Free and cheap Lancashire summer holiday ideas from Blackpool pier to castle visits

Things to do with the kids this summer half term that won’t cost a fortune

School holiday expenses can soon mount up.

From petrol costs to entry fees, buying trinkets in the gift shops and eating out, keeping your youngsters occupied and entertained during the summer holidays can be costly.

Some parents will also want to spend the week doing a variety of activities and enriching experiences to supplement days at home, visiting the local play area or packing their youngsters off to spend time with grandparents and family.

So whether you’re on a strict budget this half term or simply looking for free and easy events to take your little ones along to, here’s a few ideas of where to go across Lancashire this summer.

Of course, it’s still a bit chilly in February and you may have to endure a swift sea breeze, but on the flipside beaches tend to be a little quieter this time of year, giving you the opportunity to pick the perfect spot.

Take a trip to the beach or seaside town

Dig out your bucket and spades, kites and beach games and head to one of Lancashire’s famous beaches, whether it be Fleetwood,Lytham or Blackpool on the Fylde Coast or Morecambe further north, to catch a glimpse of the Eric Morecambe statue..

You don’t have to spend a fortune on rides and attractions to enjoy a visit to Blackpool and although the illuminations have been turned off until September, there’s still plenty of bright lights to see.

Why not spend a few hours on the pier or at the Coral Island arcade, where kids eat free and you could challenge your kids to the 20p coin machines and other arcade games, making sure you give them a strict budget to stick to and of course, the old faithful ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’ rule.

You can take in the Comedy Carpet in the shadows of Blackpool Tower, stroll along the piers or the beach and if you get lucky with a clear day, tuck into a picnic or build some sandcastles.

Explore woods, country parks and nature reserves

Pull on your wellies and warm jackets and get outside.

From bird watching hides, picnic areas and wildlife trails, most parks offer either free or limited cost car parking.

Head to Beacon Country Park in Up Holland to play Beacon Bingo or go on the Beacon Minibeast Trial Hunt or explore the 480-acre Witton Country Park in Blackburn.

Or the Ribble and Alt Estuaries could be just what you’re looking for, with a number of lakes, RSPB-certified nature reserves, a variety of landscapes and visitor centres scattered among a huge area which spans from the Irish Sea coast all the way to Southport in Merseyside.

There’s Hesketh Out Marsh which is home to rare wildlife, the Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre or head up to Leighton Moss near Carnforth and Hest Bank mudflats in Morecambe Bay.

If you prefer to visit smaller outdoor places with shorter nature trails and woodland walks, then Fairy Glen and Mere Sands Wood, both near Ormskirk, Brockholes in Preston, Fleetwood Marsh Reserve or Heysham nature Reserve near Morecambe are ideal.

Find the mythical creatures dotted throughout the Pendle Sculpture Trail in Aiken Wood in Barley or if an area of natural beauty close to a town and city centre is what you are after, how about Williamson Park in Lancaster, Corporation Park in Blackburn or Avenham and Miller Park in Preston?

Visit a stately home or castle

Some stately homes and castles in the county will still be closed for the winter, but here’s a selection of those open and waiting for you to explore this half term.

Please note: We have only included venues with free or minimal entry fees (less than £30 for family ticket)

Rufford Old Hall and Gardens, Rufford (weekends only)

This beautiful Tudor Hall dates back to the 1530s and is operated by the National Trust and alongside guided tours and the chance to get dressed up in period costumes in the Great Hall, there’s also expertly maintained gardens and an onsite tea room to discover.

Stroll through the woodlands, along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and look out for wildlife.

Entry is not free but great family tickets packages are available (two adults and three children) at £23.75 with individual tickets £10.50 per adult and £4.75 per child.

For more information and to plan your visit, click here.

Howarth Art Gallery and Artists Studio, Accrington

Browse the exhibits, artwork and paintings which are inspired by nature and admire the views from the stately home, which is spectacularly-set on a hillside.

Learn all about Joseph Briggs who moved to American in the late 1800s, leaving behind his stunning collection of Tiffany Glass.

Entry is free, find more information here.

Samlesbury Hall, Preston

Built in 1325, Samlesbury Hall has a distinctive, black and white exterior, set within beautiful gardens and offering a rich and fascinating heritage.

And visitors will get the chance to discover the hall’s ghostly past and tales of times gone by at spellbinding events taking place at the hall.

With beautiful community gardens, a stunning playground and a luxurious new restaurant and café, Samlesbury Hall is one of the region’s hidden gems.

Entry is free and more information to plan your visit can be found here

Lancaster Castle, Lancaster

This gothic medieval castle overlooks Lancaster, with views stretching for miles, including Williamson Park.

Learn all about its rich history, from being transformed into a prison, its connection to the Pendle Witches and marvel at the architecture.

Family tickets to enter the buildings and guided tours are priced at £20 with a single adult £8 and child/ concessions £6.50 (under fives go free), but it is free to eat in the onsite cafe or walk around the courtyard.

Clitheroe Castle and Museum, Clitheroe

Take in panoramic views of the Ribble Valley and, inside the castle, learn about the story of the quaint market town and the formation of the landscape over 350 millions years.

Entry is £4.70 for adults and £3.60 for children/concessions and for opening times and more information, click here

Towneley Hall, Burnley

Not only can you visit the historic hall, you’ll also find a museum and art gallery housed inside.

The Towneley family lived in the hall for more than 600 years and you can learn all about their interesting past while exploring the priest’s hideaway hole in the attic, the Victorian Kitchen, period rooms from across the centuries, bedrooms dating back to the 1500s and the hall’s very own chapel.

Entry is £5.50 per adult and each ticket is valid for 12 months while child and student entry is free.

For £2 per child, they can take part in one of the Townley Trails.

Check out museums, libraries and art galleries

rom train enthusiasts to youngsters fascinated by art and animals, Lancashire should have a museum or gallery with free entry suitable for your child.

There’s Carnforth Station Heritage Centre, the multi-purpose Chapel Art Gallery in Ormskirk, which also has an onsite cafe and craft shop.

Take a ride on a miniature train at Cinderbarrow Railway or venture to Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery where you’ll find an eclectic mix of beetles, badgers, Japanese art and an Egyptian mummy while also learning about the Industrial Revolution.

The award-winningThe Whitaker gallery in Rawtenstall is a fascinating adventure through a variety of topics and it is located in the heart of Rossendale Valley.

Your local library will also be holding a series of free workshops, craft days and reading afternoons during half term, and you can click here for the full programme.

Finally, for something a little different, journey up north to the St Patrick’s Chapel ruins near Heysham.


Denise EvansTourism Writer
  • 10:08, 31 JUL 2022