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. In Scotland’s Year of Coasts & Waters 2021, Doors Open Days returns to give visitors the key to some the country’s best-kept locations, attractions and sites, offering access to places that are often closed to the public.
Organised by the Scottish Civic Trust, September’s weekends will see hundreds of architectural gems, fascinating museums, historic sites and other hidden treasures open their doors to the public on Saturdays and Sundays throughout throughout the month, 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. Please note, booking in advance is recommended for many of the guided tours, and opening dates and times should be checked before you go.
Here are a few highlights to look forward to:
Weekend One: 4 – 5 September
Areas: Dumfries & Galloway, East Fife, East Renfrewshire, Inverness and surrounding area, Renfrewshire and Scottish Borders.
- Mull of Galloway Lighthouse & Exhibition Centre – built by Robert Stevenson in 1828, the Lighthouse took two years to finish and was first lit on 26th March 1830. Standing at 26 metres high, with the light standing 99 metres above sea level, its a real sight to see! This year, due to Covid-19, the tower will be unable to open, but there will be a Garden Party event including live music, lots of craft stalls and Lochryan Pipe Band. The Foghorn engines will be switched on and the Foghorn blasted.
- Moat Brae: Children’s Literature & Storytelling – calling all fans of Peter Pan, Neverland, and never growing up! Head to Moat Brae for a magical time exploring the landscape that inspired J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan novel.
- Falkland Heritage Walk – not only is Falkland home to a Royal Palace, it features an interesting industrial heritage too. Uncover the Design and Heritage Walk which loops out from the town’s centre, telling the tales of the linen trade across various venues.
- Paisley Central Methodist Hall – this magnificent Edwardian building was designed by architects Watson and Salmond in 1908. Venture along the self-guided tour around the building, starting on the ground floor, then towards the auditorium and finishing in the Heritage Room on the second floor.
- Inverness Creative Academy – Explore two beautiful B-listed former school buildings on the Inverness Royal Academy site transformed into the largest creative facility in the Highlands for artists, designers, makers, creative industries, arts organisations and cultural social enterprises. Tour around the open studios and enjoy a range of exhibition materials.
Weekend Two: 11 – 12 September
Areas: Ayrshire, Aberdeen City, Angus, Black Isle, Ross and Cromarty, Central Fife, Midlothian (Saturday), Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian.
- Angus Archives at Carnoustie Library – hitting the road for Doors Open Days, Angus Archive will be popping up at Carnoustie Library where the can answer all your family and local history questions, as well as tell you more about their amazing collections and the work they do.
- Enjoy tours at Ardrossan Castle – a ruined 15th century stronghold, medieval church and graveyard. The castle is even rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of William Wallace.
- Dysart St Clair Parish Church – Did you know there is only one example of artwork from Charles Rennie Mackintosh on the east coast of Scotland? Well, there is. And it can be seen on display after morning service in the Dysart St Clair Parish Church.
- Wemyss Bay Station – this railway station boasts a unique design history. Built 1865, but rebuilt in 1903 to accommodate more passengers, Wemyss Bay Station is home to an interesting curvature design, aimed to ease the flow of passengers – Glasgow Central Station also features the same design. Book ahead for a tour.
- Dalkeith Museum – explore the museums latest exhibition ‘John Kay and Anthony Kirk – From Dalkeith to New York to Dalkeith Museum’, which explores how a local Dalkeith barber made it to the most noted and prolific Scottish caricaturist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival, 13 – 19 September
Glasgow’s doors are open for a week with special exhibitions, guided walks and places to explore as part of Glasgow’s Doors Open Days Festival.
- A fine example of Victorian architecture, see inside the Arlington Baths Club, a private members club and a peaceful retreat for busy citizens of Glasgow. See the unique Turkish Suite and stylish members lounge, reading room and billiard’s room.
- A popular spot in the city centre, Glasgow Necropolis is a magnificent sight to see. Book your tickets for the friendly and informal tour to hear the tales and stories of the city’s engineers, ship builders, architects, poets, artists, ministers, and more. (Tickets available from 1 September).
- 51 Glasgow Doors – view the Dear Green Doors artwork by Glasgow artist and Arlington member, Marion Gardyne, depicting 51 of Glasgow’s outstanding, quirky and eye-catching doors. Learn about each one and take home a high quality print.
Explore more Glasgow Doors Open Days events.
Weekend Three: 18 – 19 September
Areas: Aberdeenshire, Caithness, Falkirk, Moray (Saturday), North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth & Kinross, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Fife
- Tibbermore Church – this iconic 212ft steeple stands on the bank of the River Tay, and is known to Outlander fans around the world as Cranesmuir Church, scene of the infamous witch trial. For Doors Open Days, you can explore the church and stand in the pulpit – if you dare!
- Bannockburn House – take a tour of this historic Category A-listed property, which has survived largely unchanged since the 17th century apart from a Victorian extension. Uncover the house’s connections to centuries of history, its connections to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Jacobite movement and the worldwide tartan trade.
- Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church – this stunning church dates from the late 1878 and boasts incredible high-quality stained glass windows, a range of military memorials, and includes carved war memorials in the Memorial Chapel too. Venture on a guided tour to explore all that this church has to offer.
Weekend Four: 25 – 26 September
Areas: Argyll & Bute, Badenoch & Strathspey, Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Edinburgh, Shetland
- Alloa Fire Station – enjoy a tour where you can learn all about what it means to be part of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, with stories to hear and a whole range of specialist equipment to see too.
- Amisfield Walled Garden – dating from 1783, this walled garden was once home to Amisfield House, a Palladian mansion that was demolished in 1920. The garden was saved and restored and in recent years has become a beautiful garden space and thriving community facility.
- Astoria Centre – this Doors Open Days, the Astoria Centre is inviting visitors to come hear the Astoria Organ played live at set times throughout the day. This organ was one of the smallest ever installed in a cinema but still ‘packed a punch’ and has been described by the British Institute of Organ Studies as “a gem of an organ with a quality of sound that belied its small size.”
- Gaada – based in the former Burra Isle Methodist Chapel, Gaada was founded in 1893 and was at the very heart of Burra community life. Learn about Gaada’s Work, browse exhibition ‘Mak a Laang Erm’ showcasing the incredible artwork created in the workshop, screenprint your very own bag, browse Gaada’s Island Zine Library and more.
Of course, there are many more amazing places opening their doors across Scotland, with events taking place during the whole month of September. Please always check the Doors Open Days website for further details and always check dates before you visit.