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50 free things to do in London: part one – central

With certain London attractions charging over £100 for a family of four, a day out in the city can be depressingly expensive. But it needn’t be. Follow our guide to brilliant things to do for free, and have a top day out without spending a small fortune. Here is our first instalment of world-class museums, galleries and more

• Our complete London city guide

This hulking presence on the South Bank was built for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Sixty years on, it’s still at the forefront of London’s cultural scene. Although primarily a hall for major concerts, it’s a pretty safe bet that the ground-floor stage area will be busy with a free concert, exhibition or workshop, especially if you visit on a weekend. While you’re there, be sure to take the singing glass elevator up to the fifth floor, where you’ll find a little-known balcony area with impressive views of the Thames. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the building, too.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1,020-7960 4200, southbankcentre.co.uk

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Britain’s top 10 toughest cycle climbs

Following Simon Warren‘s guide last week to Britain’s top 10 cycle climbs, here he ups the ante with his top 10 toughest cycle climbs in Britain

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The king of climbs and arguably the hardest road in the land, the legendary Hardknott Pass is an amazing sliver of tarmac. First built in 2nd century by the Romans, the pass is unbelievably tough from both directions. To climb from the east, begin at the warning sign at Jubilee Bridge. It’s very steep into a small woodland, over a cattle grid and then you will see the enormity of your task. Enter the first of two sets of brutal switchbacks and wrench body and bike through the 25% corners. What follows is a brief levelling out but you can’t put off what lies ahead for long. The second set of switchbacks are steeper still, and these now 30% slopes will have you straining every sinew as your front wheel desperately searches for a kinder gradient and weaves all over the road fighting to stay upright. If you can ride this, you can ride anything. Just keep going, then head down the terrifying descent.
Where To find Hardknott Pass leave the A595 and head east towards Eskdale. Ride over Irton Pike and pass through Eskdale Green and Beckfoot to reach the base of the climb next to the warning sign at Jubilee Bridge. Grid Ref: NY 231 014 (OS96).
Length 2.25km
Height gain 298m
Approx climb time 15 mins

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