Best Free Things to Do in England, Scotland and Wales

A detail of the statue of Queen Boadicea near Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) in London. Jeremy Hoare
We've trailed the length and breadth of Britain (with children in tow) to track down and test the best attractions, and undiscovered experiences. Here are some of our favorite picks spread across England, Wales, and Scotland.
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Tower of London at Night. Frommers.com Community
Where: London

This is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London that has taken place every night without fail for over 700 years. You can witness this brief but memorable spectacle by writing to the Ceremony of the Keys office—but do it months ahead, because it's popular and books fast.

More Information: www.hrp.ork.uk

Photo by rmludwig/Frommers.com Community.
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Old-fashioned schoolroom at The Ragged School Museum. ceridwen/geograph.org.uk
Where: London

The Ragged School Museum was once one of the largest schools in London, open for 31 years before closing in 1908. Visitors can take part in a Victorian lesson on the 3'rs (reading, writing and 'rithmetic). Beware the mistress carries a cane. Lessons take place the first Sunday of every month.

More Information: www.raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk 

Photo by ceridwen/geograph.org.uk.
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For open mic, try Wednesdays at The Comedy Café in Shoreditch, London. comedy_nose
Where: London

Take part as one of the judges at a free open mic comedy night every Wednesday at The comedy café in Shoreditch and decide which act gets invited back for a paid gig (www.comedycafe.co.uk). Top online tip: if you really want to see Simon Cowell on the X Factor, apply for a free ticket at www.applausestore.com. The website also offers free tickets to other major TV shows.

Photo Caption: For open mic, try Wednesdays at The Comedy Café in Shoreditch, London. Photo by Comedy_Nose/Flickr.com.
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Sheep at the Mudchute Park and Farm. Ewan Munro
Where: London

This is the largest city farm in Europe set in 31 acres and is home to more than 200 animals, including many rare breeds of goats, donkeys, ducks, llamas, geese and turkeys. There
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Parliament and Big Ben at Sunset. Frommers.com Community
Where: London

If you are a UK resident, you can ask your MP to arrange for you to go on a tour of 96m-high Big Ben -- or the Clock Tower as it is officially known. Tours are the at set times of 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am and 2:30pm Monday to Friday. The tour takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Overseas visitors must make do with attending debate time among members of Parliament (www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/overseasvisitors/).

More Information: www.parliament.uk

Photo Caption: Parliament and Big Ben at Sunset. Photo by ewebber/Frommers.com Community.
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The Scoop in London. Olivier Bruchez
Where: London

Scoop, a 1,000 seat sunken amphitheatre in a pedestrianised zone close to London Bridge plays host to an eclectic variety of free music, theatre, musical and film events over the summer months (June-Oct).

More Information: www.morelondon.com/thescoop

Photo Caption: The Scoop in London. Photo by Olivier Bruchez/Flickr.com.
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The Greenbird, the world's fastest wind-powered car, Norfolk. Peter Lyons
Where: Norfolk

The Greenbird, a witty take on the famous Donald Campbell's record-breaking car called Bluebird, is a part-boat, part-plane, part-Formula One racing car. If you have a spare fiver, climb the 300 steps to the top of the UK's first megawatt wind turbine on site -- it is the only place in the world where you can sit atop a windmill.

More Information: www.ecotech.org.uk

Photo Caption: The Greenbird, the world's fastest wind-powered car, Norfolk. Photo by Peter Lyons.
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Westleton, home of the silliest sport in Britain at the Westleton Barrel Fair. Adrian Cable
Where: Westleton

The idea is to prod a metal beer barrel using a six-foot oak stick down the village green in this quaint Suffolk village. The initial competition is between two rival pubs with the victor being the person that keeps their barrel on a straight a line as possible. The competition continues with individuals until the climatic final is reached. There are mini races for children as well.

More Information: www.westletonbarrelfair.com

Photo Caption: Westleton, England. Photo by Adrian Cable/geograph.org.uk.
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White Cliffs of Dover. Frommers.com Community
Where: Dover

With stunning 20-mile (32km) views of France, popular for its beautiful scenery, easy access as well rare butterflies and Exmoor ponies, the white cliffs of Dover are a must-see. Beginning at the visitor centre, which has fantastic historical and nature exhibits; the walk runs along a 5km stretch of the coastline from Gravesend to St Margaret's Bay.

More Information: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-whitecliffsofdover

Photo Caption: White Cliffs of Dover. Photo by KJS/Frommers.com Community.
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The John F Kennedy Memorial, at Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 donnamarijne
Where: Runnymede

The John F Kennedy Memorial, at the same site where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215, is officially part of American soil. There are also guided group tours available off the National Trust site (pre-booking is essential), bat walks in the evening as well as free self-guided way-marked walks.

More Information: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/runnymede

Photo Caption: The John F Kennedy Memorial, at Runnymede. Photo by Donnamarijne/Flickr.com.
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Watch cows being milked and ice-cream making demonstrations at 180-acre farm chatirygirl
Where: Cornwall

Demonstrations at the 180-acre farm and factory of organic ice cream producer Roskilly's are run daily in the kitchen annex, showing how 80 flavours of ice cream are made and the cows used for the ice cream production are milked every day in the summer at 4:30pm. The barn is also full of calves and on donkeys and there is a scenic two-mile walk across the farm. 

More Information: www.roskillys.co.uk

Photo Caption: Ice cream producer Roskilly's in Cornwall. Photo by Chatiryworld/Flickr.com.
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Bristol and Bath railway path crossing the river Avon. Martyn Pattison
Where: Along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Cross the River Avon through ancient woodland and the cycle route takes you along the old Midland Railway route through idyllic (and flattish) countryside. An ideal, berry-splattered country walk for buggy pushers everywhere.

More Information: www.bristolbathrailwaypath.org.uk

Photo Caption: Bristol and Bath railway path crossing the river Avon. Photo by Martyn Pattison/Wikimedia Commons.
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Beach huts on Sauton Sands on the North Devon coast. Markles55
Where: North Devon

Spend a fun-filled day at this three-mile (4.8km) long beach rolling down the largest sand dunes in Britain. Formally known as the Braunton Burrows, the dunes have recently been voted a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, due to the diversity and abundance of their rare flora (500 species of flowering plant). Graphic designer Storm Thorgerson set up the shot for the Pink Floyd album A Momentary Lapse of Reason here, hauling 700 wrought-iron hospital beds onto the sands for the shoot.

More Information: www.northdevon.com/site/thing-to-do

Photo Caption: Beach huts on Sauton Sands on the North Devon coast. Photo by Markles55/Flickr.com.
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Totnes in Devon, home to the Totnes Orange Races. Lawrie Cate
Where: Devon

Events don't get any weirder than this. Dating back to the 1580s when Sir Frances Drake accidentally sent a young boy's orange down the hill during a game of Bowles, villagers relive the tradition every August. Rules stipulate that competitors cannot hold their orange and must kick or throw them with the winner being the first to the bottom. Open to all ages from babies to pensioners.

More Information: www.totnesinformation.co.uk

Photo Caption: Totnes in Devon, home to the Totnes Orange Races. Photo by Lawrie Cate/Flickr.com.
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Letterboxing is a very popular activity in the Dartmoor area. Patrick Gueulle
Where: Dartmoor

Letterboxing combines the pastimes of orienteering and stamp collecting and is a way of walking through the windswept, rainy countryside seem slightly more exciting. It involves walkers finding waterproof boxes containing stamps and a visitors' book. The aim is to find as many boxes as possible using the website to get information from veterans to help you find the first 100 boxes.

More Information: www.dartmoorletterboxing.org

Photo Caption: Letterboxing is a very popular activity in the Dartmoor area. Photo by Patrick Gueulle/geograph.org.uk.
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Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales. Gordon Plant/Wikimedia Commons
Where: Cardiff

There are free demonstrations most lunchtime and evening at Cardiff's smart new civic showcase, ranging from learning to perform Japanese circus tricks to Afro-Caribbean storytelling. There are also free music concerts outside in the sunken Roald Dahl Plas.

More Information: www.wmc.ork.uk

Photo Caption: Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Gordon Plant/Wikimedia Commons.
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Visit the town with the longest name in the world, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllanttysiliogogogoch Frommers.com Community
Where: Isle of Anglesey

You cannot come to the north of Wales and miss the opportunity of queuing to have your picture taken in front of the 51-letter place name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllanttysiliogogogoch. You can also get your passport stamped in the gift shop!

Photo Caption: The Isle of Anglesey. Photo by MeganStar87/Frommers.com Community.
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The National Wool Museum, based at a former mill in the picturesque village of Dre-Fach Felindre John Gillibrand
Where: Dre-Fach Felindre

The National Wool Museum, based at a former mill in the picturesque village of Dre-Fach Felindre, tells the story of wool production from fleece to fabric, and families can have fun following a specially designed trail called a 'Woolly Tale' trying their hands at carding, spinning and sewing along the way.

More Information: www.museumwales.co.uk

Photo Caption: The National Wool Museum in Dre-Fach Felindre, Wales. Photo by John Gillibrand/Wikimedia Commons.
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Do the Dr Who tour of Cardiff. Andrew King
Where: Cardiff

This one is for sci-fi nerds. Pick up a free copy of a map of the city detailing key locations used during the filming of the revived Doctor Who and explore Cardiff's many Dr. Who associations, from Tredegar House to Dyfryn Gardens from the second series.

More Information: www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/sites/doctorwho( (

Photo Caption: A stop along the Dr. Who tour of Cardiff. Photo by Andrew King/Flickr.com.
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Ellin's Tower and South Stack lighthouse. Paul Harrop
Where: Holyhead

Watch one of only 200 pairs of choughs in Britain through a live camera in a spectacularly beautiful setting 300 feet (90m) above the Irish Sea. The plate-glass platform on the first floor of Ellin's Tower has views to South Stack lighthouse and on a clear day across 60 miles (100km) to Ireland. The Visitor Centre on this 600-acre reserve has displays about local wildlife and members of staff are on-hand to help locate birds on its cameras and telescopes.

More Information: www.rspb.org.uk/southstack

Photo Caption: Ellin's Tower and South Stack lighthouse. Photo by Paul Harrop/geograph.org.uk.
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Love beans at breakfast? Visit the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence in Port Talbot near Swansea. Ewan Munro
Where: Port Talbot

To visit the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence -- the world's only baked-bean museum -- make an appointment with the eccentric Captain Beanie, formerly Barry Kirk, who wears a fantastic orange costume. The museum is in his living room and contains over 250 different baked-bean tins and various other pieces of baked bean paraphernalia.

More Information: www.bakedbeanmuseumofexcellence.org.uk

Photo Caption: The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence in Port Talbot near Swansea. Photo by Ewan Munro/Flickr.com.
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The Merthyr Mawr Dunes near Swansea. Eleri K
Where: Merthur Mawr Dunes

Parts of David Lean's classic movie Lawrence of Arabia were filmed at these sand dunes, the second highest dune in Europe. The Welsh rugby team also use it as part of their training. The dunes are popular with children who love rolling down the slopes as well as wildlife enthusiasts.

More Information: www.cw.gov.uk

Photo Caption: The Merthyr Mawr Dunes near Swansea. Photo by Eleri K/Wikimedia Commons.
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The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Erebus555/Wikimedia Commons
Where: Birmingham

Designed by Turner Prize winning Martin Creed, The Singing Lift is a fun treat for children because they love to go up and down as the harmony rises at each floor level. There are also children's workshops between 2-5pm on first Saturday of every month aimed at those five-and over.

More Information: www.ikon-gallery.co.uk

Photo Caption: The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Photo by Erebus555/Wikimedia Commons.
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Learn about Robin Hood at The Galleries of Justice. Courtesy of Nottingham's Galleries of Justice
Where: Nottingham

Dig out something Lincoln green and have a Robin Hood fest at Nottingham's Galleries of Justice in the city's old courthouse where you can learn about the creation of the legendary outlaw's myth. For kids in search of the grisly, the Galleries also exhibit a set of gallows, a hangman's box of implements and torture implements.

More Information: www.galleriesofjustice.org.uk

Photo Caption: Robin Hood statue at Nottingham's Galleries of Justice.
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The Quad in Derby, a new, cube-shaped arts cinema also houses a gallery, café and workshop Eamon Curry
Where: Derby

The Quad's cube-shaped arts cinema also houses a gallery, café and workshop, and is located in the old quarter of Derby. More than 1,500 pieces of film have been digitalised from the Archive of the British Film Institute and visitors can book a two-hour slot in one of the five two-seater booths. A variety of documentaries and old film footage dating back to the 1890's are also on offer.

More Information: www.derby.quad.co.uk

Photo Caption: The Quad in Derby. Photo by Eamon Curry/Flickr.com.
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Pond-dip at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park near Bedford. A Bremner
Where: Bedford

Based at a former brickworks and quarry, this man-made park is home to birds including bitterns, sparrowhawks, yellow wagtails and kestrels. Observe the wildlife from specially constructed hides and follow the five-mile cycle trail through the park which has wetland and woodland walks.

More Information: www.marstonvale.org

Photo Caption: Marston Vale Millennium Country Park near Bedford. Photo by A Bremner/Flickr.com.
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Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe sells Melton Mowbray pies. Steve F
Where: Leicester

At Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, the oldest original pork pie manufacturer in the country, you can see demonstrations of pies being 'hand-raised,' enjoy a free sample of the world's original fast food and start mentally adding extra letter 'e's to the end of words that don'te warrante iteeee.

More Information: www.porkpie.co.uk

Photo Caption: Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe sells Melton Mowbray pies. Photo by Steve F/geograph.org.uk.
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The Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester. Gordon Joly
Where: Leicester

The least likely museum exhibit in England; watch as human waste progresses from a Leicester toilet to the Wanlip sewage works via a see-through pipe. Other exhibits show the steam trains used to transport waste and discusses the important of posture for bowel movements.

More Information: www.leicester.gov.uk

Photo Caption: The Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester. Photo by Gordon Joly/Flickr.com.
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Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds. Lofty/Wikimedia Commons
Where: Leeds

You can try on medieval chain-mail or handle antique weapons and children can have a go at sword fighting with wooden weapons at the country's national collection of guns and armour. Housing more than 8,500 exhibits, this vast museum's highlights are spread over four floors and include the world's largest elephant armour, dating back to 1600, armour worn by Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, and an 1848 Colt Dragoon revolver.

More Information: www.royalarmouries.org

Photo Caption: Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds. Photo by Lofty/Wikimedia Commons.
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The Streetlife Museum in Hull. Ewan Munro
Where: Hull

Visitors experience the invigorating claustrophobia of a pitch-black night-time 18th-century carriage ride at the Streetlife Museum of Transport, pumped full of realistic horse smells (manure) and bygone sound affects (begging children). There are more than 10 carriages on display as well as bicycles ranging from Victorian boneshakers to rebellious Harley-Davidson-inspired 1970s Choppers, Expect to be shaken vigorously during the three-minute simulated carriage ride.

More Information: www.hullcc.gov.uk

Photo Caption: The Streetlife Museum in Hull. Photo by Ewan Munro/Flickr.com.
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Skyspace is one of the most ambitious of the art works scattered round Kielder Forest Oliver Dixon
Where: Northumberland

Kielder Forest offers walks and cycle tracks and also has art installations among the trees. Walk to 'skyspace' -- a small, round stone chamber designed by James Turrell. The space contains a couple of seats below a hole in the roof which allows you to see a framed view of the sky -- at dusk, the lighting system in the chamber sparks up and visitors can experience an extraordinary light show.

More Information: www.visitkielder.com

Photo Caption: Skyspace is one of the most ambitious of the art works scattered round Kielder Forest. Photo by Oliver Dixon/geograph.org.uk.
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The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Jack Pickard
Where: Northumberland

The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, a six-storey former grain warehouse, has an array of galleries, a small cinema and a learning zone for the kids. Work by Damien Hirst, Sam Taylor-Wood, and even Yoko Ono has been exhibited at the gallery. There are also Toddle Tuesday sessions between 10:45-11:45am where under twos are encouraged by in-house artists to explore their own creativity.

More Information: www.balticmill.com

Photo Caption: The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Photo by Jack Pickard/Flickr.com.
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Discover the reconstructed Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum. Alun Salt
Where: Northumberland

The Arbeia Roman Fort was developed to guard the entrance of the River Tyne and is the best-reconstructed Roman fort in Britain. The highlight of the calendar is in December when candle-lit tours take place for free to coincide with the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Booking in advance is essential.

More Information: www.twmuseums.org.uk

Photo Caption: The reconstructed Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum. Photo by Alun Salt/Flickr.com.
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The National Football Museum in Preston Nic McPhee
Where: Lancashire

See the ball from the first World Cup Final in 1930 and the shirt Maradona wore when he scored his infamous 'hand of God' goal against England. The National Football Museum is based at Preston North End's ground -- the oldest surviving football league ground in the world.

More Information: www.nationalfootballmuseum.com

Photo Caption: The National Football Museum in Preston. Photo by Nic McPhee/Flickr.com.
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Entrance into Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Hayley Green
Where: Manchester

At the Museum of Science and Industry you get the chance to lift a Mini with your little finger, walk through a Victorian sewer and compare your iPhone to the world
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The Royal Oak pub on Bridge Street Ramsbottom Paul Anderson
Where: Lancashire

This bizarre culinary take on the 15th Century War of Roses involves entrants hurling three 6-oz puddings swaddled in lady's tights at their targets. Held annually at the Royal Oak Pub in Lancashire.

More Information: www.worldblackpuddingthrowing.googlepages.com

Photo Caption: The Royal Oak pub. Photo by Paul Anderson/geograph.org.uk.
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Liverpool's fabulous and vast World Museum. Fabio Paoleri
Where: Liverpool

Here you get to watch leaf-cutter ants in action, visit a 62-seat planetarium, dress up like an Eskimo and handle 5,000-year-old fossils. Vague but grandiose, the museum's title put us off initially (how can you have a museum about the entire world?), but after a day here we realised there is no other way to describe such a vast museum.

More Information: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

Photo Caption: Liverpool's fabulous and vast World Museum. Photo by Fabio Paoleri/Flickr.com.
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The Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre Russ McGinn
Where: Hawkshead

On a nine-and-a-half-mile ramble through this oak and conifer woodland, you'll see dozens of outdoor sculptures of snails, sheep, foxes, owls, plus a giant woodsman with an axe. You will also witness views on a clear day to Morecambe Bay and Coniston Fells, and if you're lucky, you might see red and roe deer.

More Information: www.forestry.gove/grizedaleforestpark

Photo Caption: The Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre. Photo by Russ McGinn/Wikimedia Commons.
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See the greatest Scottish vista at the Queen's View visitor centre perched high above Loch Tummel. Frommers.com Community
Where: Strathtummel by Pitlochry

Perched high above Loch Tummel and about 100 metres up a short hill from the Visitor Centre, an incredible vantage point (avoided by big tour buses) gives a spectacular view up the spine of Scotland all the way to the mountains around Glencoe. Named after Robert the Bruce
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The World Stone Skimming Championships Courtesy of The World Stone Skimming Championships
Where: Easdale Island

The tournament which began in 1997 is hosted on Easdale Island on the last Sunday in September. A kick off event is staged on the Saturday night at the community hall. You pay to enter (fees are between £1 and £4) but the competition is free to watch.

More Information: www.stoneskimming.com

Photo Caption: The World Stone Skimming Championships is hosted on Easdale Island. Photo by Courtesy of The World Stone Skimming Championships.
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Cairn marking the Electric Brae. John Phillips
Where: On the A719 between Dunure and Croy Bay

On the A719 between Dunure and Croy Bay, you will find the optical illusion called the Electric Brae that fascinated American GIs stationed at Prestwick in WW2. Park your car along the quarter-mile stretch from the bend overlooking Croy Railway duct to Craigencroy Glen to the east, release the handbrake and step out of the car. The car will appear to roll up the hill due to the lie of the land surrounding the road.

Photo Caption: Cairn marking the Electric Brae. Photo by John Phillips/Wikimedia Commons.
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Learn about Victorian Times at the Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow. dalbera
Where: Glasgow

At the Scotland Street School Museum you can learn to write with a quill, wear a dunce's hat and indulge in role-playing with a cane-wielding teacher at this former school. Other highlights include the drawing stations and biographical tales of former pupils of the former school where the museum is housed.

More Information: www.glasgowmuseums.com

Photo Caption: The Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow. Photo by dalbera/Flickr.com.
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People's Palace and Winter Gardens is fronted by the Doulton Fountain Michael Gallacher
Where: Glasgow

Fronted by the Doulton Fountain, the largest terracotta fountain in the world, this is a quirky place to learn about local social history. During their visit, families can take a look at the banana boots Billy Connolly wore on stage in the 1970s.

More Information: www.glasgowmuseums.com

Photo Caption: The Doulton Fountain, the largest terracotta fountain in the world. Photo by Michael Gallacher/Flickr.com.
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The Stupa at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre. secretlondon123
Where: Eskdalemuir

Wander around the peace garden at the West's first Tibetan Buddhist monastery, founded in 1967. Relax in the Tibetan tearoom, take in the temple with its golden roof and the beautiful Green Tara Statue representing fearlessness, before finally leaving after apologising in the Prayer Wheel House for the behaviour of your children who were shushed for disturbing students.

More Information: www.samyeling.org

Photo Caption: The Stupa at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre. Photo by secretlondon123/Flickr.com.
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Tomnarevie Stone Circles. Otter
Where: North-west of Aboyne, off the B9094

This ancient stone circle, around 4,500 years old and about 30 feet (10m) is up a relatively steep path from the car park below and set in some bleakish moorland. The circle's altar stone might have been used to sacrifice animals (or possibly humans), although nowadays if you brave the wind you're treated to great views over Tarland to Lochnagar 20 miles (32km) away.

Photo Caption: Tomnarevie Stone Circles. Photo by Otter/Wikimedia Commons.
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