Free entry to heritage sites across Scotland: Top Picks for Doors Open Days 2012

By Ruth Hazard | 17 August 2012
© The Scottish Civic Trust
If you’re not familiar with the Doors Open Days event, you may be fooled into thinking that it sounds too good to be true. But this really is a chance to enjoy heritage sites across Scotland without paying a single penny.

Taking place throughout September, the festival offers an extensive programme of tours and events that will see 1,040 venues throw open their doors and warmly welcome the public inside.

Explore the hidden depths of St Serf’s caves, take a ride on a vintage bus, stare at the stars at Airdrie Observatory: this is an unmissable opportunity to explore the top cultural attractions that scatter Scottish shores without putting a dent in your wallet.

Glasgow (September 15-16)

It’s an action-packed programme in the cultural capital, but Glasgow's City Chambers make for a good place to start.

Nose around inside this stunning 19th century building which has been the council’s headquarters for more than 100 years, before heading to see the William Burrell Collection at Pollok Country Park.

One of the greatest collections to be accumulated by one person, it includes objects from ancient civilisations, medieval Europe and examples of Chinese and Islamic art.

For a behind-the-scenes tour of the UK's largest PDSA animal hospital, visit Shamrock Street, where there’s a chance to see the operating theatre, X-ray room, laboratory and recovery wards.

Architecture buffs will enjoy a visit to the historic Arlington Baths Club, where the Turkish-inspired design includes a beehive roof studded with star shaped coloured windows.

As evening approaches, take a tour of the chilling Craigton Crematorium, which will include a visit to the cremator room.

Fife (September 9)

Fife’s rural landscape provides a wealth of amazing natural heritage to explore, such as the atmospheric St Serf's Cave.

This chambered underground cavern can be found in the grounds of the Carmelite Monastery and is said to have been used by St Serf as a retreat from the world in the 6th century.

Put your questions to sisters from the monastery, who will be on hand throughout the afternoon, before trying out one of the seats carved into the Cave walls.

Above ground, take the Fife Coastal Path from St Monans to visit the last remaining windmill in the area. Recently restored, this relic from the 18th century provides a fascinating insight into the history of its use as well as treating you to incredible views of the Forth.

If the walk has tired you out, then hitch a ride at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum,where visitors are transported around the site in one of the vehicles from the collection. There are more than 170 different buses to enjoy, as well a tour of the workshop and a collection of transport memorabilia.

Dundee (September 22-23)

Dundee is rich with history, making it the best place to head for if you want to see inside a 16th century castle, explore the curious house George Duncan MP built in memory of his late wife in 1836, or trawl through the incredible records held at the City Archives.

Other historical highlights include an 1820s Quaker meeting house and a guided tour of a magnificent Edwardian pub (even if you’re only really interested in the refreshments afterwards).

Inverclyde (September 8-9)

There’s more local history to be uncovered at Quarriers Village in Inverclyde, founded in 1878 as a home for destitute children.

The guided tour will focus on the story of William Quarrier, who resolved to take orphans out of Victorian institutions to a children’s village where they could live with house parents.

Explore the Zion Church, school and cottages that played home to more than 30,000 children during the course of the village’s history.

Lanarkshire (September 8-9)

An eclectic selection of events feature on the Lanarkshire programme, giving you the chance to enjoy a tour of the Albert Bartlett potato factory, visit the oldest bakery in Scotland or stargaze at the Victorian public observatory in Airdrie.

If you’re hoping to enjoy the best of the local countryside, then look no further than the Clyde Wildlife Reserve, which boasts three dramatic waterfalls within its ancient woodlands, and the Chatelherault Hunting Lodge, which was used by the Duke and Duchess for entertaining their blood sport parties in the 1730s.
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