Whether you want to escape to the mountains, soak up some history, relax at the beach or spend a day at a theme park, we've put together our favourite locations for affordable family weekend breaks in the UK -
- St Ives
- Loch Ness
- North Tyneside
Read on to discover what's in store at these family-friendly destinations.
1. York, Yorkshire
Only 2 hours by train from London, 45 minutes from Newcastle and a mere 20 minutes from Leeds, York is a great place for kids to learn about British history in a fun way. From the Romans to the Normans to the Tudors to the present day, York is a patchwork of British history.
Best of all? Many of its historical sites are totally free to visit. And almost all are within easy walking distance. Walk along the medieval city walls and get a view of Europe's largest Gothic cathedral, the York Minster, without spending a penny.
Harry Potter fans will love wandering the winding medieval streets of Central York's The Shambles, the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Kids will also enjoy delving into Britain's Viking history at the informative Jorvik Viking Centre.
2. St Ives, Cornwall
Charming buildings, pristine beaches, mouthwatering ice cream and proper fish and chips make it impossible to leave Cornwall off our list. St Ives is a classic Cornwall destination, with a photo-worthy seafront and beautiful (and safe) swimming beach.
There are also plenty of cafes, shops, ice cream stalls, fish and chip shops, and even a boat to an offshore seal colony. Less well known is the fact it's also the location of one of the most scenic train journeys in Britain. The 20-minute train ride between St Erth and St Ives only costs a few pounds and the views sweeping around St Ives Bay are spectacular.
3. Snowdonia, North Wales
Ride the spectacular Cambrian Line connecting Shrewsbury through the Cambrian Mountains to pretty Porthmadog, the gateway to Snowdonia. Just across the road from Porthmadog station is the start of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, a historic train line taking you deep into Snowdonia National Park. Kids will love riding the historic Snowdon Mountain Railway to the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands.
For some challenging but family-friendly walks, tackle the trails trimming Tryfan and Cadair Idris, or explore the Alice in Wonderland-themed trails based on the real-life Alice Liddell. Head to Bala Lake for water skiing, rafting, or relaxing. And don't forget that the beautiful Isle of Anglesey is just over the Menai Suspension Bridge and easy to combine with Snowdonia to make this one of our favourite cheap UK family weekend breaks.
4. Hunstanton, West Norfolk
Looking for a touch of elegance as well as a bit of action-packed family fun? Look no further than the West Norfolk resort town of Hunstanton. Neighbouring the Queen's annual Christmas residence at Sandringham, elegant Hunstanton is home to plenty of fun, family-focused attractions.
Go and see the famous copper-striped cliffs, visit the Victorian seaside funfair, or enjoy an outdoor concert at the bandstand on the green. Or for a bit more adventure, head out for a seal safari, play crazy golf and ten-pin bowling, or seek some thrills on the rides at Rainbow Amusement Park. To reach Hunstanton, take the train to King's Lynn (1h 57m average journey time) then the local bus to Hunstanton.
Want to discover more beaches in Norfolk? Why not check out our top 5 Norfolk beaches by train to plan your next family trip.
5. Loch Ness, Scotland
We all know about Nessie. But a family trip to Inverness, the closest station to Loch Ness, offers so much more than a chance to spot the legendary sea monster. The capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is well connected to major UK cities and is surrounded by gorgeous landscapes. No matter which direction you arrive from, the train journey is sure to be full of breathtaking photo opportunities.
Drumnadrochit, on the western shore of Loch Ness, is a 30-minute bus ride from Inverness. Enjoy a family kayak cruise on the loch, visit the eye-catching ruins of Urquhart Castle or the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. Alternatively, head to beautiful Nairn Beach and take a dolphin cruise on the Moray Firth, before exploring family-friendly walking trails through the Abriachan Forest.
6. Eastbourne, East Sussex
Like the idea of sandy beaches, seaside charm, theme parks, and stunning wilderness in one place? So do we. That's why we love Eastbourne for a South Coast escape, only 90 minutes by train from London Victoria. You can stretch out and swim on the lifeguard-patrolled Main Beach, stroll along the line of cafes and chip shops, and enjoy views of the English Channel from Eastbourne Pier.
Then, head off and explore the rugged beauty of South Downs National Park. Immediately around Eastbourne you'll find Birling Gap and the iconic Seven Sisters chalk cliffs along the coast, as well as the Long Man of Wilmington, just 6 miles from the beachfront. Drusillas Park, a popular zoo and theme park aimed at children between 2-10 years old, is also nearby. Find out more about trains to Drusillas Park.
7. Pembrokeshire, Wales
Covering the southwestern tip of Wales, Pembrokeshire is dotted with incredible geological formations, stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs and rolling hills. Throw in some magnificent castles, a couple of theme parks, and plenty of Roald Dahl heritage and you've got an affordable family weekend escape bound to please.
See Roald Dahl's annual holiday house and play vintage arcade games in Victorian Tenby (2h 30m from Cardiff), head to picturesque Milford Haven (2h 45m from Cardiff) to relax at Broad Haven or Newgale Beach, or get the train to Pembroke (3h from Cardiff) and visit Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII.
Don't miss Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, either. You'll find shorter, buggy-friendly stretches 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path, so even the littlest family members can join.
8. North Tyneside, Tyne & Wear
Strictly between us, North Tyneside is one of the UK's best-kept coastal secrets. Home to miles of golden sandy beaches, fun family-friendly festivals around the year and loads of impressive historical sites, North Tyneside ticks many boxes for cheap family weekend breaks in the UK.
Walk along the Coastal Heritage Trail from St Mary's Lighthouse, try your hand at paddle-boarding, kayaking or surfing, see a stretch of Hadrian's Wall at Wallsend, or just relax at the dog-friendly beach at Cullercoats Bay. To reach North Tyneside, simply take a train to Newcastle then hop on the local metro to North Shields, Tynemouth, or Whitley Bay. You'll have your feet in the sand in less than 30 minutes from Newcastle City Centre!
So, what are you waiting for? Each of these destinations is easy to get to and has a lot to offer, without breaking the bank. Start planning now and get the whole family excited for a fun, affordable weekend away! If you need more inspiration, why not read our guide to the best family staycations in the UK.