HERITAGE Open Days celebrates its 25th anniversary with ten days of free events next month. It is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together more than 2,000 organisations, 5,000 events and some 40,000 volunteers.

A host of museums, landmarks and historic buildings throughout Dorset will be throwing their doors open to celebrate their heritage, community and history this September, as part of the annual Heritage Open Days event.

It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all free, including access to many sites that would usually charge an admission fee. In 2018, more than three million visitors across the country enjoyed the chance to see behind closed doors at a range of venues.

Thanks to support from the National Trust and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the festival will offer visitors across the south west the opportunity to enjoy family days out, explore places not normally open to the public, and learn more about the heritage on their doorstep.

A special programme of People Power events will also highlight communities, groups and individuals - both contemporary and from history – who have affected positive change; buildings saved, greenspaces created, friendships forged, campaigns fought and voices heard.

Heritage Open Days runs this year from September 13 to 22. The event is co-ordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and run locally by a large range of organisations including civic societies, heritage organisations, and local councils, community champions and thousands of enthusiastic volunteers.

Here is our round-up of some of the best events taking place in Dorset...

Weymouth Town Walk, Weymouth Civic Society, Weymouth

Join Weymouth Civic Society for a guided tour of the town’s sea front. Starting on The Esplanade, visitors on this 2-hour walking tour will learn more about the old harbour, while seeing Georgian buildings and iconic features like the Pavilion and the Jubilee clock.

Saturday, September 14, 1pm

Talbot Heath School, Bournemouth

Experience civilian life in WWII in a fully refurbished and authentic air raid shelter. Rarely open to visitors, the festival is a chance to go inside one of the school’s four 100ft bunkers, which protected pupils during the war, as well as seeing archival records from the time. Saturday, September 14, 11am – 4pm

The Chained Library, Wimborne

Step back into history and visit this rare example of a 17th century chained library, with over 400 rare & ancient volumes, 150 of which are still chained. It holds works by Machiavelli, Sir Walter Raleigh & Plato, 8th century texts of the Early Christian Fathers in Latin, Greek & Hebrew as well as books on gardening, how to treat depression, house-building, etiquette & winemaking. The Guide will be pleased to answer your questions and tell you the amazing history of this literary jewel. The Chained Library is open every weekday through the summer and autumn 10.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4pm. Entrance is free but donations are welcome.

Beaminster Museum, Beaminster

Learn all about Beaminster’s local history at this museum in a converted chapel. As well as finding out about trade, agriculture and education, visitors will also enjoy the new displays on Neolithic and Roman life, and even see fossils found at nearby Horn Park National Nature Reserve. Both weekends, Tuesday, September 17 and Thursday, September 19, 10.30am – 4pm (2pm – 4.30pm on Sundays)

Highcliffe, Dorset Architectural Heritage Week, Christchurch

Discover a Gothic Revival castle on the cliff tops! With spectacular views across the Solent, visitors can also admire the Grade I architectural French masonry and 9-metre high stained-glass window, with an opportunity to see the newly restored East Wing. Wednesday, September 18, 10am – 5pm

Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation - Synagogue Prayer Hall, Bournemouth

Visit this architectural gem in the centre of Bournemouth. A place of Jewish worship for over 100 years, visitors can admire the building’s Art Nouveau and Moorish Revival style, square domed cupola and stained glass on a guided tour of the Prayer Hall. Wednesday, September 18, 10am

Dunshay Manor, The Landmark Trust, Swanage

See this newly restored manor house, normally closed to the general public. Visitors will also learn about the remarkable artistic family who lived there in the 20th century; the Spencer-Watsons, whose talents included portrait painting, sculpting, dance and mime. Saturday, September 21 and Sunday 22, 10am - 4pm

* For more details, see heritageopendays.org.uk