The Culture24/7: Top Picks for Heritage Open Days 2012

Ruth Hazard | 16 August 2012
Heritage Open Days will give the public a chance to see inside venues that are usually closed to visitors, such as the Gothic temple in Stowe© Landmark Trust

It’s been an action-packed British summer filled with excuses to celebrate. But if the comedown’s hitting you hard, there is still one event that’s sure to have you reveling in National pride all over again.

Heritage Open Days weekend, on September 6-9, invites the public to explore the venues that tell the story of British cultural history, waiving the usual admission fees and closed door policies to give unprecedented access to an array of amazing and unusual sites.

Whether you’re a science buff with a hankering to learn more about the Darwin family or you’d jump at the chance to hunt for ghosts in an old train station, there’s something for everyone in the program of more than 4,000 attractions. Here are our top picks for this year:

St Briavel's Castle, Lydney

Opening up specially for Heritage Open Days, this 800-year-old castle was originally built as a hunting lodge for King John and has since enjoyed reinventions as a school, prison and youth hostel.

Expect guided tours, themed stalls and home-made cakes as part of the weekend event, and don’t miss the re-enactment groups that will help bring the history of the castle to life.

Darwin College, Cambridge

A real treat for Darwin fans, this opportunity to tour the historic college buildings will include a peek at the former home of his son and grandson.

After a stroll in the surrounding gardens, why not admire the collection of Darwin family portraits that will also be on display?

Newman Brothers Coffin Fittings Works, Birmingham
You'll need to keep your nerves in check as you take a tour of the semi-derelict factory which once fitted coffins for Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain and Princess Diana.

Unusual activities will include brass rubbings, Victorian dress up and the chance to decorate your own coffin.

Homes for Heroes, Benwell

Take a step back in time on this theatrical walking tour charting the history of the Pendower estate, originally built to provide homes for the soldiers returning from the First World War in 1919.

As you wander the site’s old streets, your tour guide will provide a selection of fascinating stories that uncover what life was like for the men and women who used to called Pendower home.

Ghost Tour of Crewe Train Station, Crewe

Not for the faint hearted, this after-dark tour of Crewe Train station will explore the creepy stories that haunt the 175-year-old site.

Get set to witness a supernatural encounter - previous visitors have reported sightings of inexplicable child footprints and a phantom cat.

Linton Falls Hydroelectric Power Project, Grassington

Technophiles will relish this rare opportunity to see inside the Linton Falls power station, which has only recently been restored after a long period of dereliction.

The tour will give you chance to get up close to the technology that generates hydroelectric power and to discover how the Victorian site was transformed for use in the 21st century.

Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Spend a lazy day walking through the wooded valleys of these beautiful gardens, making sure you stop to see the incredible 40 temples and monuments that dot the grounds.

Don't miss out on the chance to see inside the Gothic Temple, which is now used as a holiday cottage and not normally open to the public.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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