5 Totally Free Things to do in the Borders and East Lothian

Posted by Linda Maclaughlan on 24 September 2015

It can be tough coming up with fun things to do in the school holidays that don’t break the bank, can’t it?

However, don’t panic! There are actually plenty of free, fun activities and places to visit in the Borders and East Lothian this summer – and I’ve done all the hard work by finding them for you.

Below, you’ll find some of the best free activities for day trips with the kids:

The Borders

(In no particular order)

1. Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum



Find out all about what life was like for the prisoners of Jedburgh Castle jail in the 19th century. Originally built in 1823 as a Howard reform prison, Jedburgh Castle Jail is a unique example in Scotland – you won’t find one like it anywhere else.

The museum part has many intriguing items on display to give you a better idea of what 19th century prison life entailed, as well as various collections that tell some of Jedburgh’s history as a Royal Burgh.

Find out more about Jedburgh Castle Jail, here.

2. Mary Queen of Scots House, Jedburgh



Are your kids interested in the dark history of Mary, Queen of Scots? This museum in Jedburgh first opened in 1987, exactly 400 years since her death. Some even say this is the exact house she was taken to when she became gravely ill after a particularly long ride to Hermitage and back.

One of the most interesting aspects of this unusual house, is the left-handed staircase that was originally built for the Kerrs, of Ferniehirst Castle (located nearby). They say this design made it easier for left-handers to wield their swords when needed.

The museum is open all year round, and you can find out all about Mary Queen of Scots house, here.

3. Harestanes Visitor Centre, Ancrum

If you love the countryside, why not make the most of it by paying a visit to Harestanes Visitor Centre, in Ancrum? There’s always plenty to do, with various events and exhibitions on throughout the year, and plenty of outdoor activities, too. It’s also got a fab outdoor playpark the kids will love!

Find out what’s on at Harestanes via the Scottish Borders Council website. Or download the 2015 events brochure.

East Lothian

(In no particular order)

4. Free swimming

Kids can swim for free all summer in any of the East Lothian pools, as part of a fantastic initiative by the council to promote exercise and keep kids away from the nearby rivers.

There are plenty of great swimming pools to choose from, including:

Most of these pools are run by enjoyleisure, a charitable trust that does a brilliant job of providing excellent leisure facilities to the people of East Lothian.

5. John Gray Centre, Haddington

The John Gray Centre in Haddington is a fantastic museum and library that always seems to have something fun going on for all the family.

From summer reading challenges to film appreciation club and family history day, you’ll be sure to find something your kids will love taking part in. Plus, you can also browse the various exhibitions, and collections in the galleries.

Find out what’s on at the John Gray Centre by visiting the official website and checking the full programme of events.


If you’re going to be in the Borders and East Lothian this summer, you won’t be stuck for fun things to do – and as an added bonus, all of the above events are completely free! If you’re in East Lothian, I particularly recommend checking what’s on at the John Gray Centre, and of course, packing your swimsuit!

The Borders has some fantastic historical sites to fuel your kids’ imaginations, but you can always take them to the park at Harestanes Visitor Centre to let off some steam, afterwards!

What do you have planned this autumn/winter in the Borders and East Lothian?

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