FREE in-person or virtual visits to 3,000+ hidden UK property gems
Heritage sites open on selected September dates in England & Northern Ireland and throughout the month in Scotland & Wales
You can get FREE access either in person or online to many historical sites and tourist attractions including Shuttleworth House and gardens, Chartwell House (home of Winston Churchill), and Powis Castle as part of heritage open days across the UK in September.
The sites included usually charge an admission fee, wouldn't normally be available to tour online, or are closed to the public at other times of the year. To check places near you, see these websites:
- In England, Heritage Open Days is on from Friday 9 - Sunday 18 September and includes 3,000+ locations and events. There are only a small number in London, but a separate festival called Open House London is running from Thursday 8 - Wednesday 21 September.
- In Northern Ireland, European Heritage Open Days is on for a week digitally from Monday 5 - Sunday 11 September, with in-person events on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September. It includes 200+ sites and properties.
- In Scotland, Doors Open Days runs throughout the whole month of September with hundreds of sites opening, as does Wales' Open Doors.
How to book
For some attractions you'll need to book in advance, but for others you'll be able to just turn up on the day. You can check whether you need to book or not by visiting the page for each attraction. If you do need to book, there'll be a link or instructions provided. If you don't need to, it may be worth double checking with the venue before your visit anyway. Opening dates and times vary for each attraction.
Below, we've picked out some of the popular or interesting places you can visit for free.
- Shuttleworth House, Collection, and Gardens, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire (Thu 15 Sep only). Normally £17.50.
- Chartwell House, Westerham, Kent (Mon 12 Sep only). Normally £14.
- The Brickworks Museum, Southampton, Hampshire (Thu 15 Sep only). Normally £6. Pre-booking required.
- Greys Court gardens National Trust, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire (Mon 12 - Fri 16 Sep). Normally £13.
- Ickworth National Trust, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk (Fri 9 - Sun 18 Sep). Normally £11.
- Margate Caves, Kent (Fri 9 - Sun 11, Wed 14 - Fri 16 Sep). Normally £4.50.
- Powderham Castle, Exeter, Devon (Sun 11 - Fri 16, Sun 18 Sep). Normally £12.95. Pre-booking preferred.
- Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear (Sat 17 - Sun 18 Sep). Normally £5.95.
- Union Chapel, London (Sun 18 Sep only). Organ workshops for children, plus organ recital in this Grade I Victorian building. Rarely open to the public. Pre-booking required.
- Weelsby Hall, Grimsby, Lincolnshire (Sat 10 Sep only). An opportunity to explore the grounds of Weelsby Hall and the interior entrance hall. Rarely open to the public. Pre-booking required.
If you check the Heritage Open Days website and select 'online events' you'll be able to see all which are online only, or have an online component, such as:
- The M&S Dress - A Closer Look (Sat 10 Sep 12.30pm-1pm) Join Katie Cameron, Archive Officer to discover the story of the M&S dress, questions answered during and following the talk. Pre-booking required.
- A Regency kitchen tour: An introduction into what went on in the large kitchen of a Town House in the 1830s (Sat 10 Sep, 4pm-5pm). A talk about kitchens, history, and food. All of the parts of the kitchen will be explained from the larders and scullery, to the cooking range.
- A short history of English Puddings - From The Regency Town House kitchen (Sat 17 Sep 4pm-5pm). Virtually visit the kitchen of an 1830s historic house in Hove and take a look at the history of English puddings. See a practical demonstration of the pudding cloth and get all the recipes free at the end of the session. Pre-booking required.
- Rowallane garden (Sat 10, Sun 11 Sep, 10am-6pm only). Visit the garden originally created by Reverend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore.
- Maritime Mile Photography Tour (Sat 10 Sep, 10.20am-12pm only). Improve your photography on a 90min tour of Maritime Mile shoot locations including the Titanic slipways, Titanic Hotel Belfast, and more. Booking essential.
- Belfast Royal Academy (Sat 10 Sep, 10am-12pm only). See the three-storyed Cromby building made of Scrabo sandstone.
- Belfast print workshop online event (Tue 6 Sep, 12pm-1pm). Watch an online video on the founding of the print workshop and the launch of the months events.
- Laurel Cottage online video event (Mon 5 Sep - Sun 11 Sep). Online Facebook slide show of this unique 1670s building.
- Treasures of the Presbyterian Historical Society online event (Fri 9 Sep 7.30am-8.30pm). Enjoy a zoom talk on the treasures of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. Booking is essential.
- Lower City Mills, Perth (Sat 17 & Sun 18 Sep). A rare survivor of similar mills that once operated in all Scottish burghs from the medieval period until the late 1890s. Pre-booking required.
- Beannachar Camphill Community, Aberdeenshire (Sat 17 Sep). Including interesting buildings, plus grounds with woodland, farmland, lawns, sports field and a walled garden with flowers, vegetables, fruit and herbs.
- Falkirk Steeple, Falkirk. (Sat 17 & Sun 18 Sep). Constructed to house the town’s bell and clock, as well as temporary cells not usually open to the public.
- Dean Gardens, Edinburgh (Sun 25 Sep only, usually members only £150/year). Founded in the 1860s by local residents, the Dean Gardens contain part of the Dean Bridge, a Thomas Telford masterpiece of 1835.
- Alloa Tower, Clackmannanshire (Sat 24 & Sun 25 Sep, usually £6.50). One of the largest and finest towers of its type in Scotland.
Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an easy-to-access map of online events for 2022 as there were in previous years, and they're difficult to search. Some events have both online and in person options so it's worth clicking through to any you'd like to see to check.
Note: When checking locations at the Cadw website, remember to tick the box at the top marked 'Open doors' or the list will show locations which also charge full price.
- The Thermal Spring, Taff’s Well Park (Sun 4 Sep, 2.30pm-6pm only). The only thermal spring in Wales, and the smallest in the world.
- Newport Cathedral (Sat 24 Sep, 10am-4pm only). A primarily Norman cathedral, with Saxon foundations.
- Powis Castle and Garden (Sat 17 Sep, 10am-5pm only). Gardens open at 10am, Castle from midday, last entry at 3.30pm. Normally £14.
- Hafoty Medieval House, Beaumaris. Tour of a medieval house, rarely open (Sat 3, Sun 4 Sep, Sat 11 & Sun 12 Sep).
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.