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Historic Cornwall for free

Looking for fun family days out in Cornwall that offer some culture into the bargain?

Heritage Open Days (11th to 14th September 2014) offer interesting stuff to do and see that will keep everyone – parents and kids alike – equally absorbed.

Everyone likes to take a peek behind-the-scenes, and these English Heritage open days celebrate England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to places that normally charge you to get in or are off-limits to the public.

Here’s our list of the top eight open days in Cornwall:

1) Glendurgan Garden, Falmouth

Intrepid explorers can lose themselves at Glendurgan. Fight your way through a jungle of giant rhubarb plants. Wander through the garden down to the beautiful hamlet of Durgan on the Helford River and watch the birds and the boats. Skim stones and find a boat-seat. Investigate the gigantic tulip-trees and ponds teeming with wildlife.

Make your way to the beach, where you can creep up on rock pools to spot crabs, fish and other creatures. Paddle in the crystal clear waters, make a sandcastle and decorate it with shells. Watch the fishing boats and sailors’ yachts coming and going.

2) Gribbin Daymark, Menabilly, Fowey

This quirky tower was built in 1832 to stop sailors confusing St Austell Bay with Falmouth Harbour. It’s never lit, but is painted in rather surreal red and white candy stripes. Climb the 84ft to the top and take in the great views. There’s plenty of lovely walking around the headland to be had, and an unusual coastal elm wood to explore with some beautiful stunted trees running down to the rocky shore. Windblown and covered in lichen, they’ve grown into glorious shapes. The woods become a carpet of ramsons (wild garlic) and other wild flowers in the spring.

3) Godolphin King’s Room and Garden, Helston

Soak up the atmosphere of the King’s Room with its ornately carved doorway – made in 1604 to commemorate the wedding of Sir William Godolphin to a daughter of the Sidney family. Wander around the ancient garden, one of the most important and historic in Europe, then relax in the orchard for a family picnic. Give your feet a treat and try the sensory barefoot trail, or stretch your legs with a walk up Godolphin Hill, where the view stretches from coast to coast. The family trail leads you around Godolphin’s gardens with a treasure map: find each cross and collect all the stamps.

4) Trerice House, Kestle Mill, Newquay

This romantic Elizabethan manor house nestles in a wooded valley. There’s loads to discover about the history of this unique manor house, the families who lived there, its architecture and restoration. Find out what it’s like to wear medieval armour – try on some chain mail, hoist a shield onto your shoulder and see the world from the eye slit of a helmet. There are traditional games to play, brass rubbings to take and children’s trails around the house and garden.

5) Moseley Vintage Toys, Trains and Mining Museum, Redruth

Heaven for big kids and children, this museum holds a host of vintage toys, Meccano, trains and curios – all housed in a large shed on the aptly-named Tumblydown Farm. A second shed houses mining exhibits and a 24-gauge railway runs though the farm’s horse paddocks.

A curio quiz sheet is available for those adventurous enough to attempt to identify some of the more rare and unusual items. There’s a large selection of trinkets, utility items and general books for sale.

6) Leach Pottery Open Days, St Ives

Great for families with children aged six and older, you can tour the historic studio, museum and gallery, see demonstrations of pot throwing and have a go yourself, too.

Founded by Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji in 1920, the Leach Pottery is among the most respected and influential studio potteries in the world. You’ll get to see the old pottery workshop built in 1920, including what is believed to be the first Japanese climbing kiln in the western world.  The kiln was in continuous use for over 50 years until the middle 1970s.

7) Tintagel Old Post Office

With its wavy slate roof and more than 600 years of history, this quaint house makes is an irresistible invitation to explore. The name dates from the Victorian period when the house briefly held a licence to be the letter receiving station for the district. On display are Victorian postal equipment and samplers and furniture dating back to the 16th century. Retreat from the busy high street in the beautiful back garden, and don’t miss the First World War Exhibition.

8) St Anthony Battery, Portscatho, Truro.

A visit here brings history alive. The WWI and WWII coastal artillery battery military remains include ditch and rampart defences, gun emplacements and the – normally closed – underground ammunition magazine. Guided tours start at 11am and 3pm.

There are lots of good walks around too (beware cliff edges) and Towan Beach is close by for rockpooling, paddling and picnics.