Discover Scotland’s best-kept secrets at Doors Open Days in September

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Scotland is full of surprises – whether you’re visiting for the first time or holiday here every chance you get, you’re never far away from an exciting new discovery. This Year of Homecoming, Doors Open Days gives visitors the key to some the country’s best-kept secrets, offering access to places that are normally closed to the public, plus free entry to paid attractions.

Organised by the Scottish Civic Trust, this month-long festival sees hundreds of architectural gems, fascinating museums, historic sites and other hidden treasures open their doors to the public on Saturdays and Sundays throughout September, with different regions revealing some of their finest buildings each weekend. You’ll also find expert tours, guided walks, exhibitions and other activities on offer, all completely free.

As well as old favourites like Glasgow Cathedral or Colzium House in North Lanarkshire, there are dozens of wonderful buildings and locations joining the festival for the first time this Year of Homecoming: get inspired by the striking creative industries offices at District 10 in Dundee, wander through the lovely Secret Herb Garden in Midlothian, admire a private collection of wonderful vintage vehicles in North Corston, near Coupar Angus, and much more.

With more than 1000 venues on the programme, including museums, churches, schools, sports centres, gardens, parks and cinemas, Doors Open Days is a great chance to discover parts of Scotland you’ve never seen before. Read on for our recommendations for this week, and don’t forget to share your discoveries with us on Facebook, twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #homecoming2014 or #brilliantmoments!



Weekend 4: 27 & 28 September


  • See specialist vehicles on a tour of Alloa Fire Station, which celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year
  • Find out about Castle Campbell, the region’s links with China and Japan, and much more at the Dollar Museum
  • Book a tour of the striking Clackmannan Tower, which has stood proudly upon King’s Seat Hill since the 15th century
  • Marvel at the beautiful architecture of the Johnstone Mausoleum in Alva, one of only four of its kind in Scotland
  • Explore Alloa Tower with a costumed guide and learn about the distinguished families that once lived there


  • Browse antique books and beautiful paintings and sculptures in Edinburgh University’s stunning Playfair Library
  • Go behind the scenes and learn all about astronomy at the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill
  • Take a pleasant stroll around the lovely lawns and tranquil woodlands of the privately-owned Regent Gardens
  • Catch talks, performances and musical recitals honouring the Bard at the Burns Monument on Regent Road
  • Step back in time with a short lesson at the Victorian Schoolroom, a fascinating museum room decorated with authentic memorabilia

Highlands: Badenoch & Strathspey, Lochaber

  • Book a tour of former Highland Railway Company sheds or enjoy discounted travel on the Strathspey Steam Railway, in Aviemore
  • Admire local artefacts at the Glencoe Folk Museum, housed in two charming 18th century thatched crofts
  • Explore Castle Roy by Nethy Bridge, which dates from 1150 and is said to be the oldest masonry fortification in Scotland
  • Enjoy tea, home baking, crafts, children’s activities and a WWI exhibition, complete with war diaries and letters, at Abernethy Old Kirk
  • Discover the history and wildlife of the Caledonian Canal on a walk around Neptune’s Staircase, the longest lock staircase in Britain, in Banavie

Still not sure where to start? You can also sort the attractions by themes inspired by Homecoming Scotland 2014, including AncestryFood & drinkArts and culture and Natural, Active and Industrial, or browse the Doors Open Days inspirations for more ideas of great things to see around the country. Make sure you also keep an eye on our listings for more unmissable Year of Homecoming events in the coming months, from food festivals to marathons and much more.


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Sophie Cameron

Content Executive at VisitScotland
Originally from the Black Isle, Sophie lives in Edinburgh and spends most of her time reading, running and roaming around Scotland.

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