FREE in-person or virtual visits to 3,000+ hidden property gems

FREE in-person or virtual visits to 3,000+ hidden property gems

Heritage sites open Fri 11-Sun 20 in England, & throughout Sep in Wales & Scotland

You can get FREE access either in person or online to many sites and tourist attractions in England from Fri 11 Sep to Sun 20 Sep as part of Heritage Open Days – an annual event now in its 26th and possibly strangest 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 started on Mon 7 Sep and ran until Sun 13 Sep for European Heritage Open Days. The venues and events included usually charge an admission fee, wouldn't normally be available to tour online, or are normally closed to the public. 

How to find places to visit near you, or get involved online

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 19 Sep to Sun 27 Sep, where you can get in free under similar rules. This year, you'll also be able to join in with different events online, including films, podcasts, audio, and in-person self-led walking tours.

For Wales, events are entirely online (see Open Doors Days), and in Scotland, they're mostly online with very few physical locations open this year (see Doors Open Days). Both are throughout September. The event was entirely online in Northern Ireland – check European Heritage Days for more information.

Opening dates and times vary for each venue, and you may need to book in advance for some, including online activities. If you're attending in-person events, you may be required to wear a mask and/or follow specific social distancing or other safety guidelines due to the ongoing pandemic.

England - online and in person

Examples of free places that usually charge:

  • Powderham Castle, Exeter, Devon (Fri 11 Sep - Sun 20 Sep. Usually £12.95. Pre-booking preferred).
  • Heckington Windmill, Lincolnshire (Fri 18 Sep - Sun 20 Sep. Usually £5. Pre-booking required).
  • Margate Caves, Kent (Thu 17 Sep, and Fri 18 Sep. Usually £4.50. Pre-booking required).
  • Lytham Hall, Lancashire (Sun 20 Sep only. Usually £6).

Examples of places rarely open:

  • Weelsby Hall, Grimsby, Lincolnshire. An opportunity to explore the grounds of Weelsby Hall and the interior entrance hall (Sat 19 Sep only, pre-booking required).
  • Gunns Mill, Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire. Take a guided tour of a building featuring one of the most complete surviving seventeenth century blast furnaces in the country (Sat 19 Sep and Sun 20 Sep).
  • Union Chapel, London. Go on a guided tour to see rooms rarely open to the public, as well as an organ recital on the Saturday in this Grade I Victorian building, as well as to the chapel and its Grade II* ancillary buildings (Sat 19 Sep and Sun 20 Sep, pre-booking required).
  • Foster’s Almshouses and Three Kings of Cologne Chapel, Bristol. Visit a grade II* listed building founded by a 15th-century wealthy merchant to provide accommodation for Bristol's disadvantaged (Sat 19 Sep and Sun 20 Sep, pre-booking required).

Online events:

  • Durham Cathedral, County Durham. Online daily livestream. The location of Chapter House, which you may recognise as Professor McGonagall’s classroom from the first Harry Potter film (Sat 11 Sep to Sun 20 Sep daily at 3pm). 
  • Hidden Nature at Bradford Cathedral, Bradford, West Yorkshire. Daily videos exploring hidden nature you can find in Bradford Cathedral, including an animal trail, bee hotels or links with Arctic explorer William Scoresby (Fri 11 Sep - Sun 20 Sep).
  • 200 Years of Stevens’ Mill, Burwell Museums, Cambridgeshire. A virtual celebration for the 200th anniversary of the tower windmill including a virtual tour of the mill, a children's activity to complete at home, and videos of songs composed for the mill's anniversary by local musicians. (Sun 20 Sep 11am-3pm).
  • Tour of the Town - in Minecraft Alexandra House, Cambridgeshire. Each tour will only have a few spaces but you will be able to see the town centre in Minecraft, visit some of the buildings with added media as part of the Virtual Arts Trail we created this year! (any time, pre-booking required).

Scotland - mainly online, some in person

Examples of places open in person:

  • Lower City Mills, Perth. A rare survival of similar mills that once operated in all Scottish burghs from the medieval period until the late 1890s (Sat 19 Sep and Sun 20 Sep, pre-booking required).
  • Beannachar Camphill Community, Aberdeenshire. Including interesting buildings, plus grounds with woodland, farmland, lawns, sports field and a walled garden with flowers, vegetables, fruit and herbs (Sat 19 Sep and Sun 20 Sep).

Online events:

Wales - 10 locations, online only

Online events:

Northern Ireland - 39 locations/events, online only

This event is now over. I've left these here for reference.

Online events

  • National Trust Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede (Sat 12 Sep and Sun 13 Sep). Virtual guided architectural tour of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.
  • Launch of Gortmaconnell Jeep Safari (Fri 11 Sep 3pm). Virtually explore one of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geoparks heritage sites at Gortmaconnell. 
  • Creggan Country Park (Until Sun 13 Sep). Explore bee hives, woodland, forest school, fishery, conservation area, viewing point, activity centre and learn about our renewable energy technologies on a virtual tour with an environmental officer.
  • Rowallane garden (Until Sun 13 Sep). Virtual tour and garden tips session.
  • Archaeology of Culfeightrin (Sun 13 Sep, 10am only). Starting at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Culfeightrin (just outside Ballycastle) this video tour will explore local heritage, including standing stones and the Broughanlea Cross.

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 a 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. If you've got a taste for virtual visits, see MSE Oli's Free virtual globe-trotting, tours & experiences for more sofa surfing fun.

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