Heritage Open Days and other local history events happening in September

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Heritage Open Days and local history couple Bolton castle

How well do you know your local area? This month, you'll have the perfect opportunity to explore the UK's vast array of heritage sites, thanks to a series of special events

No matter where you live in the UK, there is sure to be some fascinating history right on your doorstep.

Many of us tend to take our local area for granted. But the next time you go for a walk, have a good look around you. You might well spot an old building or two that you've never noticed before. More often than not, they won't look especially impressive – some may have faded or even fallen into a state of disrepair – but you can bet your bottom dollar that each of them will have its own colourful back story.

Sadly, there won't still be historical records of every old building in the UK (see what you can find on Historic England's exhaustive database, and maybe rack the brains of your local history society). However, a large number of these amazing relics are about to have their secrets uncovered as part of a series of heritage events happening in the month of September. 

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Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days children castle

There's so much history for families to explore

In terms of sheer scale, the biggest of these events is undoubtedly Heritage Open Days (11-20 September). Established in 1994 as part of the European Heritage Days initiative, this huge annual festival is a nationwide celebration of England's extraordinary history.

Each September, volunteers across the country organise more than 5,000 events based around England's rich tapestry of heritage sites, from castles to Cold War bunkers, cathedrals to collieries – and they're all completely free.

You'll have the opportunity to join guided walks, listen to lectures, take part in special workshops and discover archive materials – and there will be plenty of activities for the kids to enjoy, too. What's more, many of the associated historical sites will not normally be open to the public, so you'll experience the thrill of exploring them for the first time. 

Due to the coronavirus, some events and activities will be taking place online this year, though many will still be happening in a physical sense. To search for events in your local area, click here.

• Read our guide to making your daily walks more fun

Open season 

Heritage Open Days Royal Naval College

The Royal Naval College in Greenwich will be welcoming visitors this month

Heritage Open Days isn't the only free festival that history buffs should be pencilling into their diaries this month. Also running in September are Bristol Open Doors (11-13 September) and London's Open House festival (19-27 September), both of which give members of the public a rare chance to take a look inside buildings of architectural and cultural significance. 

In response to the coronavirus risk, this year the organisers have introduced a number of measures to help visitors social distance, including self-led walking tours and podcasts; and there will also be plenty of related content online.

Moving entirely online this year is Scotland's Doors Open Days festival (every weekend in September). Dozens of awe-inspiring sites, from ancient abbeys to poignant war memorials, will be available to visit virtually, meaning you can explore to your heart's content – and all while sipping a hot mug of tea. 

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Historical days out 

Heritage Open Days Audley End

Audley End House is one of many properties owned by English Heritage

If you're unable to attend any of the aforementioned events, don't worry as the UK is home to a vast number of historical buildings and sites that are open to visitors all year round. English Heritage and the National Trust both look after some amazing properties, from ancient forts to stately houses and gardens, many of which have now reopened in some capacity. 

Taking out an annual membership with these organisations is a cost-effective way to get your history fix, as you'll be able to explore unlimited sites over the course of a year, for one set price. And even better, Boundless members can currently get money off an English Heritage membership. To find out more, click here.

Do you have a favourite heritage site that you'd like to tell us about? Leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter.

Photos: Getty Images