FREE visits to 6,000+ hidden property gems

Heritage sites open Fri 13-Sun 22 in England, Sat 14-Sun 15 in NI & throughout Sep in Wales & Scotland

You can get FREE access to many sites and tourist attractions in England from Fri 13 Sep to Sun 22 Sep as part of Heritage Open Days – an annual event now in its 25th year – and similar events are happening elsewhere in the UK this month… 

Events in Wales and Scotland are held all month as part of Open Doors Days, and Doors Open Days respectively. Northern Ireland events are on Sat 14 and Sun 15 Sep for European Heritage Open Days. The venues and events included usually charge an admission fee or are normally closed to the public. 

How to find places to visit near you

See the full list of places you can get in free in England on the Heritage Open Days website. There are only a small number in London, but a separate event called Open House London is running on Sat 21 Sep and Sun 22 Sep, where you can get in free under similar rules.

For Scotland and Wales, see Doors Open Days (Scotland) and Open Doors Days (Wales), both throughout September. For Northern Ireland, check European Heritage Days for a list of 300+ properties open this weekend.

Opening dates and times vary for each venue, and you may need to book in advance for some - all the details are on the websites, for the various parts of the UK listed in alphabetical order.


Examples of free places that usually charge:

Examples of places rarely open:

  • Durham Cathedral, County Durham. Rare opportunity to see the Chapter House, which you may recognise as Professor McGonagall’s classroom from the first Harry Potter film (Sat 14 Sep, Mon 16 to Sat 21 Sep). 
  • Royal Holloway, University of London, Surrey. See the Grade I listed Founder's Building at Royal Holloway, tour the campus, view the archives and explore the grounds (Sun 15 Sep only).
  • Crystal Palace Subway, London. The subway closed in 1954, but visitors during the festival can see the 'lost' Grade II listed building (Sat 14 Sep only).
  • The Guildhall, Northampton. See the medieval design at Northampton’s Guildhall, including The Great Hall, Court Room, Mayor’s Gallery and even the old cells (Sun 15 Sep only).
  • Big Data Institute, Oxford. Learn how medical researchers use 'Big Data' to answer questions about human health around the world, join a talk, take a virtual lab tour or play science games (Sat 14 Sep only).

Northern Ireland

Examples of free places that normally charge:

Examples of places rarely open:

  • Marlacoo House, Armagh. Two-storey three-bay 200 year old Georgian house (Sat 14 Sep only).
  • Helen's Tower, Bangor. Self-guided tour of the restored Tower (Sun 15 Sep only).
  • Charles Sheils Houses, Armagh. Gothic revival style houses overlooking Armagh (Sat 14 & Sun 15 Sep, booking required).
  • Killymoon Castle, Tyrone. Built for James Stewart in 1671, has recently undergone extensive renovations (Sun 15 Sep only, booking required).
  • Drumalis, Larne. Victorian country house built by Sir Hugh Smiley in 1872 (Sat 14 Sep only).


Examples of free places that normally charge:

  • Stromness Museum, Orkney (Sat 21 & Sun 22 Sep only, usually £5).
  • Dean Gardens, Edinburgh (Sun 29 Sep only, usually members only £140/year).
  • Alloa Tower, Clackmannanshire (Sat 28 & Sun 29 Sep only, usually £6.50).

Examples of places rarely open:

  • Falkirk Steeple, Falkirk. Constructed to house the town’s bell and clock, as well as temporary cells not usually open to the public (Sat 14 & Sun 15 Sep) .
  • Dundee Contemporary Arts on show, Dundee. Discover more about cinema technology (Sat 14 Sep only).
  • Royal Pavillion, Braemar. Usually only for use by the Royal Party, will be open and fully decorated for the event (Sat 14 Sep & Sun 15 Sep).
  • Hawick Town Hall, Hawick. View the 19th century building with tower, as well as the Council Chamber, Provost's Room and Old Police Station cells not normally open to the public (Sat 14 Sep only).
  • City Observatory, Edinburgh. See the Cooke telescope, normally closed to the public (Sat 28 & Sun 29 Sep).


Examples of free places that normally charge:

Examples of places rarely open:

  • Hafoty Medieval House, Beaumaris. Medieval house tour (Sat 21 & Sun 22 Sep only).
  • Cae’r Gors, Gwynedd. Explore the home of author Kate Roberts, usually closed until 1 Oct (Sat 21 & Sun 22 Sep only)

Why do they do this?

The spirit of these open days is to celebrate hidden history and culture. However, a small number of privately-owned properties taking part get funding or have tax-exempt collections, which means they must allow public access for certain number of days a year. But most of them just open up for the joy of it!

For other events, see our cheap days out page.

Will you be planning any visits this month? What's your favourite local historical spot? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.