If its purpose is to offer a peek at places that are not usually open to the public, the local Doors Open Days have scored a couple of major coups this year.
Buildings opening their doors include one that’s pretty hard to get into – and even more difficult to get out of.
Polmont Young Offenders’ Institute, the national centre for young men in custody, is opening its doors to show the work that it does.
Five groups of eight visitors will be taken to reception, where they will hear about the support that is offered. They’ll then tour the kitchen area followed by the activity building and hear about the education and youth work that goes on.
Visitors will also see the work and training areas and there will be the chance to see the accommodation hall /cell.
The YOI was extensively rebuilt four years ago and the vision for young people in custody now is use the time they spend there to enable them to prepare for a positive future.
This Scottish Prison Service vision recognises that for some their time in custody may represent a rare chance for them to engage in education or find someone who can help to point them to a better future.
It promises to be a fascinating chance to explore the environment but if the tours are oversubscribed, there are plenty of other buildings that provide interest.
Ian Scott, chairman of Falkirk Community Trust said: “It’s another great year for visitors to the Doors Open Day event across the Falkirk area. There is a diverse mix of old and new on offer and some very interesting places to visit and explore.
“We hope that we see a big turnout and the local population get behind these great assets and facilities in their local community.”
The Doors Open Day programme this year highlights the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, so what could be more appropriate than a cutting-edge centre for medical training based in Larbert?
Inside Forth Valley Royal Hospital. the high-tech Scottish Centre for Simulation & Clinical Human Factors is the only one of its kind in Scotland. Here, “robots” are used to simulate a range of medical conditions, including heart attacks and convulsions and the course participants’ actions are monitored and recorded.
Members of the public will be invited to take part in some simulated scenarios and you might even get a bit of training.
In very different ways, these modern buildings offer an insight into our complex, modern society.
But for many people, Doors Open Days is a welcome chance to appreciate our heritage and there are fine examples of historical interest. Larbert’s Dobbie Hall and its adjacent library are opening up, as is Larbert Parish Church . This fascinating building is destined for closure, so it may well be your last chance to see it in all its glory.
Another church that is well worth a visit is the historic St Michael’s Parish Church in Linlithgow, which is offering guided tours. Instantly recognisable by its iconic, modern steel steeple, its history goes back to at least the 15th century and the knowledgeable guides will be happy to tell you more. In a completely different style, St Peter’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Linlithgow is also open and well worth a look.
The Linlithgow buildings are open over the weekend of September 10 and 11, while the Falkirk ones are September 17 and 18 but do check in advance as not all the buildings are open both days.
Bo’ness has another very fine building that is well worth a visit. Kinneil House was built for James Hamilton the second Earl of Arran when he was the Protector and Governor of Scotland during the minority of Mary, Queen of Scots.
It was, for a few short years, the seat of government in Scotland and it still houses the best 16th and 17th century murals in Scotland.
The diversity of what is on offer means that while Doors Open Days naturally celebrate the extraordinary, the quirky and the beautiful buildings around us, they also celebrate the familiar.
Linlithgow’s Annet House Museum and Garden is an 18th century house with an extensive terraced rig garden behind it, containing examples of the herbs, fruit trees and bushes that could well have been found there in days gone by.
And in Falkirk, as part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative, there’s a literal walk down memory lane.
In addition to a temporary exhibition in the Howgate, there will also be a guided walk to illustrate and explore the living architecture of theshops in the town centre. Enjoy the Falkirk Shopfronts Exhibition with drawings fromFalkirk Archive on display for the first time. Leading expert Lindsay Lennie will accompany you on an exploration of the historic features of Falkirk’s shops (Saturday only).
West Lothian Doors Open Days are on September 10 and 11. Falkirk’s Doors Open Days are on September 17 and 18. For more, visit www.doorsopendays.org.uk and search by area or date.