summer holiday activities with the kids

8 Things to do with the kids for free or cheap in North Yorkshire this summer

The summer holidays can be a nightmare for parents when it comes to occupying the children for 6 weeks while trying to avoid going bankrupt! It’s a challenge we face annually and when you have 4 kids as we do then the costs involved with many attractions can be challenging and prohibitive.

Some places can charge as much as £20 for a child and more for adults, so for six of us, this just isn’t possible. Over the years we’ve become adept at finding free or cheap places to visit for days out that we can all enjoy. It is becoming more challenging as we have the split between the 13/14 year-olds and the 8/9 year-olds.

Here are eight of my favourite places to visit on a tight budget with the kids this summer in North Yorkshire.

Skinningrove Beach

Skinningrove just squeezes in on the north-eastern edge of North Yorkshire. The village itself is nothing much but a short walk along the seawall brings you to a glorious stretch of beach. With the sands dunes and cliffs behind you, this is a fantastic place to set up beach camp for the day. There’s even a free car park so you don’t have to spend a penny whilst you are here.

Skinningrove beach

Talking of “spending a penny”, there is literally NOTHING here so come well prepared with food, water, supplies and beach activities. We like to go out with our body boards and have fun in the sea.

Dogs are allowed on Skinnigrove beach, in fact, it’s very popular with dog walkers.

I made a YouTube video a little while ago about one of our visits here:

Brimham Rocks

Some of my lasting childhood memories are of days at Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a fabulous place to come with a picnic and spend the day exploring the abundant rock formations and surrounding area.


This is a National Trust property and as such you will pay for parking here (£6 for 4 hours, £8 per day). Apart from the kiosk at the top of the hill selling pasties and ice creams, there is nothing else to spend here, so bring a picnic and have some fun.

Dogs are allowed at Bringham Rock but they must be kept on a lead.

As it happens, we’ve also got a YouTube video of a visit here too, albeit not in the summer:

Click here for more information about Brimham Rocks.

National Railway Museum

The national railway museum in York is completely free to enter, although you are asked to make a small donation if you can. As this is predominately an indoor attraction this is one to possibly save for a rainy day.

Nobody amongst the six of us is particularly enthusiastic about trains and the railways but whenever wi visit we always have a great time. There are cafes inside if you want to splash out, but there are also spaces for eating food you have brought with you if you are on a tight budget.

The car park at the NRM had a flat rate of £10 per day. On its own, this seems extortionate but remember this fantastic museum is completely free to enter. You could combine your visit with some time in York city centre which is a 10 minute walk from the museum, this way you could take advantage of the fantastic park-and-ride services York has. The Rawcliffe Park and Ride bus picks up and drops off just outside the museum.

National Railway Museum
The girls full of smiles at the railway museum
York City Walls

Staying with York you could see the city from the spectacular city walls. Set aside a couple of hours to spend walking atop these medieval walls and see a different side to this historic city.

Again, use the low-cost park-and-ride services to get into York before fore enjoying this walk. There’s plenty of entry and exit points to explore the city a little further. The walls are certinly NOT pram/pushcahri friendly and dogs are not allowed on them either.

York Minster City Walls
York Minster viewed from the city walls
Thomasson Foss Waterfall

Tucked away in the North York Moors, Thomasson Foss is a true hidden gem. Access to the falls is along a public right of way that starts in Beck Hole. Parking, which is on the road-side, can be tricky so I advise arriving early in the day. The walk, which is tricky in places, along the river take a good 15 to 20 minutes before you arrive at the falls.

Thomasson Foss waterfall

The plunge pool at the foot of the falls is a wild swimmers paradise. I’m not exactly a wild swimming aficionado, but having jumped into the freezing water and swam around for a while I can certainly see the attraction. The girls all love jumping in and having fun the last time we went.

It’s definitely a visit for the more adventurous of families but also well worth it. The pool is about 20 meters deep and the location is remote so planning ahead and taking safety precautions is a must.

When we visited last August I made this video for my YouTube channel:

Dalby Forest

Dalby forest is just fantastic. From riding your bike along the miles of trails, walking through the woods, building dens, wading in the beck, playing on the two playgrounds, BBQs and picnics – Dalby has it all. There’s so much space to find your own little corner and spend a day there doing as much or as little as you like.

Sunset over Wainstones at Dalby Forest
Sunset over the Wainstones at Dalby Forest

Parking for the day in summer (March – October) will cost you £9. They’ve recently introduced automatic barriers with ANPR cameras with pay machines that take cards – which is probably quite handy. As well as the abundant free activities there’s also GoApe high ropes, segway safari, bike hire and even paintballing.

Most people enter from the Thorton-le-Dale side and likely never get past the visitor’s centre area where the newer playground is, along with the beck. But head a little further in up the hill and there the lovely Staindale Lake, the Wainstones walk too. Then even further up there’s Adderstone field with the old playground and plenty of room to let the kids run off steam.

Visit a Different City

Whilst visiting cities might sound costly, it needn’t be. Plan a trip either by car, bus or train (for added adventure) to a city you’ve never been to before. You can while away hours simply exploring a new place.

Most cities have a green space where you could eat a picnic and there’s always loads of low-cost food options that needn’t break the bank. You could even plump for that fast food treat.

Last year we found ourselves in Middlesbrough. I’ve never, ever thought of just going there for a look around but it’s actually a really nice place if you look closely enough.

water fountains in Middlesbrough
Scratch the surfce of a new town or city and uncover some special places like this water fountain in Middlesbrough
Build Your Own Adventure

Many of our best days out are made by simply opening up our Ordnance Survey OL26 or OL27 explorer maps and looking for interesting places to go. Public rights of way close to rivers or lakes make for great adventures, especially when you have a dog who loves to swim as much as the girls love to splash around.

The Ordnance Survey website is also a great resource for mapping if you don’t want to invest in paper maps.

family adventure to Gormire lake
Build your own adventure by getting out a map and exploring

Kids love that sense of adventure and although as a parent you will have planned ahead keeping them guessing adds to the excitement of the day.  Part of planning ahead means ensuring you have taken some precautions, especially if you are heading out into the wild, one of which would be to take a first aid kit which I can testify saves the day when things go wrong.

Twin Mummy and Daddy

4 thoughts on “8 Things to do with the kids for free or cheap in North Yorkshire this summer”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.