Cumbria Tourism is welcoming the return of England’s largest festival of history and culture this week, with dozens of free events taking place across the county as part of the annual ‘Heritage Open Days’ initiative – many of which are being held online.
Nationwide, thousands of places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community, and history every year – giving visitors the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences free of charge.
Established in 1994, this year’s programme runs until Sunday 20 September and for the first time will consist of both in-person and digital events from the comfort of their own homes.
This year’s theme is ‘Hidden Nature’, which offers an opportunity to discover the nature that exists on our doorsteps. Events include a virtual tour of Lancaster Canal’s northern reaches, a National Trust ranger-led walk at Loughrigg, a guided walk to the Stainton Aqueduct at Crooklands, tours of West Cumbria’s churches and many more.
Clare Huggonson from Sedbergh’s Farfield Mill says, “We are fortunate at Farfield Mill having lots of space, so visitors will find it easy to socially distance. However, we wanted to be able to share our heritage with everyone, so we now have our displays online for all to enjoy, with more details on our website.”
Carlisle Cathedral has reported high levels of enthusiasm, with people being given the chance to enter part of the building which is usually off-limits, with two tours already fully-booked. Sarah Cameron, Head of Heritage Learning, says, “It is exciting to see how we can adapt to the current climate and engage our audiences in our heritage once again. Through the tours, visitors will gain behind the scenes access to one of Carlisle Cathedral’s hidden gems, the Prior’s Room and its stunning Tudor painted ceiling. This space is not usually open to the public so we think this will be a really special event.”
Adam Bewley, the Cathedral’s Head of Visitor Services says, “We are thrilled to be able to offer exclusive tours of our amazing Prior’s Tower for Heritage Open Days. Since reopening the Cathedral after lockdown, we have seen our visitor number increase week after week, which shows there is a real interest from local people in the cathedral’s heritage. Although the Prior’s Tower tours were booked within a few days of becoming available, the Cathedral is open seven days a week and is always free to enter.”
Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Cumbria Tourism has always been a firm supporter of the festival, which celebrates our fantastic architecture and culture, offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. The events fit perfectly with our work to encourage people to visit a new place or experience something for the first time while staying safe and adhering to the government’s latest social distancing measures.”
You can see Cumbria’s full listings here, and remember to book-ahead, directly with the organisers of each event before attending.