Credit: Adam Marikar via Unsplash

Scotland’s largest free festival of history and culture to return in September

By Athina Bohner

Free cultural events will take place across the city over the course of a week

The popular Doors Open Days festival is returning to Scotland for 2021 this month and will take place in Glasgow from 13-19 September. As the country’s largest free celebration of places and heritage, Doors Open Days offers everyone living in, or visiting, Scotland free entry into hundreds of significant buildings and landmarks. 

In addition to featuring over one thousand venues and events, the festival will also include numerous virtual activities with the aim of making the event as accessible as possible. Following last year’s first-ever digital Doors Open Days, 2021 marks Scotland’s 32nd annual cultural festival, which is nationally organised by the Scottish Civil Trust in collaboration with the European Heritage Days project. 

Ranging from guided tours of the famous Necropolis to exploring hidden gems, like the Pipe Factory in Barras Market, Glasgow’s 2021 Doors Open Days programme offers a unique glimpse into the city’s history. Maritime enthusiasts will be able to visit the Tall Ship Glenlee, a mysterious merchant sailing vessel anchored in front of Partick’s Riverside Museum. Lovers of architecture will be able to enter the King’s Theatre, as well as Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, the only church in the world designed by renowned Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

This year’s programme will also feature the debut of an inclusive women’s heritage trail through central Glasgow, which is facilitated by the support of Women’s History Scotland and Glasgow Women’s Library. Focusing particularly on the lived experiences of the city’s BAME and asylum-seeking women, this in-person walk highlights the Central Mosque and the legendary chapel of St Thenue, the alleged burial site of the so-called “mother of Glasgow”.  

In response to the global climate crisis and Glasgow hosting COP26 in November, the theme this year is sustainable communities. According to the official Doors Open Days online blog, the city’s festival aims to foster “our relationship with nature in the city and potential eco-friendly futures for Glasgow”. 

The vibrant Glasgow Canal Co-op intends to highlight the significance of the city’s fresh water with musical performances by the Scottish Opera and creative arts and crafts workshops. Hidden Gardens, a community greenspace in the Southside, welcomes visitors of all ages to participate in various health and wellbeing activities, as well as a wildlife-orientated tour and, in the north of the city, the Hamiltonhill Claypits Local Nature Reserve will provide Glaswegians with a natural sanctuary and viewpoint. Other interactive events, such as a zero-waste market in Govanhill and an exhibition imagining the local implementation of the Green New Deal by 2030 aim to demonstrate the sustainable future of Glasgow. 

At the festival’s opening ceremony in 2019, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon remarked that Doors Open Days “giv[es] thousands of people the opportunity to appreciate Scotland’s incredible heritage and culture every year”.

In order to safely attend in-person Doors Open Days events, visitors are requested to follow current Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance, as well as book time slots in advance. Click here to access Glasgow’s Doors Open Days website, whilst the rest of Scotland’s programme can be found here. As the Glasgow festival website declares, from 13th to 19th September, “the city is yours to explore”.


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