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Celebrate your national legacy with the Heritage Open Days

Once a year, national monuments, private properties, historic schools and former hospital buildings in Devon open their doors to the public for free admittance. These Heritage Open Days take place in mid-September and are well worth a visit. Read about Devon's 25 properties that will be open for the Heritage Open Days event then book your place on a special behind-the-scenes heritage tour.
Heritage Open Days take place in Devon and all over the UK during the second weekend in September. This special 4-day event sees thousands of buildings that are not normally open to the public fling open their doors and offer free guided tours.

Heritage Open Days are celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2014 and include a wide range of government buildings, meeting houses, archaeological sites, historic homes, museums, art venues and town halls.

This celebration of our national heritage is free to all, so mark the weekend in your calendar and make the most of it, wherever you find yourself. Some of the sites do require pre-booking so checkout the HOD website ahead of time and make your choice from green-living properties, heritage buildings, guided walks or family-friendly activities to suit your needs.

For the less well-organised there are plenty of places that you can just turn up at. Just look for the “No pre-booking required” option.

Heritage Open Days in Devon

If you live in or plan to visit between the 11 and 14 September 2014, here are just a few places that will be open to everyone for the Heritage Open Days event. Altogether 25 properties will be available.

One of the oldest and most interesting open day sites is the Chapel of St Lawrence in Ashburton. This 13th century chapel has unique plasterwork and was formerly the town’s Grammar School.

You can join a unique tour of the St Anne’s Arts and Community College in which is hosting a special free drawing class looking at the architecture of this beautiful building. There are just 12 places per session so you need to book early to join this special Heritage Open Day event.

Heritage Open Days in Plymouth

The historic maritime and naval city of has many interesting heritage buildings, so you can make quite a day or it if you book them all. Start at the Merchant’s House on St Andrew Street which was built in the 16th century by an Elizabethan privateer. A visit gives an insight into Plymouth’s history including the Blitz and the Victorian eras.

Move on to the Plymouth City Museum on Drake’s Circus and browse the exhibits including the commemorative display entitled “Plymouth and the Great War”. The professional storyteller and musician will have you spellbound with his tales of Plymouth which are aimed at visitors aged 7 to 107!

Popular Smeaton’s Tower on the Hoe offers free admission on Friday 12 September 2014 as part of its participation in Devon’s Heritage Open Day.

The Elizabethan House is a short walk away on the Barbican. Built in the late 1500s it has seen plenty of history over its 500 year history. Explore this historic sea captain’s home and learn how it was fortuitously saved from demolition in the early 1900s.

A more unusual HOD offering is a guided tour of Ford Park Cemetery, the oldest in Plymouth which has many important people buried beneath its 34 acres. Learn the symbolism carved by Victorian stonemasons onto the wonderful headstones.

Other Heritage Open Day highlights in Devon

Many properties in Devon offer free admission as part of the Heritage Open Days event. Tour the treasures of Arlington Court, step inside Saltram House and Gardens, take a 3-mile walk in Lydford Gorge, visit the beautiful Coleton Fishacre estate in or see the workings of Finch Foundry, all without charge.

I think my pick will be Hemyock Castle, a moated mediaeval castle near Honiton with a cider press and archaeological remains. This scheduled Ancient Monument is on privately owned land and the beauty of the Heritage Open Day means it is a rare opportunity to see behind the gates, or should that be portcullis?

Have you planned to take advantage of the Heritage Open Days in Devon? Let us know your pick, and why!

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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