Heritage Open Days 2021: the 9 best events in Dorset

A path lined by topiary leads to the stone Lulworth Castle

Lulworth Castle - Credit: anguskirk, Flickr

We've picked nine amazing places to go during the Heritage Open Days this month, all of which are free to enter.

Every year, more institutions are added to the amazing September calendar of Heritage Open Days in England. This is the largest festival of history and culture in the country, bringing together over 2,000 local people and organisations, and thousands of volunteers. It's an opportunity to appreciate all the treasures on your doorstep and all without paying a penny. There will be an array of different open houses, talks, and tours taking place between the 10th and 19th of September.

This year, Dorset has so many amazing options that it can be hard to pick which to attend. We've put together a list of some of the best where there will be ample opportunity to explore, take a walk, or listen to a talk by a local expert.

Restored Blemont House

Restored Belmont House - Credit: Archant

Belmont

Where: Lyme Regis, DT7 3HZ

When: 18th - 19th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: Required, booking closes 17th September

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The recently restored villa of Belmont has a huge amount of history from inspiring The French Lieutenant's Woman to housing the lady who transformed late-18th century architecture. There will be information leaflets as well as children's activity guides on entry.

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Clavell Tower

Where: Kimmeridge Bay, BH20 5PE

When: 11th - 12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: Required, booking closes 10th September

A rare treat to look inside this iconic tower which has captivated many, including writers like Hardy and P. D. James. Don't forget to check out their mini prehistoric exhibition from The Etches collection.

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Decoy Bunker Tour

Where: Moors Valley Country Park, BH24 2ET

When: 11th -12th, 10am - 2pm

Booking: Required

An unusual treat to "discover more about a battle conducted in the shadows that saved thousands of lives." Why not tie it in a with a stroll in this beautiful part of the county.

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Dunshay Manor

Dunshay Manor - Credit: John MIller

Dunshay Manor

Where: Swanage, BH19 3EB

When: 11th -12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: Required, booking closes 10th September

Now owned and managed by the Landmark Trust, this beautiful house was once home to a great artistic family. Newly restored, this is a fantastic opportunity to find out more, with activity sheets for younger visitors.

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HM Prison Dorchester

Where: Dorchester

When: 12th, 11am - 4pm

Booking: Required

Closed in 2014, this Victorian prison makes for an atmospheric visit that is normally closed to the public. Learn more about Martha Brown, Hardy's inspirations for Tess of the D'urbevilles, and many more who were incarcerated there.

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Lulworth Castle & Park

Where: East Lulworth, BH20 5QS

When: 15th - 16th, 10:30am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

A royal day out is in store at Lulworth Castle as you stroll the same landscape as the 17th century aristocracy. You can also explore their Roman Catholic Chapel before relaxing with refreshments at the Tearoom.

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A pair of hands mould a lump of clay on a wooden table

Ceramics and Clay - Credit: Alex Jones, Unsplash

Poole - All Fired Up!

Where: The Spire, Poole

When: Afternoons from 6th - 17th

Booking: No booking required

Go and meet artist, Freya Gabie, who is working with local community groups on a project that twins the town with Stoke-on-Trent. On the 17th, there will be an open exhibition to see all the amazing work that has gone on too.

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Weymouth’s Hidden Heritage

Where: Weymouth Museum and Nothe Fort

When: 11th, 10am - 3pm. 12th, 11am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Celebrate 450 years of Weymouth with events at the Museum one day, and then at the Fort the next. From ghost tours and family activities, to a 'Victorian Beach Day' in Hope Square, there's something for everyone at this great event.

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Woodsford Castle

Where: Woodsford, DT2 8AS

When: 11th - 12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Last but by no means least, we have the remnants of a 14th century castle which stands on the site of possibly a much older structure. It's not often this building is open to the public and the grounds make a great spot for a picnic when you've finished wandering.

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Woodsford Castle

Woodsford Castle - Credit: Archant

See the full list of Heritage Open Days on their website here. Remember to check the status of the event before your visit to avoid any cancellations.