The Open Doors project begins on Friday and lasts throughout September. Offering a chance to explore some of Wales' most fascinating buildings and locations, there'll be special events, talks and guided walks taking place.

Open Doors days offer the public free access to places and buildings of historic and architectural interest. Many buildings which are normally free to visit put on something very special. This year there are over 500 events at more than 300 sites across Wales.

The gate at Llantarnam Abbey near Cwmbran

Derw Thomas, the Open Doors coordinator at Civic Trust for Wales, told us all about the project and what to expect this year.

What is Open Doors all about?

Open Doors is a celebration of architecture and built heritage. It's part of European Heritage Days and runs for the whole of September.

So what happens?

Open Doors has two main aspects to it. Buildings which aren't normally available to the public open up for people to see, and buildings which normally charge people to go in waive their charges.

And it's completely free?

Absolutely! There are no charges for people to go into these visitor attractions and buildings which are not normally open. Some sites are even offering free refreshments.

Is it purely about buildings opening up?

No. There are plenty of other events like guided walks, talks and lectures. There are even musical events and book launches.

So there's something for everyone?

That's absolutely right. There are events and sites that are more geared to families. And there are more specialised lectures and illustrated talks. The basic premise is about built heritage. We've got such a wonderful range of buildings and heritage sites around Wales. Whatever your taste or interest there's something to suit all everyone.

Mansion House in Cardiff

Are there events all over Wales?

Yes there are. Every local authority area of Wales has a programme of sites and events. Inevitably there are more in some areas than others but I'd estimate that wherever you live in Wales you're never more than half an hour away from an Open Doors event. From the cities of south Wales to Anglesey there are really interesting sites waiting to welcome visitors.

The Open Doors programme has grown in recent years. What do you think is the secret of its success?

Well, obviously I'm biased but I'd say that variety is its watchword. There's such a huge range of sites and events. From large and grand stately homes to remote churches and places of worship. There are impressive civic buildings, fascinating industrial heritage sites and behind the scenes tours at museums.

Why are people so keen to visit some of these sites?

That's a difficult one. For me, I'm fascinated with old buildings but also with new architecture and the prospect of what might become the heritage of the future. Ultimately, I think the programme appeals to our sense of nosiness! For many of us, we might drive or walk passed a building every day and think I wonder what it's like inside there. Open Doors gives us an opportunity to find out!

Cantref Church in the Brecon Beacons

What are your top tips?

I'd advise people to check out what's going on near to where they live. Give yourself an opportunity to take a closer look at something that might seem familiar. And why not go a bit further afield to have a look round somewhere you've always wanted to go? There are National Trust sites, Cadw sites and lots and lots of independent and quirky places people can visit.

Remind us when Open Doors starts and how long it's on for.

It starts on Friday 2 September and runs for the whole month. Let's hope that people decide to get out and about and explore one of the best aspects of Wales.

How can people find out more information?

There's a full diary of events listed on our website and a gazetteer of detailed site and events listings. Visit, or on Twitter @CivicTrustWales, for all the information.

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