Places to go and things to do in Cumbria this summer - for £25 or less

The Dinosaurs Encounter exhibition at Rheged
The Dinosaurs Encounter exhibition at Rheged

OUR Free Family Fun columnist CAT PARK has been busy preparing for the school holidays, and has discovered dozens of money-saving ideas for the summer. This handy guide pulls together the best days out and activities that you and your family can enjoy in Cumbria for £25 or less.

AS a child, summer holidays are the best thing in the WORLD! As a parent, I’ve come to learn this is not such a joyous occasion.

The summer break is one of those things that you aren’t warned about when signing up to be a parent but as soon as school life begins. You’re eased into the things with a week or two here or there for half-term as you strive to keep your little people busy and smiling, then all of a sudden, it dawns on you that there is a seven-week stretch of driving each other insane or forking out a fortune on activities.

I have therefore compiled this emergency guide of family activities for £25 or less, to help you all survive the summer holidays, all without having to re-mortgage your house!

Great (and cheap!) places to visit

What: Watchtree Nature Reserve

Where: Great Orton

When: daily

Price: Free - bike hire and events at a cost (see below)

Tell Me More: Free to go (although donations are gratefully accepted). You can hire bikes for a small fee (£8 for non-members) or go for a free walk around the paths and walkways. Dogs welcome on a lead. Enjoy a cuppa in the cafe - toilets on site too!


12/08 - Water Beetle Session - £4 for non members - 10.30am

17/08 - Bat Walk - £4 for non members - 7pm

26/08 - Walking Theatre ‘Treasure Island’ - £18 per adult for non members and £13 for under 16’s - 4.30pm

What: Meet the Alpacas

Where: The Lakes Distillery - Keswick

When: Saturdays and Sundays only at 2.45pm and 3.15pm - each visit lasts 30 minutes

Price: £9 per person with under eights going free

Tell Me More: Go in the field to meet the alpacas, feed them, take pictures with them and ask as many questions as you like. Plus during summer months you will get to meet the baby alpacas (crias).

What: Terrific Trek on Tuesdays

Where: Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum - Grasmere

When: Every Tuesday over the summer holidays

Price: Free entry

Tell Me More: Guided walks exploring around Dove Cottage and visit places the Wordsworth family knew and wrote about. Talk, draw and write about what is seen on the walks in journals. Ideal for families with children aged 12 and under who like to be active.

What: Warty Wednesdays

Where: Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre

When: Drop in between 11am and 3pm every Wednesday during the summer


Price: Free - parking charges apply

Tell Me More: Become a Gruffalo Nature Explorer to discover the secrets of the deep dark wood.

What: Dumbledore and Horniegoggle

Where: Wordsworth House and Garden - Cockermouth

When: 23/07, 30/07, 06/08, 20/08

Price: £21 - family or £8.40 for an adult, £4.20 for a child

Tell Me More: Hunt for wild words and wonderful creatures in the house and garden - and get some tips on how to turn your own backyard into a nature haven. Go wild like William and Dorothy on the trail

What: Force Crag Mine Open Day

Where: Lake Road, Keswick

When: 26/07

Price: £6 per person

Tell Me More: Accessible only by foot, bike or the National Trust 4x4, discover one of the Lakes most quirky yet fascinating secrets located in the stunning Coledale Valley, near Keswick - you’ll love it even if you’re not sure mining is quite your thing! Missed by most people, the last mineral mine to be worked in the Lake District has been lovingly restored and cared for by volunteers.

Additional: Not suitable for small children or children that need to be carried; all youngsters to be accompanied by an adult. Call before you go to book a time slot

What: Threlkeld Quarry Museums Annual Steam Gala

Where: Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum - Keswick

Price: £6 per adult, £3 per child

Tell Me More: Threlkeld Quarry Museums Annual Steam Gala when the resident locomotive "SirTom" is joined by five or more visiting engines that this year are of the type that worked in the Dinorwic Slate Quarry in North Wales.

What: Lazonby Open Air Pool

Where: Lazonby

When: Open 12pm - 6pm during Summer Holidays

Price: Family day pass from £10 and various activities throughout summer holidays for £5+

Tell Me More: Go for a family swim or take part in one of the activity days scheduled for the summer


02/08 - National Play Day – free activities in the Community Play Park from 1pm-4pm including: Nature activities; archery; tin can alley; beat the goalie; assault course; nerf wars

04/08 - Bridge Building (adults to accompany under 10’s)

19/08 - Raft Building (adults to accompany under 10’s)

21/08 - Bridge Building (adults to accompany under 10’s)

What: Watchtree Nature Reserve

Where: Great Orton

Who: five to 14 years

Tell Me More: Kids Club running on Monday and Tuesdays, 10am to 4pm throughout the summer holidays. Kids can be left with experienced staff in a safe environment for the day, learning about nature and habitats

Price: £25 for non-members, £20 for members

What: Trinity Leisure Centre

Where: Carlisle

When: All throughout the summer holidays

Price: £2 - £19.25 depending on activity

Tell Me More: A range of activities for families and children of varied ages including: Multi Sport Camp, Family Swim, Snorkelling, Crash Course Swimming Lessons and Junior Gym

What: The Sands Centre

Where: Carlisle

When: All throughout the summer holidays

Price: £4 - £20 depending on activity

Tell Me More: Roller discos, trampoline drop-ins, fencing, gymnastics camp, multi-sport and toddler sessions

What: The Pools

Where: Carlisle

When: All throughout the summer holidays

Price: £3.90 - £15 depending on activity/course

Tell Me More: Family swimming days, Splashtime with wateroller, snorkelling

course, diving courses all scheduled to take place

What: Morton Pools

Where: Carlisle

When: All throughout the summer holidays

Price: £7.50 for families, £2.70 for children, £3.90 for adults

Tell Me More: family fun, inflatable fun and teen gym sessions all available

What: Lake District Coast Aquarium

Where: Maryport

When: Every day, 10am - 5pm

Price: £24.50 for a family ticket (book online and get 14 hole crazy golf included in the price)

Tell Me More: With over 75 displays the Aquarium is always expanding and evolving. See a huge range of fish and find out about water systems.

What: Cocoa Bean Company

Where: Twynholm (Dumfries & Galloway) and Hawkshead (Please note that Hawkshead features only the chocolate workshop and does not have the same indoor soft play and outside areas that are available in Twynholm)

Price: £6 per child to £16 per child depending on activity

Tell Me More: Take part in a 40 minute workshop, supervised by workshop staff, while parents watch from the viewing window. They make three chocolate creations, which they get to take home plus an apron and hairnet. Kids can use indoor and outdoor play area all day from 9am until 5pm that day.

Adults are free of charge and there is also an outdoor play area.

For those that don’t want to indulge in the chocolate workshop, the play entry is £6 per child for the whole day, no time limits

What: Sir John Barrow Monument, playground and nature trails

Where: Ford Park - Ulverston

When: Every day

Price: Free – activities at additional cost (see below)

Tell Me More: Ford Park is free to visit and a wonderful place to have a relaxing picnic, play ball games or explore and also a good place to park (free) for going up Sir John Barrow Monument.

On a Sunday in the summer, when the monument is open, a great day out would be to visit Ford Park with its playground and nature trails, take part in the new interactive children's Veggie Soup Trail in the walled kitchen garden (£2 per child), go up Sir John Barrow Monument (free) and have plenty of money for an ice cream in the cafe once back down. There is also a plant nursery for the adults to enjoy while the children are doing the trail.

Additional: Summer Holiday Fun – booking essential for activities so call ahead first:

26/07 – Wildlife Watch – 2pm and 3pm sessions – Make wizard and fairy wands - £5 per accompanied child

01/08 – multi-sports in the park – 3.30-5pm - £2 each (5-11 year olds)

02/08 – Pizza making with chef Steve – 2-4pm - £5 per accompanied child

09/08 – Bringing pictures to life – 2-4pm - £5 per accompanied child

11/08 – multi-sports in the park – 3-4.30pm - £2 each (5-11 year olds)

16/08 – Hoop dance workshop – 10-11am - £5 per accompanied child

22/08 – multi-sports in the park – 11-12.30pm - £2 each (5-11 year olds)

23/08 – Family growing fun with Ford Park gardeners - 2-4pm - £5 per accompanied child

30/08 – Story massage and yoga – 2pm - 2-4pm - £5 per accompanied child

What: Tullie House

Where: Carlisle

When: Activities throughout summer

Price: Free - £6.50 depending on activity

Tell Me More: Visit Carlisle’s museum for a selection of free drop-in events and the Roman Themed Festival


22/07 – Roman Pottery – design and make your own Roman pot – Free

25/07 – Mosaic Tiles – design and make your own colourful tiles – Free

29/07 – 28/07 – Roman Takeover Weekend – chariot racing, Roman treasure hunt, gladiator training, make Roman crafts, sample Roman foods – 10am – 5pm - £6.50 per child, under 3’s free and adults free with one paying child)

01/08 – Roman Smelly Bags – Use a selection of Roman herbs and material to make a sweet smelling herbal bag

03/08 – Roman Engineering – test Roman engineering skills by designing and building your own invention with lollipop sticks

05/08 – Roman Puppet – make your own no-sew puppet with felt

08/08 – Window mosaics – design your own to display at home

10/08 – Make your own Roman Shield using embossing metal

12/08 – Make your own Roman Oil Lamp with clay

15/08 – Make your own Beans and Lentils Mosaic

17/08 – Make your own roman sword

19/08 – Make your own roman coins with clay

22/08 – Contribute your own design o a large scale group art work

24/08 – Make your own jewellery beads with clay

26/08 – Make your own jewel encrusted amulet

29/08 – Design your own Roman helmet

31/08 – Using card and glitter, make your own Roman serpent bracelet

02/09 – Make your own Roman hobby horse

What: Greystoke Outdoor Pool

Where: Greystoke

When: Opening – Summer Holidays - Mon-Fri, 1-6pm

Price: Family ticket for £9, pre-school £1, 4-16 year olds £2.50, adults £3.50, spectator 50p

Tell Me More: The heated open air swimming pool is situated in the heart of the picturesque village of Greystoke. The water is heated by air source heat pumps and the water temperature is around 27c depending on the air temperature.

Includes a dolphin slide, separate toddler pool, café, showers, changing rooms, toilets, adjoining play area and playing field, lifeguard on duty during all public opening hours

What: Askham Outdoor Pool

Where: Askham

When: Opening – Summer Holidays (from Sat 22nd July 2017) Mon-Sun, 12-6pm

Price: Family ticket for 4 for £12, with additional children (5 and over) for £2.50.

Tell Me More: Suitable for young families with plenty of space for picnics, and a toddler pool for young ones - children aged 4 and under swim free so it's a very reasonable day out.

Additional: Fundraising events to be announced through the summer

What: Grizedale Forest

Where: Grizedale

When: Every Tuesday – 11am – 3pm

Price: Free/drop in

Tell Me More: Discover the secrets of the deep dark wood – various activities

What: Ullswater Steamers – Kids Club

Where: Ullswater

When: The dates this offer is available on are: 28th July, 4th Aug, 11th Aug 18th Aug, 25th Aug and 1st Sept (only in 2017).

Price: Child must present a Kids Club Membership Card and be accompanied by a full paying adult to receive free entry. One free child entry per full paying adult (£6 – 14.20 depending on journey).

Tell Me More: Let the kids hop on board for free every Friday during summer if you sign up to the Kids Club Membership Card! If you don't already have a Kids Club Membership Card, sign up below and one will be sent to you.

What: Snakes … A Slither Into A Secretive Life

Where: The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven

When: Every Day

Price: Family ticket (2 + 2), Adults = £6, Concession = £5, Child = £3

Tell Me More: Delve into the fascinating life of snakes, bringing to light their beauty, mystery and natural history

What: Wray Castle – 50 Things Activities

Where: Low Wray, Ambleside, LA22 OJA

When: Every Thursday and Saturday of the Summer Holidays

Price: Family ticket = £22.50, Adult = £9.00, Child = £4.50

Tell Me More: Brave a barefoot walk, create a wild art masterpiece and hunt for bugs on the range of ranger lead activities

What: Local Shows throughout the country

Where: Various

When: 02/08 - Cartmel Show - £25 family ticket (2+2), Adults = £10, Concessions = £8, Under 4 free

08/08 - Lunesdale Show (Kirby Lonsdale) – Adults = £8, Concessions = £6, Under 15 = £4, Under 5 = Free

10/08 – Appleby Show – Children under 16 = free

12/08 – Dalston Show – Adults = £7.50, Concessions = £5

17/08 - Brough Show – Adults = £6, Children = £2

17/08 – Rydal Show – Sheepdog Trails and Hound Show – Adults = £6, Children = £2

27/08 – Grasmere Show – Adults = £10, Children (3-14) = £3, Under 5 = FREE

28/08 – Keswick Show – Adults = £8, Children (6-16) = £2, Under 6 = FREE, Family = £18

Tell Me More: Offering stalls, local produce and family entertainment in some beautiful parts of the county.

What: Clip N Climb

Where: Maryport

When: 10-30 – 4.30 throughout school holidays

Price: £8.50 per child

Tell Me More: Children can test their climbing abilities and push their confidence with a range of fun activities. Adults need to remain on site for under-11’s.

What: Talkin Tarn – A Midsummer Nights Dream - Live Theatre

Where: Brampton, Carlisle

When: 10/08

Price: Adults = £10, Children = £5, Family = £25

Tell Me More: Midsummer night. An enchanted forest. Puck and his musical fairy band tell a tale of lovers, mechanicals, and magical mayhem. The Pantaloons make their much-anticipated return to Shakespeare with this timeless comedy - told, as ever, in their own distinctive and anarchic style.

All performances in the open air - bring something to sit on and a picnic and dress for the weather!

What: Rheged – Dinosaur Encounter

Where: Rheged, Penrith

When: 12/07 – 03/09

Price: Adults = £6.50, Concessions = £5.50, Children (16 and under) = £5, 2 and under = FREE

Tell Me More: Join an adventure through dusky prehistoric landscapes and marvel at moving, roaring dinosaurs in a jaw-dropping exhibition from the Natural History Museum – Dinosaur Encounter!

What: Silloth Carnival

Where: Silloth Green

When: 28/08

Price: Free

Tell Me More: Stalls, live music, fun fair and games for lots of family fun.

What: Gincase

Where: Mawbray, Silloth

When: Open Every Day Except Mondays, (Open Bank Holidays), Opening Times 10.30am - 4.30pm

Price: Children = £5.95, Children Under 2 = Free, Concessions = £4.95, Family Pass (2+2 or 1+3) = £21

Tell Me More: Set in the quiet and beautiful location of Mawbray, Silloth, only one mile from the picturesque Solway Coast in Cumbria and The Lake District.

There boasts a Tearoom, Craft Barn, Gift Shop and Children’s Farm Park, which are a must visit location for people of all ages.

What: Lakeland Wildlife Oasis

Where: Milnthorpe

When: Every Day 10am – 5pm,

Price: Family (2+2) = £24.95, Adult = £8.95, Child = £5.95

Tell Me More: Home to a unique and exciting blend of exotic wildlife and interactive hands-on displays, which makes learning about amazing animals fun for all the family. Exhibits range from fossils to fossas and include some of the world’s most threatened species, many of which play active roles in international breeding programmes.

What: Crafty Monkeys – Pottery Painting

Where: Penrith

When: School holidays - Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday 11am- 4pm (last entry an hour before closing).

Price: £7.50 (other activities cost more)

Tell Me More: Visit Crafty Monkeys Pottery Studio for hours of creative fun, perfect for all the family whether you are young, or young at heart. There is a range of hands-on activities for all ages and all skill levels, so there really is something for everyone.

What: Laser Quest

Where: Carlisle

When: 11am – 9pm during summer holidays

Price: £4.95 per game

Tell Me More: Great for a rainy day inside for 7 years and over! Laser Quest is the exciting, interactive, adventure game of laser tag set in a thrilling sci-fi world.

What: Tiny Town

Where: Carlisle

When: 7 days a week, play sessions at 9.30 - 11.00am, 11.30 - 1pm, 1.30 - 3pm, 3.30 - 5pm – pre-booking advised

Price: Mon-Fri, weekends and school holidays = £5 per child (admission includes 2 adults)

Tell Me More: Ideal for younger families from 1-7 years, Tiny Town is a unique children’s role play centre. Offering a range of events during summer including meet and greets with some of the most lovable characters.

As you may already know, I also contribute a monthly blog to Cumbria Live where I focus on free things to do in the county, so find lots more free ideas by searching ‘Free Family Fun’

Here are some FREE days out we've enjoyed so far:

Go for a paddle at Mosedale/Mungrisdale and take your swimming cozzie and a picnic - Magnificent Mosedale

Take in some of the Cumbrian coast for a picnic or a BBQ . Head to Mawbray, St Bees, Port Carlisle, Allonby or find your own pit stop - Coastline Adventures

Feeling energetic? Have a stroll to the top of Dodd Summit to take in the incredible views of the Lake District – On top of the world

Head to your local park for some free fun - Reopened Park is a Bitt of Bliss

Go Gruffalo hunting in one of Cumbria’s amazing forests with the Forestry Commission's interactive app - Get out and grab a photo with the Gruffalo

Jump on a bike or take a walk along on one of the cycle paths – many of which wind along by local rivers – ideal for picnic and paddling in the summer - Always look up

Take in some of the most breath-taking views of the Lake District by visiting a gem like ‘Aira Force’ - The allure of Aira Force

Go cave exploring at Little Salkeld or Wetheral - Lazing in Little Salkeld

The Wonder of Wetheral

Wind along by the Bobbin Mill and the waterfalls in Caldbeck - Carefree in Caldbeck

Find a piece of paradise like the hidden park and picnic area at Rosley - Relaxation in Rosley

  • For more from Cat Park, follow @cattipark on Twitter and Instagram

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