Opening the doors to a world of treasures in the north east

Stonehaven's Tolbooth
Stonehaven's Tolbooth

For one weekend only, visitors will get a rare chance to see what goes on behind closed doors at some of Aberdeenshire’s most interesting buildings.

They will open to the public this Saturday and Sunday as part of the annual Doors Open Days festival.

Mill of Benholm

Mill of Benholm

If you ever wanted to see inside places steeped in heritage or wondered what secrets they hold, then this is the perfect opportunity.

All over Scotland, more than 1000 buildings will be open and free to enter, many of them not normally open to the public and some opening for the first time.

Castles, churches, mosques, museums, fire stations, offices, theatres and even a distillery are taking part this year.

Each area has its own weekend; here in the north east, it is being staged on September 15 and 16 with venues being co-ordinated by Aberdeenshire Council.

The Seed Box

The Seed Box

Area co-ordinators create and manage local programmes.

Among the venues taking part in South Aberdeenshire, Stonehaven’s Tolbooth will be open on Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm.

It is the town’s oldest building, dating from the late 16th Century.

The original use for the stone landmark was that of courthouse and prison.

Today, the ground floor contains a museum which showcases the building’s turbulent past and Stonehaven’s rich history.

World Horse Welfare, located at Belwade Farm, near Aboyne, will open its doors from 11am to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

It is an international charity which works to improve the lives of horses across the globe through education, campaigning and hands on care.

Across the four UK centres around 300 horses are rescued every year.

Belwade Farm can house 60 animals which have been rescued by the charity at any one time; they undergo rehabilitation at the farm, ready for rehoming.

The Seed Box, at Glen Tanar Walled Garden, Ballogie Estate, near Aboyne, is also open on Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

It provides horticultural training and outdoor therapy to adults with additional support needs who carry out gardening activities within the walled garden.

Participants develop skills to help with employment but it also boost their confidence and independence.

During the Doors Open Days event, people can visit and explore the Glen Tanar Walled Garden, where around every corner lies a world of beauty, nature and mystery – with the opportunity to purchase plants on site to recreate the landscape at home.

Mill of Benholm, near Johnshaven – a category A listed rural mill complex – will open on Saturday from 11am to 4pm.

The site comprises the mill, which dates from 1817, with its water wheel and full interior workings, a mill pond, lade and sluices.

Also featured are the former miller’s house, byre, old grain store and community garden.

Visitors can see inside the mill building while the wheel is turning.

Auchtavan Township in Upper Deeside – with its Royal links – will open from 11am to 3pm on Sunday.

It is situated around six miles north-east of Braemar.

Visitors can climb the hill and tour the abandoned 18th-19th century ‘ferm toun’ with its restored cruck-framed cottage and ‘hingin lum’, horse mill and the Queen Mother’s picnic cottage.

Meanwhile, Beannachar, on the South Deeside Road at Banchory-Devenick, which provides training for young adults with additional support needs on a residential and day basis, will open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday.

Staff will give guided tours of the building and its extensive grounds, including the original motte and bailey castle, Pictish stones and a memorial to Prince Albert’s visit.

Elsewhere, St James the Great Episcopal Church in Stonehaven is launching a smartphone app to coincide with Doors Open Days.

It uses augmented reality technology to guide visitors, providing a virtual tour.

The church will be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday, with services at 9am and 10.30.

And the Masonic Lodge of St Anthony in Inverurie will be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The oldest lodge in Garioch, it was purpose-built in the 19th century and features internal murals and photos of members dating back to World War One.