Open doors in Falkirk to reveal their hidden secrets

Doors open...Erskine Parish Church, pictured in 1910, is still welcoming people through the doors and a warm welcome is extended to all thise weekend.
Doors open...Erskine Parish Church, pictured in 1910, is still welcoming people through the doors and a warm welcome is extended to all thise weekend.

Back in 1990 some bright spark suggested that historic buildings not usually open to

the public should allow visitors to see inside, if only for a limited time.

Worth a drive...to visit Bannockburn House where Bonnie Prince Charlie was entertained by his mistress!

Worth a drive...to visit Bannockburn House where Bonnie Prince Charlie was entertained by his mistress!

Thus Doors Open Days was born. Since then, each September, hundreds of closed places have revealed their secrets to thousands of enthusiastic visitors who often make a day of touring round different parts of Scotland.

This year close on 1000 places will be opening, free of charge and often with guides on hand.

The weekends vary from place to place with Falkirk and Stirling scheduled for September 16 and 17.

I have to confess that the place I’m most looking forward to visiting is not in our area but, as usual, it does have a Falkirk connection.

Bannockburn House – which has been a no-go area for decades – was purchased by a community-led trust and a great deal of restoration work has already been done by a gang of volunteers know as The Scrubbers!

Back in 1746 on the day after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Army defeated the Hanovarian redcoats at Falkirk the Prince left the town and took up residence in Bannockburn House where his mistress Clementina Walkinshaw was waiting for him!

He had nearly a fortnight’s holiday there before getting back into his army boots and heading north to Culloden.

The house is a very grand mansion dating back to around 1680.

Unfortunately, it is only open on the Saturday with four tours limited to 15 people which means it may already be booked up.

It’s worth checking on the Stirling Open Doors brochure available online.

There you’ll find many other possible visits including Cowane’s Hospital (1630s) in Spittal Street and a number of local churches.

Churches are also open in Falkirk. The former Erskine Church, designed by William Black and opened in 1905 for the United Free Church, is now redesignated as Erskine Community Halls.

A fantastic space, well worth a visit, it is open on Saturday from 12pm to 4pm.

Larbert Old Parish Church is open both days starting at 10am on Saturday and 12.30pm on Sunday.

The present building dates back to 1820, though the congregation has its roots in a very early foundation more than 1000 years ago with the chapels of Lethbert and Donypas.

As well as seeing the magnificent church with its high quality stained glass windows, there will be guided tours of the historic graveyard which has many fascinating memorials including the Carron Enclosure housing monuments to the wealthy founders of the great ironworks. Tours are on the Saturday only, on the hour from 10am.

Down Bo’ness way, ancient Kinneil House will be open once again on Saturday from noon to 4pm and, as well as inspecting the famed religious murals in the palace wing, visitors will be able to see inside the shell of the central tower, which has been off limits in the past.

Finally, we have another chance to see inside Falkirk Steeple following its external and internal restoration.

The two jail cells used from 1814 until the 1860s to hold local offenders still have their great heavy doors in place. Access is up a spiral staircase so care is needed and, since space is limited, it would be better to book your visit in advance.

Along with the Open Doors programme there will be historical walking tours of the town centre both days at 2pm and 4pm, starting from Trinity Churchyard.

Details of all the Doors Open opening times are on Falkirk Community Trust’s website and leaflets are also available in our local libraries.