KEEPING the kids amused over the summer holidays always means extra costs, so finding ways to keep them entertained without spending a fortune is more important than ever.

English Heritage cares for more than 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites across England from prehistoric gems to grand medieval castles.

But you don’t have to be a member.

There are more than 250 free-to-enter sites where you can let the kids clamber over history — perhaps even picking up a fact or two.

Lisa Minot picks some places to explore this summer.

There are also plenty of special events from knights tournaments to pirate re-enactments at some sites.

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See english-heritage.org.uk.

Waverley Abbey, Surrey: Built by French monks who settled in this peaceful spot by the River Wey in 1128, Waverley’s picturesque ruins include a fine 13th century vaulted refectory.

The site is a draw for Hollywood too, with the Abbey chosen as a backdrop for movies such as Disney’s Into The Woods and Elizabeth.

Just two miles down the road is another free site, Farnham Castle Keep, the impressive motte and ‘shell keep’ of a castle founded in 1138 by Henry of Blois.

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Kenwood House, North London: Overlooking London’s Hampstead Heath since the early 17th century, Kenwood House was transformed during the 18th century into a grand neoclassical villa.

Now restored to its Georgian splendour, Kenwood is home to a world- famous art collection, including Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait with Two Circles’.

There is a children’s trail around the house and the garden.

Appuldurcombe House, Isle of Wight: Begun in the early 18th century, Appuldurcombe was once the grandest house on the island and is now a delightfully eerie ghost of its former self, which kids will love.

It still retains many fine English baroque architectural details.

Less than 20 minutes’ drive away, families can explore St Catherine’s Oratory, a medieval octagonal tower on a cliff, built in 1328 as penance by a landowner who plundered church wine from a shipwreck.

Carn Euny Ancient Village, Cornwall: One of the best-preserved ancient villages in the South West.

Families can wander through the foundations of stone houses from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD.

At its centre is a stone-walled passage known as a fogou, an Iron Age monument found only in far west Cornwall.

Within three miles of Carn Euny, families can visit Tregiffian Burial Chamber and Ballowall Barrow, a unique Bronze Age tomb with a complex history as a sacred site.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria: One of Britain’s oldest stone circles, Castlerigg is sure to fire children’s imaginations with views of the Thirlmere Valley.

Built around 3,000BC, it comprises 38 stones.

Just half an hour’s drive away at Lake Windermere is Ambleside Roman Fort, probably built under Hadrian’s rule to guard a Roman road.

Norham Castle, Northumberland: Set high on a grassy mound, the castle was one of the most important strongholds in the area.

It was besieged at least 13 times by the Scots — once for nearly a year by Robert the Bruce.

Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the 16th century Etal Castle.

It’s the perfect place for a picnic and, in the summer months, there is an exhibition explaining the bloody Anglo-Scottish warfare.

Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire: This monastery’s architecture inspired the design of church buildings, including that of the famous York Minster Rose Window.

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Although destroyed in 1538, much of its gothic architecture remains and there is a museum open at weekends, and guided tours.

Other must-visit free sites in North Yorkshire include Spofforth Castle, where the Magna Carta was reputedly drawn up.



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