There will be no excuse for moaning that there’s nothing to do in Falkirk on September 15 and 16.
For Falkirk Community Trust (FCT) has co-ordinated a packed programme of events for this year’s Doors Open Days festival.
Giving people a chance to explore buildings they may otherwise be unable to, completely free of charge, it’s a great way to find out more about treasures here on the doorstep and further afield.
More than 1000 buildings will open for free across Scotland during September, with each area having its own specific weekend.
The programme in Falkirk has been co-ordinated by Geoff Bailey, FCT’s heritage engagement officer.
It includes two castles, two churches, two prisons, two baths and a monumental burial ground with two cast iron obelisks.
With so much to see and do, we asked Geoff to talk us through the highlights – one of which, sadly, is already fully booked!
Geoff said: “Polmont Young Offenders Institute very kindly offered guided tours on September 16.
“Due to the requirement for security checks, we had to advertise it in advance and it’s already fully booked.
“We had it on the programme three years ago and it was oversubscribed then too.
“The 40 visitors who were lucky enough to book will be subject to airport-style security checks and there may even be sniffer dogs! But I’m sure they’ll enjoy finding out about the facility.
“It always gets a mixed reaction – some people can’t understand why anyone would want to go there while others are keen to see inside.”
Those who missed out, though, will still be able to visit a prison ... of sorts anyway.
For the town’s 140ft Steeple – designed by renowned Glasgow architest David Hamilton – and its two jail cells, is once again part of the programme.
Geoff said: “It’s the first time the Steeple has been open since the THI works were completed; people will see it’s a lot brighter and cleaner than it once was.
“A small spiral staircase leads to the two cells, the one right at the top for the women and, below that, the mens.
“Both retain their original reinforced doors and traces of the iron cladding of both the ceilings and the floors.
“People escaped from the previous tolbooth but not from the Steeple!
“Sadly, the warder’s cell was converted into an office years ago but we may have an opportunity to turn it into an interpretation room for the Steeple.”
Bo’ness Recreation Centre may not be quite as old but the building – designed on a sloping site in Gauze Road and opened in 1976 – is of great interest, hence its inclusion.
Geoff explained: “We’re giving people a chance to go below the swimming pool.
“The pool is set in a thick concrete trough, terraced into the hill slope.
“Tours will go around the side of that trough and slightly underneath it where, despite the thick concrete, water trickles through to create stalactites.
“While the pool uses mains water, it does go through a filtration process first to remove small particles and kill bacteria and parasites like Cryptosporidium.
“Visitors will be able to get a better insight into this process during the tours.”
Staying on a sporting theme, Falkirk Football Stadium will also be opening its doors from 10am to 4pm on September 16.
Due to team training, though, tours are subject to availability. Visit www.doorsopendays.org.uk for further details.
Those who prefer ecclesiastical, rather than hero, worship will be well catered for too with Larbert Old Parish Church, Larbert Churchyard and Christ Church in Falkirk all taking part, along with Falkirk Masonic Lodge and Kinneil House in Bo’ness.
Geoff said: “People may stop at the traffic lights outside Christ Church but never venture in and the interior is gorgeous.
“That’s the beauty of Doors Open Days – it gives people a chance to explore.”
Those who love local history should also pay a visit to the Falkirk archives in Callendar House.
Geoff added: “Big Roman Week starts on September 16 so the archives will host a special display of some of the antiquarian reports related to the Antonine Wall.
“Mungo Buchanan was a draughtsman with the Falkirk Iron Company.
“His record of work at Camelon, Rough Castle and Castlecary is essential to our understanding of the Roman frontier today.”
Events staged across Scotland
Doors Open Days is co-ordinated nationally by the Scottish Civic Trust.
It is part of European Heritage Days alongside Scottish Archaeology Month, which is co-ordinated by Archaeology Scotland.
Both Doors Open Days and Scottish Archaeology Month are supported by Historic Environment Scotland.
Area co-ordinators, who work for a variety of local authorities, civic trusts and heritage organisations, create and manage local programmes.
Across Scotland, more than 1000 buildings will be open and free to enter this September.
Many of them are not normally open to the public and some are opening for the first time. Castles, churches, mosques, museums, fire stations, offices, theatres and even a distillery are among the buildings taking part this year.
You can visit a winery and ciderhouse in Perth, an historic artist’s house in Angus, a secret bunker in Skelmorlie, a candle-factory in Glasgow and Adam Smith’s birthplace in Kirkcaldy.
There truly is something for everyone, with talks, tours, heritage trails and other events for all ages.
Susan O’Connor, director of the Scottish Civic Trust, said, “Doors Open Day is a fantastic opportunity for communities up and down the country to show off the best of their buildings.
“We’re thrilled with the range of architectural wonders on display this year and we can’t wait for people to enjoy as many sites as possible.”
Doors Open Days are held each weekend throughout September, giving people the chance to visit as many of the properties as they can fit in!
For the full programme of events, visit www.doorsopendays.org.uk.