8 free – or almost free – things to do in the Easter holidays

Trigg Point on the isle of Colonsay. Picture: www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk
Trigg Point on the isle of Colonsay. Picture: www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk
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You don’t need to break the bank to keep the children entertained over the Easter holidays. Here are eight free – or almost free – activities.

1. Spot a unicorn

A 7ft willow unicorn at Crawick Multiverse, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. 
Picture: Julie Howden/Visit Scotland

A 7ft willow unicorn at Crawick Multiverse, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. Picture: Julie Howden/Visit Scotland

This Sunday (April 9) is officially National Unicorn Day and it’s the perfect time to spot a unicorn. The mythical one-horned creature has been an important part of Scottish history for many centuries.

You could visit Crawick Multiverse artland in Dumfries & Galloway to see the unveiling of a 7ft unicorn sculpture made of willow or visit towns and cities across Scotland to see a unicorn.

Places to spot a unicorn include outside the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle, the fountain in Linlithgow Palace courtyard; Stirling Castle’s Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry; and the Mercat Cross in Dunfermline, Jedburgh, Melrose, Culross, Crail and Cupar.

READ MORE: Why is the unicorn Scotland’s national animal?

2. Hunt for treasure

Geocaching is a modern form of a treasure hunt and uses GPS to reveal the hidden cache. You can join Geocaching.com – it’s free for the basic version – to discover routes that you follow via GPS navigation to reach the hidden treasure, or caches.

There are different length routes that are graded according to difficulty and widely spread across Scotland.

When you find a cache, you can open it up to see what is inside and also write in a logbook. You might want to leave a small treasure in the cache for others to find. Make sure you replace the cache for other people to discover, too.

3. Try orienteering

Did you know there are more than 60 permanently laid out orienteering courses in parks, parklands and country estates in Scotland that provide a fun activity for kids and families?

The only cost is the map – some are free while others cost up to £2 – and after that the orienteering challenge is free to do.

Compete against each other or as small teams to reach checkpoints by navigating with the map and a compass. See the location of Scottish orienteering courses.

4. Rub a tree

Go back to nature and show your children how to do bark rubbings. Use white paper and a soft pencil or crayon to rub over the bark.

It’s lovely to see the texture and all the pits and bumps of the bark. You can also identify the trees as you rub the bark. If you need more help to do this check out how to make a bark rubbing.

5. Bag a trig

Trigs – or to give them their official name, triangulation points – are the concrete pillars that you find located in countryside across the UK. There are thousands in Scotland and they are identified on OS maps as a small blue triangle with a dot in the middle.

Not all trigs are found on hill summits, although plenty are. A fun and energetic hobby is to bag a trig by walking, running or cycling to it and ticking it off on a list.

You could plan to bag five trigs over the Easter holidays or start with one local trig point and see how many you can bag over the year.

See trigpointing and Haroldstreet for more information and locations, as well as an OS map.

6. Urban Birding

Urban Birding is easy to do without even leaving your home. A growing trend, assisted by celebrity Urban Birders such as Elbow frontman Guy Garvey and TV presenter Alex Zane, the aim is to spot birds in urban areas including gardens, parks in towns and cities and even on buildings. See Urban Birder for more details.

7. Rainy day outings

It is April after all, the traditional time for spring showers so the chances are there will be rainy days during the Easter holidays. The best free-to-do outings for wet weather are to visit a museum or attraction that dose not charge for entry.

In many Scottish cities, there are many free attractions, including museums, cathedrals, gardens and art galleries. See free attractions in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Dundee The McManus art gallery and museum is free to enter, as is the Tolbooth Museum and Maritime Museum in Aberdeen.

A good place to find out about free places to visit in towns and cities is the council websites.

8. Join the Potter Trail

In Edinburgh, there are free public Potter Trail Tours that take fans on an entertaining walk to many locations that inspired scenes and characters from the famous Harry Potter books. The author, JK Rowling wrote the book series while living in the capital.

The free tours can’t be booked and they are limited to 50 people so it’s a first-come-first-served activity. They leave from Greyfriar’s Bobby on George IV Bridge on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm throughout April. You can book a private tour but there is a charge.