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The Gothic Temple: A splendid historic folly within the National Trust’s Stowe

Everything you need to know about Heritage Open Days

The Gothic Temple at Stowe:| Image: Heritage Open Days - Chris Lacey

Every September thousands of volunteers across England organise events to celebrate our fantastic history and culture. It's your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are FREE to explore.

Founded in 1994, Heritage Open Days has captured imaginations for almost 30 years. Last year more than 45,000 organisers and volunteers ran nearly 5,000 events across the country, attracting one million visits. Around one-third of visitors had not visited a heritage site/event in the past year while 80% of festival-goers said their visit made them more proud of their local area.

Find out more about Heritage Open Days, with these answers to frequently asked questions

What is Heritage Open Days?

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture. It is coordinated nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Locally, it is thousands of organisations and individuals from all walks of life who make the festival happen.

Every September since 1994, Heritage Open Days the festival has brought people together to celebrate their heritage, community and history. This year there are more than 5000 free events and activities taking place.

What role do volunteers in the Heritage Open Days?

This is a grassroots community festival during which thousands of organisations and volunteers give their time to open buildings, organise events, devise hands-on activities, and deliver tours. They are crucial to both the appeal and the success of the festival.

Can you give some examples of some local festival hubs and the part they’ve played in this year festival?

There are hubs in areas including Crewe, Cornwall, Norfolk, Oxfordshire and Surrey. These groups co-ordinate hundreds of volunteers to devise and delivery a varied programme of activities across their area. They work with partners, promote their events and look after visitors on the day. Like all our volunteers, they are passionate about uncovering and sharing some of the lesser-known stories behind the places and spaces in their communities.

When does the festival run from and to?

The festival runs from Friday 8 September to Sunday 17 September


What type of events can I expect?

It sounds like a cliché but there really is something for everyone. You could visit a historic house one day and try your hand at stone carving the next. There are opportunities to watch conservators preserving precious artefacts and follow costumed guides on walking tours. Whether you enjoy spending time in beautiful gardens, churches, art galleries or even factories, you will find an event that captures your imagination.

How many events are taking place this year?

More than 5200 events are taking place across England

How do I find out about events in my area?

Visit the Heritage Open Days website from where you can:

  • Search by postcode or use your current location to find the places and spaces on your doorstep that will be open during the festival.
  • Use the interactive map see what’s happening in your area and beyond.
  • Search for events by type using the advanced search tool. This enables you to choose the nature of the activity (performance, tour, walk) and the type of site (historic house, faith buildings, theatres)

Are events free to attend?

All Heritage Open Days events are free to attend

What is the theme of this year’s Heritage Open Days?

This year’s theme is Creativity Unwrapped. It gives us a chance to delve into thousands of years of creativity and to celebrate the experts and enthusiastic amateurs whose passions and skills give England its X-factor. Organisers have devised literary tours and poetry marathons, created workshops to demonstrate traditional skills (including pottery throwing and weaving), and have put rare or unseen collections on display.

What makes this year Heritage Open Days stand out?

Firstly, the scale of the festival; we are delighted to have more than 5000 events on offer. Secondly, the way in which organisers have embraced the theme and created such a diverse and varied range of activities.

What new events have been included in this year’s Heritage Open Days

There are hundreds of new sites and new events this year. We have recently welcomed the Southport Botanic Gardens, the Anne of Cleves House Museum in Sussex, and the College of Optometrists in London to the festival. New events include a behind-the-scenes tour at the V&A Wedgwood Collection in Stoke-on-Trent, an 1880s theme weekend in Lowestoft, and an introduction to archaeology at GWR Park in Swindon.

Which 3 events really capture the spirit of the festival’s theme?

Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

Take a peek behind the scenes of the RNCM with new tours, infused with the memories and anecdotes of its musical alumni. Finish your tour in the college's secret museum, the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, where you can see up close the weird and wonderful array of strings, percussion, brass, wind and some curious surprises, that live in this Manchester treasure trove. Relax with the launch of a new Digital Heritage Booth and listen to symphonies, master classes and more.

Saturday 16 September: 11am to 4pm drop-in, tours at half past the hour

Sunday 17 September: 11am to 4pm drop-in, tours at half past the hour

No booking required

Throwing Open the Concert Doors

Liskerrett Community & Arts Centre, Liskeard, Cornwall

Liskerrett is hosting a Creative Jam offering tasters in a wide variety of art forms to truly unwrap Liskeard’s creativity. Try your hand at something new from dance, music, art, printmaking, photography and writing workshops all linked to the heritage of the town.

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 4pm

No booking required

Liskeard Unlocked Creative Jam

The Lane, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Create art and textiles to interpret the extraordinary stories of this internationally significant landscape. Try your hand at chalk carving using flint and natural dyes, find out how flint tools are made, and make your own felt. Join a photography walk or follow in the footsteps of Eastbourne’s (pre)historic residents.

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 4pm: 11am – Photography walk, 1pm – Ecology walk to Butts Meadow, 2pm – Heritage walk to Combe Hill

No booking required

Creativity on the Downs with Changing Chalk

Are the events suitable for children?

There are almost 1500 family-friendly events with many organising activities specifically for children. Use the search tool on the Heritage Open Days website to find events happening near you.

How can I get involved for next year’s event?

Taking part is simple, just ensure all events are FREE from entrance to exit, offer something special or new for visitors to experience and take place during the festival dates in September. To find out more about joining the festival community in 2024, visit or email