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St Davids Bishop’s Palace, May half term in Wales

Experience Historic Welsh Landmarks this September with Open Doors Festival

Autumn Scene at Tredegar House

Experience Historic Welsh Landmarks this September with Open Doors Festival

Are you looking for some exciting historical adventures this autumn? Wales is home to some of the most impressive historic landmarks in the United Kingdom. From the medieval vistas of Laugharne Castle to the serenity of Dyffryn Gardens – there’s something for everyone.

To usher in the Autumn, Cadw has announced the return of the Open Doors Festival. This is an annual event dedicated to showcasing the history of Wales. Throughout September, over 200 landmarks will be opening their doors with an array of free events, including guided tours and contemporary immersive experiences.

In the following post, we’re going delve into everything on offer at the Open Doors Festival this September.

What Is Open Doors Festival?

Open Doors Festival is an annual event that has been created as part of European Heritage Day. This is a united effort to showcase the best of European history – exploring different cultures and how the events of the past have shaped our shared history.

This extends to Wales, which has a wealth of historical sites that tell a thrilling story of the country’s history. Open Doors Festival 2023 opens up 16 of Cadw’s classic monuments including Margam Abbey and Stones Museum, Tredegar House and Penrhyn Castle.

All these events will be free to access over the course of the month and are perfect for families or couples looking to get a taste of the past. To get you prepared for what’s on offer – let’s look at some of the included locations this autumn…

What’s on this autumn?

Tredegar House

Autumn Scene at Tredegar House

Located in Newport, Tredegar House is an example of Welsh architectural achievement. It is among the most iconic 17th-century houses in the British Isles, inhabited for generations by the Morgan family, who are one of the most historically significant in the history of the country.

Do you need to book? No need to book for this one!

Location, dates & times: Tredegar House, Sunday 3rd September, 11:00-16:30

Denbigh Castle

If you want to visit a castle that has played an important part in the military history of Wales, then this is going to be a great choice for you. With a name derived from an abbreviation of a Welsh phrase meaning “little fortress,” it played an important role in the Conquest of Wales by King Edward the 1st.  Experience history beneath your feet with this medieval behemoth!

Do you need to book? No booking required.

Location, dates & times: Denbigh Castle, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September, 11:00-16:00

St Davids Cathedral & Bishop’s Place

Learn about 1,500 years of prayer by visiting St David’s Cathedral. Construction began in 1181 and the Cathedral now sits as a marvel of medieval architecture. You’ll also be able to visit the nearby Bishop’s Palace, transformed from a simple building into a regal abode by Henry de Gower.

Do you need to book? Book in advance by following this link.

Location, dates & times: St Davids Cathedral, 23rd, 24th and 29th September – various timeslots available

Powis Castle & Garden

For another example of a medieval fortress, consider paying a visit to Powis Castle and Garden. This was built in the 13th century by order of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn – a Welsh prince. You can explore its intricate castle walls as well as its expansive, terraced gardens.

Do you need to book? No need to book – open doors!

Location, dates & times: Powis Castle, Saturday 16th September, 10:00-17:00

Laugharne Chapel

St Martins Church near the town centre at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK.

If you want more recent history, Laugharne Chapel is a great example of a late 19th-century construction. Open Doors Festival allows you to delve deeper into the history of this location. Expect displays of local histories that look back into the history of Laugharne and the people who have lived there across time.

Do you need to book? No booking required!

Location, dates & times: Laugharne Chapel, Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September

Laugharne Castle

Close to Laugharne Chapel is Laugharne Castle. This is without a doubt one of the most history-rich locations in Wales. Built in the 13th century as a fortress, it was eventually inhabited as a Tudor mansion. One of the most fascinating things about Laugharne Castle is that it’s been a retreat for some famous writers, including Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes.

Do you need to book? No need to book but there are tours on Sunday the 24th at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Location, dates & times: Laugharne Castle, Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September, 11:00-16:00

Chirk Castle

This iconic Welsh castle was completed in 1310 and is a prime example of a structure from the reign of Edward the 1st. See its distinctive towers, spooky dungeon and Long Gallery. This is a fascinating place to visit if you want to understand over 700 years of Welsh history.

Do you need to book? No booking required.

Location, dates & times: Chirk Castle, Wrexham, Saturday 16th September, 10:00 – 17:00

Bodnant Garden

If you’re looking for a more serene option, then you should visit the gorgeous Bodnant Garden. Located in the backdrop of the jaw-dropping Carneddau mountains, you’ll discover a sanctuary with a 150-year history of botanical marvels.

Do you need to book? No booking required.

Location, dates & times: Bodnant Garden National Trust, Bodnant Road, Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th September, 9:30 – 17:00

South Wales Police Heritage Centre

This site was built in the late 1930s and was one of the largest munitions factories throughout the Second World War. Enjoy a series of free tours that will showcase police equipment created 100 years ago.

Do you need to book? Booking required, email policeheritage@south-wales.police.uk

Location, dates & times: South Wales Police Heritage Centre, South Wales Police Headquarters, Bridgend, 12th, 13th, 15th, 19th and 22nd September, 10:00-16:00

Caerleon Amphitheatre and Barracks (Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths)

If you’re looking for a taste of ancient history, you can explore one of the most important military sites in Europe. It was originally the headquarters of the Second Augustan Legion in AD75 and played a vital role in the Roman Conquest of Britain.

Do you need to book? No booking required.

Location, dates & times: Caerleon Amphitheatre and Barracks, 9th and 10th September, 11:00 – 13:00

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn castle in Autumn colours

Penrhyn Castle is yet another impressive castle you’ll find in Wales. It was built much later than some of the others in this list, in the early 19th century and was owned by the Pennant family. Marvel at the grand neo-Norman architecture and a fascinating interior forged by colonial history.

Do you need to book? No booking required.

Location, dates & times: Penrhyn Castle, Llandegai, Bangor, 9th and 10th September, 10:00-16:00

Dyffryn Gardens

Visit Dyffryn Gardens for another taste of serenity. This Edwardian Garden was first tended in the Edwardian Era and features a series of themed garden rooms and an impressive arboretum. You’ll find a selection of different garden styles to wow you, including an Exotics Garden that features many exotic plants.

Do you need to book? Booking required, follow this link.

Location, dates & times: Dyffryn Gardens, St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan, 23rd and 24th of September, 10:00-17:00

Margam Abbey and Margam Stones Museum

Margam Abbey was first constructed in the second half of the 12th century and is thought to have been built either on or near to the site of a Celtic monastic house. For the first time, the Abbey will be opening its doors to provide free guided tours for those interested in history.

Not far away, you’ll be able to see the opening of the Margam Stones museum. This is an opportunity to be amazed by a collection of ancient stone carvings that provide a glimpse into the beginnings of Christianity in the United Kingdom.

Do you need to book? Booking required, see this page for more information.

Location, dates & times: Margam Abbey Church, Margam, Port Talbot, 9th and 10th September, various time slots available.

Experience Welsh history this September

Cadw is an organisation that helps to protect the most important historical locations in Wales. The Open Doors Festival is a way to celebrate the rich history of Wales, offering anyone the chance to experience the wonders of Welsh history. So come down to one of the various free events this Autumn for historical adventures you’ll remember forever!