling the base. It's worth noting that parking is no longer free.
Explore the ruins of Acton Burnell. Tucked away off the road from Shrewsbury to Church Stretton is the red sandstone shell of Acton Burnell Castle. Abandoned in 1420, the ruins remain a stunning example of a medieval fortified manor house. Entry and parking is completely free.
Get out your inner Robin Hood and give archery a go. Archery taster sessions are on offer at Oakengates Leisure Centre every Sunday in August. Thanks to the council's £1 kids activity programme, prices start from just £1 (TLC card required). Booking: 01952 382810.
The Shropshire Wildlife Trust is hosting a range of activities, from under-fives messy play to bat detection and days dedicated to beatles, bees and birds. Pricing varies, but many events are free. Booking and more information available at: shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/events
Explore all the history of Ironbridge. Whether you're simply enjoying the park by the Severn, exploring the Maws Craft Centre at Jackfield, or visiting one of the valley's museums - there's more to do in this centre of industry to simply smash it out in a day. A family passport, which provides unlimited access for the whole year for two adults and up to four children to all 10 of the trusts sites, costs just £86.
Take a walk through history with the Shrewsbury Heritage Trail. Made in collaboration with Original Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury BID and SMAG, the trail takes readers on a walk through the architectural and historical gems of Shrewsbury town centre. A free copy of the heritage trail booklet is available from originalshrewsbury.co.uk/blog/shrewsbury-heritage-map
If art is more your thing, the Shrewsbury Arts Trail has returned for another year. Until August 31, the whole town is hosting a dazzling sculpture trail, with the world-famous Salvador Dali taking centre stage and dozens of events being hosted throughout the town.
Little green fingers can get messy with the Dobbies Little Seedlings Holiday Club. The Telford and Shrewsbury stores are both hosting a series of free workshops over the holidays for children aged four to 10. Booking and more information available at: dobbies.com/little-seedlings-workshops
Explore the history of our county town at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. This stunning gem of a museum is not only free to enter, but provides an interesting and entertaining exploration into Shrewsbury through the ages, from the Romans to modern time. The museum are continuing their guided walks through the town every day throughout the summer. The walking tours cost £9 for adults, £3.50 for children.
Take a riverside walk in Shrewsbury's Quarry Park. With plenty of open space, playgrounds, splash park and Dingle ornamental garden, the county town's park makes for a fun-filled free family day out.
Explore the ever-longer Montgomery Canal. The late 18th century Montgomery Canal brings wildlife right into the centre of Welshpool, and the ongoing restoration project makes the area more accessible every year. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where aquatic plants thrive and otters, water voles and kingfishers are sometimes seen.
Make a splash in an outdoor pool. The Severn Centre at Highley offers families the chance to play in their outdoor heated swimming pool - floats and toys are sure to keep the whole family entertained. Family sessions run for two hours on weekends throughout the summer (Adults £7.45/Children £5.95/Spectators free).
Rent a bike and explore the 92 hectares of Telford Town Park. Telford Bike Hub is open every everyday during the school holidays from 10am to 4pm with bike hire available from as little as £1. Bike hire includes the use of a helmet.
Come rain or shine, the latest features at Dorothy Clive Garden, near Market Drayton, are available to admire. The Royal Botanic Glasshouse is the only glasshouse in the region dedicated to the display of plants for public benefit. The planting includes lemon, grapefruit, figs and olive trees as well as climbing plants such as bougainvillea, plumbago and a grape vine amongst 12-acres of garden to explore. Entry costs just £2 for under 18s, £11 for adults.
Hunt for treasure with the Newport Treasure Map Trail. Pick up a free treasure map from Newport's Guildhall, Hub Community Cafe or the library and tour the town for treasure. Completed maps can be dropped off at the Guildhall to be entered into a free prize draw.
Treat your family to a National Trust Membership. A family membership includes two adults and their children or grandchildren access to hundreds of locations nationwide. It'll set you back £146.40 for the year, or £12.20 a month, but opens up unlimited access to Sunnycroft, Attingham, Benthall Hall, Wilderhope Manor, Dudmaston and free parking at the Long Mynd and Wenlock Edge.
Alternatively, an English Heritage family membership for one adult and up to six children costs £69, or £5.75 a month, granting access to Stokesay Castle, Boscobel House and Wroxeter Roman Village.
Get the towels out for fun and floats at Telford leisure centres. As part of Telford & Wrekin's £1 activity programme, Abraham Darby, Oakengates and Wellington leisure centres are hosting 'fun and floats' pool sessions throughout each week for just £1 (TLC card required). Booking and more information available online at: telfordandwrekinleisure.co.uk/kidsforaquid
Send the kids to one the HAF holiday clubs. All children eligible for benefits-related free school meals are being offered free activities over the summer through the Government's Holiday Activities and Food programme, there's plenty on offer from forest schools to free swimming sessions. Telford & Wrekin: hhah.telford.gov.uk / Shropshire: next.shropshire.gov.uk/education-and-learning/holiday-activities-and-food-programme-haf/haf-holiday-clubs
Explore Shrewsbury Castle and learn about its history. Access to the castle grounds is free. There is a charge to enter the The Shropshire Regimental Museum located within the castle (Adults £5.50/Children £3/Family £15). This year, the castle is hosting a range of open-air entertainment, including Princess Picnic in the Castle, The Wizard of Oz, Twelth Night and Wind in the Willows. More information is available through the Theatre Severn website: theatresevern.co.uk/shows/whatson
Green-fingered gardeners will be in for a treat at Shrewsbury Flower Show on August 11 and 12. Children aged 15 and under, when accompanied by a paying adult, are allowed free entry on the day. Tickets are £25.
Hit the slopes this summer at Telford Snowboard and Ski Centre. The dry slope centre is offering a range of kids activities throughout the summer, including tobogganing and donut sessions. As part of Telford & Wrekin's £1 activity programme, the sessions are on offer for just £1 (TLC card required). Booking and more information available online at: telfordandwrekinleisure.co.uk/kidsforaquid
Take part in a high-tech treasure hunt and go geocaching. Geocaching is when you use GPS via a standalone device or smartphone, to find 'caches' (normally a small box with a log book inside) that other people have hidden. It's easy to get started with a wealth of apps and websites and there's thousands hidden away in locations around the county. But if you're after a curated adventure head down to the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre to rent a device and follow one of their trails, booking is required. Costs range from £3 to £5 (with credit card details or £50 as a deposit for the device), and trails can take anywhere between one and four hours. For more information visit: shropshirehillsdiscoverycentre.co.uk
Go train spotting at one of the county's heritage rail venues. With steam trains running in Telford, Oswestry and in south Shropshire, there's plenty of chances to catch a glimpse of these historic engines. If you've got a bit of spending money, why not hop on board? Telford Steam Railway is open every Sunday and Bank Holiday, with five round trips a day from Spring Village Station through the Heath Hill Tunnel to Lawley Village Station (Adults £8/Children & Seniors £5/Family, up to three children, £25). The Cambrian Railway offers a regular service from the heart of Oswestry to Wheston Wharf (Adults £6/Children £5). For those after a longer ride and a bit more cash to splash, the Severn Valley Railway runs from Kidderminster, Bewdley or Bridgnorth with flexible ticket options for vintage travel along the 40 miles of track.
Take in a movie in the great outdoors at an open-air cinema. Attingham Park is back this year with another series of open-air movies at the historic venue, with features including Matilda, Sing and Grease. Prices started at £9.50 for under 12s. Booking and more information available online at: adventurecinema.co.uk
Explore the historic woodland fantasy site of Hawkstone Follies. Set in 100 acres of parkland, The Follies is a range of dramatic and rugged natural sandstone hills that were developed to include gullies, caves, towers and bridges forming a stunning playground perfect for a days exploring (Under threes enter for free, Adults £12.25/Children £8.25).
Get an introduction to scrambling at The Stiperstones. The Stiperstones walk is easily one of the best walks in the Shropshire Hills. Whether you're young of body or spirit, the quartzite rock of the ridge that formed some 480 million years ago makes for a perfect day's exploration.
Have a day out on the farm at Fordhall Organic Farm in Market Drayton. England’s first community owned farm is free to visit, and the venue is running 'Todder £5 Fridays' throughout the summer between 10am and 12pm, which provides little ones with a fun farm trail pack, refreshment and a hot drink for their accompanying adult.
Let some emotions out at one of the county's driving ranges. There's dozens of driving ranges round the county. Lawley and Horsehay Village Golf and Fitness Centre offers a 16 bay floodlit driving range, and provide clubs. You don't have to be a member, and prices start from as little as £2 for 25 balls. Shrewsbury Driving Range offers 28 covered bays, with prices starting at £2 for 20 balls, and £1 for club hire.
Take a detective mystery themed walking trail around Ludlow. Solve clues and take a tour of this historic south Shropshire market town. The trail is around 1.75 miles long, and takes about two hours to complete. One trial booklet is enough for four to five people, suitable for all ages. Download the app or order a physical booklet for £9.99 from treasuretrails.co.uk
Visit the UK's longest and highest aqueduct. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, or Wales' 'stream in the sky' sits a jaw-dropping 126 foot above the ground below. Sat along 11 miles of the Llangollen canal, the incredible feat of engineering is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and free to visit.
Learn the traditional technique of tile decorating at the Jackfield Tile Museum. The museum's tile decorating workshops are returning throughout the summer, learn and apply the traditional technique of tube-lining as you decorate your very own ceramic tile. Once you've finished your tile it'll be dried and fired in a kiln at over 1000°C. Collect your tile from the museum after a few days or arrange to have it posted to your home. Workshops cost £12.25 per person.
Have a clear out or grab a bargain at one of Shropshire's car boot sales. Car boots sales are having a wild resurgence, with research last year finding the county the second-best place in the country to snap up a bargain. The popular sale at the West Mids Showground fills the venue with bargains every Sunday - makes for the perfect morning for picking up games, toys and other rainy-day activities.
Take a river tour on Shrewsbury's Sabrina Boat. Enjoy beautiful views along the River Severn and a boatful of photo opportunities accompanied by a entertaining commentary. Adults £10.50/Children £5.50
Alternatively, propel yourself down the Severn with canoe or kayak rental. Many companies offer surprisingly inexpensive opportunities to rent a canoe for a few hours for a gentle jaunt down the river. Row from Bridgnorth or Hampton Loade to Arley with River Severn Canoes from £12 for children and £24 for adults or pick one up from The Quarry for £25 for one hour or £40 per canoe for two.
Visit the picturesque canalside village of Audlem for the town's Festival of Transport. The free event runs over July 29 and 30, with a gathering of historic boats on the Saturday, following by the main event on Sunday. A collection of vintage cars, buses and agriculture vehicles will be on display, with a parade beginning at 11am.
Party with Princesses at Shrewsbury's Buttermarket. The venue is hosting two Disney-themed celebrations over the holiday. Join real princesses and sing-along with the favourites. Tickets from £11.50.
Celebrate the history of Ironbridge, with The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Festival. The event takes place from Monday August 28 to Sunday, September 17. The event celebrates the history and culture of the town and will include walks, talks and trails, arts, music and poetry, a street festival, Taste of the Gorge, a Coracle Regatta, and heritage open days.
Weston Park's Summer Fiesta returns for it’s third year featuring a line-up of local artisan food and drink producers, unique crafts, delicious street food, live music from the Dirty Rockin Scoundrels and The Gold Room, fairground rides to keep all ages entertained and Indian Dohl drumming workshops on Sunday August 27 & 28. General admission £6.30.