Heritage Open Days - FREE Entry to Top North East Attractions

Heritage Open Days return this September. 100s of venues across the North East will open their doors and provide special events, behind the scenese tours or simply access to the public completely free of charge. 

There are some brilliant places to visit and most do not require pre-booking. My top picks are included in this post but please check the Heritage Open Days website and use their postcode checker to see what's on near you as there are 100s of events taking place.

All venues provide FREE entry for all on the dates mentioned in their listing and because of this, some og the more popular sites can get busy. 

Always check for up to date info from the Heritage Open Days website or venues direct before heading off as the information in this post may change. 

Here are my top picks...... 

Scroll to the bottom of this post for an easy-to-view list with the attraction names and dates they are offering free entry. 

Seaton Delaval Hall, The Avenue, Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, NE26 4QR

Heritage Open Days - FREE Entry to Top North East Attractions



The Avenue, Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay, Northumberland, NE26 4QP

Seaton Delaval Hall may have been one of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh’s smallest country houses; but it was home to the larger than life Delaval family. Discover more and visit the Hall for free as part of Heritage Open Day.

Visit the Central Hall, Basement, West Wing, gardens & grounds. Join a 30-minute Potted History Talk with one of our knowledgeable guides and discover more about the hall and its past. You can also join our gardening team for a tour to see what’s in bloom and find out how the team care for the landscape and gardens surrounding the Hall. Also, travel here by bus, on foot or cycle and take a turn on the Seaton Spinner to be in with a chance to win a prize.

Event Times

Friday 15 September
Saturday 16 September

Booking Details

No booking required

Read about our 2020 visit to Seaton Delaval Hall (and see photos of their play area) here. 


St. Marys Lighthouse, St. Marys Island, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, NE26 4RS

Heritage Open Days - FREE Entry to Top North East Attractions

St. Marys Lighthouse, St. Marys Island, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, NE26 4RS

To Celebrate Heritage Open Days we offering free admission to St. Mary's Lighthouse and the opportunity to climb the stairs to the top of the tower.

Reached between the tides via a short causeway, St. Mary’s has all the fascination of a miniature, part-time island. The Lighthouse, completed in 1898 on a hazardous coast for shipping, remained operational until 1984 when it was superseded by modern navigational techniques. Since then the Lighthouse and former keepers’ cottages have been operated as a visitor centre by North Tyneside Council. The surrounding Nature Reserve contains an area of rockpools, clifftop grassland, and wetland habitats. Climb the 137 steps to the top of the Lighthouse for the most spectacular views of the North East coast.

Event Times

Thursday 14 September: Free admission 10:30-13:30 (last admission 13:00)
Friday 15 September: Free admission 10:30-14:00 (last admission 13:30)
Saturday 16 September: Free admission 10:30-14:30 (last admission 14:00)
Sunday 17 September: Free admission 10:30-15:00 (last admission 14:30)

Booking Details

No booking required

Access

Climbing the tower requires ascending 137 steps.




Stephenson Railway Museum, Middle Engine Lane, North Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE29 8DX



Stephenson Railway Museum, Middle Engine Lane, North Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE29 8DX

Take a four mile return trip on Sunday 10th September 2023

Take a four mile return trip following the route of the coal trains from the collieries to the River Tyne behind a vintage locomotive in our 1950s passenger carriages.

No need to book, just turn up on the day. Train departure times to be confirmed.

Event Times

Sunday 10 September: Times to be confirmed

Booking Details

No booking required

Access

Wheelchairs and prams/pushchairs cannot be taken on board trains, but they can be left on the platform.

Read our review of Stephenson Railway and see more photos here. 


Woodhorn Museum 

Woodhorn Museum, Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Ashington, Northumberland, NE63 9YF

Dig deeper into Northumberland's coal mining heritage.

Woodhorn Museum brings to life Northumberland’s proud mining heritage, alongside an ever-changing contemporary arts and event programme – making it a fun and educational day out for all the family.

• Explore the heritage buildings.
• Take a journey through Coal Town and discover what life was like through the years in a Northumbrian mining community.
• Be inspired by the Pitmen Painters, the world-famous group of amateur artists.
• Refuel at the Winding House Café, which serves up a fantastic selection of hot and cold food and refreshments.
• Have fun in the Pit Yard Play Area - now fully accessible allowing all ages and abilities to play together.
• Dig deeper and join one of the free daily spotlight tours.

How to find us

Woodhorn Museum is in QEII Country Park. It is just off the A189 Coastal Route near Ashington.

If you are planning to use a Sat Nav, take care! Woodhorn’s postcode (NE63 9YF) will take you to the wrong place. Please ignore your Sat Nav and follow the Brown and White signs as you get close and look out for our large banners at the main entrance.

Woodhorn Museum is fully accessible and is dog friendly. Only assistance dogs are allowed in the main Cutter Building and Café.

Event Times

Saturday 9 September: 10am-4pm
Sunday 10 September: 10am-4pm

Booking Details

No booking required


Segedunum Roman Fort, Buddle Street, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, NE28 6HR




Segedunum Bath House & Museum, Station Road, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, NE28 6HR

Free entry to the site over the weekend.

Free entry to Segedunum Roman Fort on both Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September especially for Heritage Open Days.

Event Times

Saturday 9 September: 1000-1700
Sunday 10 September: 1000-1700

Booking Details

No booking required

Read our review of Segedunum here. 

Victoria Tunnel, Ouse Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 2DQ



Victoria Tunnel Entrance, Ouse Street, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 2PF

The Victoria Tunnel is a hidden engineering marvel, snaking two miles beneath Newcastle's streets. Come along to get a sneak peek at life in an underground Victorian waggonway, and see its rich history is brought to life with free guided tours.

For Heritage Open Days 2023, Ouseburn Trust would like to welcome you to free guided taster tours of the Victoria Tunnel.

The Victoria Tunnel is a preserved 19th century waggonway, running under the city of Newcastle from the Town Moor to the Tyne. Originally built in 1838 by engineer William Gillespie to to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery to the river, the Tunnel was converted in 1939 into an air raid shelter to protect thousands of Newcastle citizens during World War II -- but was then sealed up and left forgotten for 60 years. In 2008 the Victoria Tunnel was carefully repaired and opened for guided tours with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, led by the Ouseburn Trust's award winning volunteer guides.

Tours will last around 20 minutes, with a chance to see the bowels of the city for yourself. Learn what life was like for the clay-kickers who built the tunnel, listen out for the rumble of distant coal waggons, and marvel at a creative yet hidden feat of Victorian engineering.

Event Times

Thursday 14 September: 12:00-16:00

Booking Details

No booking required

Read our review of Victoria Tunnel here. 

Washington Old Hall , The Avenue, Washington, Tyne & Wear, NE38 7LE



Washington Old Hall Lodge, The Avenue, Washington, Tyne & Wear, NE38 7LE

Free for Heritage Open Day. Explore the hall and the gardens in the changing seasons.

Explore the Great Hall, find out how residents used to live in the tenement room and discover the connections Washington has to American presidents from the past.

Enjoy the changing season in the gardens, stretch your legs on the lawn and bring along a picnic. Smell the crisp autumn air while you stroll through the Nuttery and Parterre, and see what wildlife you can spot in the pond.

If you feel peckish on your visit, pop into Washington village and try some local delights in the many eateries.

Event Times

Saturday 9 September: 1000-1700

Booking Details

No booking required

Read our review of Washington Old Hall here 

National Trust, Gibside, Burnopfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE16 6BG



National Trust, Gibside, Burnopfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE16 6BG

Explore acres of garden and woodland on a walk around Gibside to discover wildlife, outdoor play and historical ruins. Join a history guide as they tell stories of the rarely-opened Chapel crypt. Discover the work we do by meeting the Gibside team.

On the edge of Newcastle, this Georgian landscape garden was built with 'wow' moments in mind. Different walking trails run through acres of garden, past the ruin of Gibside Hall, columned Palladian chapel, man-made terraces and impressive views. Towering above, the Column to Liberty gives a glimpse into the stormy history of Mary Eleanor Bowes. Nature-rich, Gibside is home to roe deer and red kites, it has amphibian-filled ponds and a fruitful walled garden. On the Explorer trail, families can challenge themselves at the Low Ropes course and zoom along the zip line at the adventure play area. There are seasonal events for all ages and weekly guided tours for garden and history enthusiasts. The Market Place café offers a range of cakes, bakes and a place to relax, with a second-hand bookshop next door. An off-lead area for dogs is available by the Stables coffee shop.

Event Times

Saturday 16 September: 1000-1800, History and crypt tours intermittently throughout the day
Sunday 17 September: 1000-1800, History and crypt tours intermittently throughout the day

Booking Details

No booking required

Wallington Hall, Wallington, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 4AR



Wallington Hall, Wallington, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 4AR

Delve into the history of Wallington and the people that called it home. Visit the house, gardens and take a woodland or riverside walk. Support our conservation work with lunch in the cafe and a visit to the shops.

Sitting in a rural corner of Northumberland yet only 20 miles north west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Wallington is a large estate where a historical house meets rolling hills, extensive woodland and a walled garden. Take time to explore and discover the variety of spaces, both indoors and out and keep your eyes peeled for the native wildlife Рfrom red squirrels and nuthatches to white-clawed crayfish and otters. For an active adventure, take to the Dragon cycle trail and be inspired by far-reaching views across the Northumbrian countryside. Once home to the unconventional Trevelyan family, the informal house displays beautiful collections, whilst the four outdoor playparks capture the spirit of the adventurous Trevelyan children. Refuel at the Clocktower caf̩ with hot and cold refreshments daily. Discover the seasonal kiosks in the walled garden, courtyard and west woods. Treat yourself to gifts and souvenirs from the shops and plant centre.

Wallington’s welcoming house team are eager to share their knowledge of the fine collection of paintings, ceramics, books and the rich history of the donor family and as part of the Heritage Open Days at Wallington this year.

Event Times

Sunday 10 September: 1000-1700
Monday 11 September: 1000-1700

Booking Details

No booking required

Check out my following blog posts: 

Cragside

Cragside (National Trust), Rothbury, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 7PX



Cragside (National Trust), Rothbury, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE65 7PX

Experience Britain's original smart home. Discover how William Armstrong used water to power hydraulics and illuminate the house with hydroelectricity.

This pioneering home is filled with Victorian gadgets for efficient, modern living. The house sits at the heart of a grand designer garden, created for beauty and function. Walk along the banks of man-made lakes and and discover foaming waterfalls, wander under the canopy of some of the tallest trees of their kind in the country in the Pinetum, meander along the weaving paths of and tumbling cascades of the Rock Garden and witness the changing seasons at the Formal Garden. See the whole estate by car along the Carriage Drive where hilltop lakes and wildlife are waiting to be discovered.

Event Times

Friday 15 September: 1000-1600

Booking Details

No booking required


Read about our last trip to Cragside featuring the beautiful formal gardens here. 

Durham Castle. University College, The Castle, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RW

Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RW

Sign up on the day at Palace Green Library for a tour of Durham Castle.

Sitting at the heart of Durham's World Heritage Site and occupied continuously since the 11th century, the Castle is now home to the students of  University College, part of Durham University.

The history of Durham Castle spans nearly 1000 years of history. It is the embodiment of our shared British story, with each twist and turn of our national fortunes etched into the fabric of its mighty walls.

Building began, under the orders of William the Conqueror in 1072, by Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria prior to being handed over to Walcher, Bishop of Durham. Durham Castle remained in the hands of successive Bishops for almost 750 years. During that time, the Castle has been the backdrop to rebellions, civil wars, political upheaval, plagues, famines, and religious reforms, and yet the Castle itself has never been taken by force.

As representatives of the King’s authority in the North, Durham’s Prince Bishops were granted various secular powers, such as the right to hold their own courts of law, raise their own armies and to mint their own coinage. Their privileged position and the wealth derived from their estates allowed them to develop and maintain Durham Castle on a grand scale.

As well as being a military stronghold, and centre of civic authority, the Castle was the ceremonial palace of the Bishops of Durham. Some of these Bishops embarked upon major projects to extend, alter and remodelled the buildings.

Event Times

Sunday 17 September: TBC nearer to the day.

Booking Details

No booking required

Durham Cathedral Museum 

Durham Cathedral, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3EH

Durham Cathedral Museum will be open for free for one day only

Come and explore Durham Cathedral Museum for free this Heritage Open Day.

Inside you will find the relics of St. Cuthbert which includes the iconic Pectoral Cross, his 7th century oak coffin and the sword that inspired Lewis Carroll to write Jabberwocky.

Our temporary exhibition, Exploring Creation, features a collection of the Cathedral's books on plants, animals, dinosaurs and volcanoes!

Event Times

Saturday 9 September: 10.00-16.00

Booking Details

Pre-booking: Preferred


Hexham Old Gaol

Hexham Old Gaol, Hallgate, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 1XD



Hexham Old Gaol, Hall Gate, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 1XD

Visit England’s oldest gaol and relive important moments from our region's turbulent past.

Hexham Old Gaol explores crime and punishment from 1333 to Victorian times, and tells the story of the infamous Border Reivers.

Opened in 1333, Hexham Old Gaol is the oldest purpose-built prison in
England. The Old Gaol was used until the 1820s when it became a bank and solicitors’ office.

• Learn about the Border Reivers – local families including the Charltons, Dodds,
Milburns and Robsons, famous for causing trouble.
• Discover more about Northumberland’s challenging history as a border county.
• Don’t miss the free daily talks and tours.

Event Times

Saturday 9 September: 10am-4pm
Sunday 10 September: 10am-4pm
Saturday 16 September: 10am-4pm
Sunday 17 September: 10am-4pm

Booking Details

No booking required


Read about our trip to Hexham Old Gaol here. 


The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP



The Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP

The Bowes Museum is throwing open its doors for free entry to everyone on Saturday 16 September as part Heritage Open Day.

Visitors to the Museum will be able to take advantage of a half price membership offer, only available to new members.

Meet some of the artists whose work is on show in The Magic of the Silver Swan exhibition, including Martin Smith, Helen Pailing and Kinnari Saraiya to find out what inspired them to create their pieces as well as join in Artist Makers sessions with a ceramicist, mixed media artist and animator to make their own works to take home.

With behind the scenes tours led by specialist staff to the painting stores, vaults, fashion and textile gallery cube and conservation studios there's the chance to discover some Museum secrets, and more about the making of A Collector's Story: A Private Collection of Vivienne Westwood. There will also be different guided Spotlight tours every half hour, inside and out, talks about different items in the collection, from the roman head pots to the story of the Museum and the opportunity to find out how to volunteer.

There will be a Camera Obscura in the grounds to see things from a new perspective and get an idea of how the Italian painter Canaletto came to create his two master works on show in the picture galleries.

With Stay and Play self led activities in the galleries for our younger audiences, there promises to be something for everyone to enjoy as the Museum joins this national festival of history and culture.

Event Times

Saturday 16 September: 1000 - 1700

Booking Details

No booking required

Read our review of The Bowes Museum here. 

Ormesby Hall. Ormesby Hall, Ladgate Lane, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, TS3 0SR



Ormesby Hall, Ladgate Lane, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, TS3 0SR

Home to the Pennyman family, Ormesby Hall, garden and parkland is a green oasis in the heart of industrial Middlesbrough. As part of Heritage Open Days 2023, you can visit Ormesby Hall for free on the below dates.

Today you'll find a classic Georgian mansion, with a listed stable block, surrounded by 240 acres of parkland and farmland, which offer year-round seasonal walks with a colourful Victorian formal garden accompanying the mansion. The formal garden boasts colourful seasonal displays and newly established herbaceous borders, with a wildflower meadow, orchard and pond creating a green oasis.
In the year that marks 90 years since the first theatre performance at Ormesby Hall, you can discover more about the theatrical daring of Ruth Pennyman and all her artistic exploits.

Conservation plays a vital part in caring for Ormesby Hall, so make sure to drop by on our Heritage Open Days to see the conservation team in action and what they do to look after Ormesby Hall.

Ormesby Hall also has a yearly events programme.

Event Times

Friday 15 September: 1030-1600
Saturday 16 September: 1030-1600
Sunday 17 September: 1030-1600

Booking Details

No booking required

Read our review of Ormesby Hall here. 


The following attractions are offering FREE entry on the following dates thanks to Heritage Open Days. No booking required, just turn up (other dates & attractions are available).

(🐶) = dogs welcome (at least some areas)

Saturday 9 September
Woodhorn Museum (🐶)
Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum
Washington Old Hall  (🐶)
Durham Cathedral Museum
Hexham Old Gaol  (🐶)

Sunday 10 September
Woodhorn Museum  (🐶)
Wallington  (🐶)
Stephenson Railway
Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum
Hexham Old Gaol  (🐶)

Friday 15 September
Seaton Delaval Hall  (🐶)
St Mary’s Lighthouse
Cragside House and Gardens  (🐶)
Ormesby Hall  (🐶)

Saturday 16 September
Seaton Delaval Hall  (🐶)
St Mary’s Lighthouse
Gibside  (🐶)
Hexham Old Gaol  (🐶)
The Bowes Museum
Ormesby Hall  (🐶)

Sunday 17 September
St Mary’s Lighthouse
Gibside  (🐶)
Durham Castle Tours
Hexham Old Gaol  (🐶)
Ormesby Hall   (🐶)

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