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17 Edinburgh buildings to check out at Doors Open Day 2015

The annual heritage weekend opens up over 120 properties to the public - here are some programme highlights

There's a wonderful array of museums, galleries and visitor attractions in Edinburgh, and they're great and all, but it's much more interesting to poke your nose into places it's not normally invited. Doors Open Day is a free, Scotland-wide heritage festival that lets you explore some of the country's most beautiful and intriguing spaces - spaces usually closed to the public. The programme for Doors Open Day Edinburgh 2015 runs Saturday September 26-Sunday September 27 and features over 120 buildings and spaces - here are the ones we reckon will be extra-popular.

Stewart's Melville College
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Stewart's Melville College

Queensferry Road, EH4 3EZ

One of several Edinburgh schools that most likely provided at least partial inspiration for Hogwarts, Stewart's Melville College features a library in a converted chapel and a performing arts space in a converted courtyard. Head along for guided tours and behind the scenes access.

Saturday September 26, 2pm-5pm.

St Bernard's Well
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St Bernard's Well

Water of Leith (along from Saunders Place), EH12 6ES

The exterior of this neo-classical monument will be familiar to anyone who's ever taken a stroll between Stockbridge and Dean Village. The interior (restored to its former glory in 2013) is a mosaic wonder for the lucky few who make it along on Doors Open Day.

Sunday September 27, 11am-4pm.

The Signet Library
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The Signet Library

Parliament Square, EH1 1RF

Located a stone's throw from St Giles Cathedral (and, more importantly, from Edinburgh's Supreme Courts), the Signet Library is home to many royal and legal decrees, kept by The Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet (a highly prestigious body of lawyers). Which goes some way to explaining why it's so swanky.

Sunday September 27, noon-5pm.

Royal Observatory
Jason Cowan
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Royal Observatory

Blackford Hill, EH9 3HJ

Housed incongruously within the original Victorian buildings, the Royal Observatory boffins are responsible for designing and building componets for some of the world's most cutting edge telescopes. Head along on Doors Open Day for talks, lectures, children's activities and behind the scenes access.

Saturday September 26 & Sunday September 27, 10am-5pm.

National Museums Scotland Collections Centre
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National Museums Scotland Collections Centre

242 West Granton Road, EH5 1JA

Ever wanted to explore that big secret wearehouse at the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'? This is the closest you'll get in Edinburgh - the Collections Centre where National Museums Scotland keep the thousands of items and artifacts it doesn't have space to exhibit. Head along to get behind the scenes access to everything from dinosaur bones to Moby the whale.

Saturday September 26 & Sunday September 27, 10am-3.15pm (booking essential).

Lyon and Turnbull
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Lyon and Turnbull

33 Broughton Place, EH1 3RR

Scotland's oldest auctioneers throw open their doors to all comers this Doors Open Day, showcasing items from their current Fine Furniture & Works of Art Sale in the saleroom and upper gallery.

Saturday September 26 & Sunday September 27, 10am-4pm.

Lyceum Theatre
Eamonn McGoldrick
7/17

Lyceum Theatre

Grindlay Street, EH3 9AX

This West End playhouse is, of course, open to theatregoers all through the year, but this weekend's backstage tours and kids' activities (inspired by forthcoming Christmas show 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe') should be something special.

Sunday September 27, 10am-4pm.

Lothian Buses Central Depot
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Lothian Buses Central Depot

55 Annandale Street, EH7 4AZ

Perhaps the least immediately appealing of all the images in this gallery, the Lothian Bus depot is nevertheless a must-see attraction for any budding, bus-obsessed junior mechanics you may know (and we know several). Special Doors Open Day activities include guided tours by open top bus, displays of new and old buses, trips through the bus wash, the chance to ‘be the driver’ of a bus and - wait for it - bus racing.

Saturday September 26, noon-4pm.

Liberton Kirk
John Gill
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Liberton Kirk

Kirkgate, EH16 6RY

While the kirk building turns a mere 200 years old in 2015, the site has been used for religious purposes for the past millenia. Find out more about this gorgeous old building and its surroundings while enjoying behind the scenes access, musical recitals and kids' activities.

Saturday September 26, 10am-4pm;
Sunday September 27, 2pm-4pm.

Custom House
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Custom House

66-67 Commercial Street, EH6 7DN

If you're a regular user of certain Leith-bound buses, Custom House is probably one of those buildings that hovers on the edge of your conciousness: you've always known it's there, but were never sure what it was used for. In fact, the former dues collection building for the port of Leith has been a storage house for National Museums Scotland in recent years; as part of Doors Open Day, the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust is hoping to hear suggestions from visitors on how the building could best be used. Oh, and there'll be architecural models, behind the scenes access, musical recitals and kids' activities (including Lego model-building) as well.

Sunday September 27, 10am-4pm.

Hermitage House
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Hermitage House

69a Braid Road, EH10 6JF

While Doors Open Day is great for opening up those buildings you wonder about in everyday life, it also draws attentions to wonderful structures you perhaps didn't even know existed. This private 18th century house is one of them - dive in and discover more about its past inhabitants.

Sunday September 27, noon-4pm.

HM General Register House and New Register House
Paul Watt
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HM General Register House and New Register House

2 Princes Street, EH1 3YY

An unmissable hulk facing off against the Balmoral Hotel at the east end of Princes Street, General Register House (and, to the rear, New Register House) is where Scotland's archives of civil registration documents are stored - certificats and licenses of births, deaths, marriages and so on. They're both incredible buildings, so make sure to book ahead if you fancy a guided tour.

Saturday September 26, 10am-4pm.

Drumsheugh Baths Club
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Drumsheugh Baths Club

5 Belford Road, EH4 3BL

The oldest private swimming club in Edinburgh, Drumsheugh remains stylistically unaltered since its construction in 1882, with vintage rings and trapezes still in use over the water. Sadly, there's no swimming allowed on the day (as far as we're aware), but we'll bet it's worth it for the look, smell and sheer atmosphere of the place.

Saturday September 26, 10am-4pm.

Dovecot Studios
Shannon Tofts
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Dovecot Studios

10 Infirmary Street, EH1 1LT

The Dovecot Gallery is actually open to the public all year round, but that doesn't mean it's not a space worth exploring. Doors Open Day happens to fall on the final day of the current exhibitions, so you can take in those (especially Kwang Young Chun's intricate 'Aggregations' sculptures) before embarking on a balcony-view tour.

Saturday September 26, 10.30am-5.30pm.

 

Collective: City Observatory and City Dome grounds
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Collective: City Observatory and City Dome grounds

38 Calton Hill, EH7 5AA

Another space that's already open to the public, the City Observatory Dome became defunct when the Royal Observatory became Edinburgh's premier star-gazing spot. While you can visit the dome more or less whenever you like (it's currently occupied by Collective Gallery), the Doors Open Day weekend will also open up the rest of the observatory grounds, allowing visitors to have a first and final look before they're redeveloped.

Saturday September 26 & Sunday September 27, noon-4pm.

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
Andrew Lee
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City of Edinburgh Methodist Church

25 Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX

Even if you're not of a religious persuasion, there's something atmospheric about the interior of a consecrated space - especially when it's situated in a place you might normally walk right past on your way to Bristo Square. Plus, from a purely design-focused point of view, we're suckers for those clean white lines and light-filled sanctuary spaces.

Saturday September 26, 10.30am-3.30am.

Assembly Rooms
Paul Zanre
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Assembly Rooms

54 George Street, EH2 2LR

You may well have seen inside this one already, as it's been used as one of the city's many Fringe venues for a few years now. Nevertheless, there's a difference between coming here to chuckle at a comedian and taking in the full splendour of the place undistracted.

Sunday September 27, 11am-4pm.

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Where will visitors be gathered? Thank you.