Days out Family friendly

18 Free Derbyshire Days Out this September

Each year, heritage places across England throw open their doors and give people the chance to see hidden spaces and try new experiences for free. This year the event takes place from 9th to the 18th of September.

Every single event is totally free – even at places that usually charge admission fees. From museums, galleries and stately homes to science labs, industrial units, and even graveyards, Heritage Open Days offers local people a chance to see another side to their communities, including places that aren’t normally open to the public.

Many have adopted this year’s theme, Astounding Inventions, and will celebrate the cutting-edge creations we can’t live without as well as the imaginative inventors behind them. 

Nationally there are over 4500 events taking place, with dozens in Derbyshire. Full details can be found on the Heritage Open Days website, (where you can search by postcode and by specific dates etc) but here are my top picks.

Please do double check details on the official website, especially before making a special journey – and be aware that some events require pre-booking. Parking charges may apply.

18 Top Heritage Open Days

Magpie Mine

Magpie Mine, Sheldon, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1QU

An opportunity to learn more about this historic Derbyshire lead mine. Magpie Mine is one of the most iconic mining sites in the country, and was the last working lead mine in the Peak District, finally closing in 1958.

Guided tours of the mine surface will be available so that visitors can walk around the site, listen to the history of this piece of mining heritage, look down the 729ft-deep main shaft, and learn about the years of boom and bust, the success and failure of successive operators, the alleged murder of three miners, and the Widow’s Curse that is said to continue to this day. NOTE: there will be no access to any of the underground workings.

Sunday 11 September: 1100-1600. Tours will start on the hour, every hour, from 1100 to 1600, (more frequently if required). No booking required.

Park at the side of the Bakewell to Flagg road which passes to the south of the site, not in Sheldon village. There is a walk of about a quarter of a mile along the rough track to the mine. Sturdy footwear is advised because parts of the site are quite rough. Since it is quite exposed at over 1000ft above sea level on the limestone plateau, the weather can be inclement, so a windproof and waterproof jacket is advisable.


The ruins of the Cornish Engine House and chimney are visible for several miles around. Routes from the main roads (A6 and A515) will be signposted on the day.

Belper Hydro Opening

The East Mill Car Park, The Triangle, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1BJ

Belper Mills Turbine House open to the public, with a display on the use of waterpower within the Belper Mill Complex. Water has been essential for powering the Belper mills since 1776. As time passed, they moved from waterwheels to turbines, and the turbines still produce carbon-neutral power for Belper homes today.

This is a rare chance to see inside the turbine house, once part of the long-demolished South Mill, and find out how it all works.

Saturday 17 September: 1300-1400

No booking required

Celebrating Georgian Derbyshire at Strutt’s North Mill

Strutts North Mill Museum, North Mill, Bridge Foot, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1YD

Tours with Georgian guides and waterwheel weaving at Strutt’s North Mill, Belper, as part of the first Georgian Derbyshire Festival.

With just two weeks to see the museum before it closes, take a tour with a costumed guide to discover what Georgian Belper was like under the Strutt family, who owned the mills. Try out the waterwheel weaving activity, find out more about the River Derwent as part of the ‘water theme’ for the Georgian Derbyshire Festival and explore this amazing museum before the doors close at the end of September.

Saturday 17 September: 1330-1600. No booking required but maximum of 35 people per tour/event. Event Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Georgian Belper Walk

Strutts North Mill Museum, North Mill, Bridge Foot, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1YD

Explore life in Belper in the days when the Strutts’ nightwatchmen patrolled the town at night, with World Heritage Site coordinator, Adrian Farmer. Adrian uses the watchmen’s original reports of incidents in the town to understand life in Georgian Belper. Two hour walk around the town centre, good footwear recommended.

Saturday 17 September: 1000-1200. Required Places are limited so must be pre-booked.

Assembly Rooms Open Access

The Buxton Crescent & Thermal Spa, The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6BH

Marvel at the glorious Georgian grandeur of the Assembly Rooms, a recently renovated Grade-I listed building which has been restored to match the vision of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and architect John Carr.

Sunday 11 September: 1100-1600

Thursday 15 September: 1100-1600

Friday 16 September: 1300-1600

Buxton Opera House

Buxton Opera House, Water Street, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6XN

Take a look inside one of the country’s finest examples of a Frank Matcham theatre design. Try the view from the Gods, sit in one of the boxes or simply admire the stunning decoration. Our volunteers will be on hand to answer any burning questions you might have about the history of our beautiful theatre. Refreshments will be available in the Dress Circle bar.

Saturday 10 September: 1100-1500 Booking Details: No booking required.

Access Information: Only partially accessible to wheelchair users. No lift. The wheelchair entrance is 72cms at its narrowest point. Accessible toilet on the ground floor. The Opera House Foyer and Box Office counter are not accessible by wheelchair, but there is wheelchair access to the side Box Office door (on Water St), with an intercom system to alert staff.

Pitter Patter – Water themed activities for under 5’s

The Buxton Crescent Heritage Experience, The Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6BH

Water themed activities for under 5’s as part of the Georgian Derbyshire Festival & Heritage Open Days. Start your morning by adventuring below the Crescent and into the watery underground room take part in some water themed singing and dancing. Then pop up to the surface and get creative in the Assembly rooms.

The whole experience will be based within the Crescent building and takes two hours from start to finish. Please note all children must be accompanied by a guardian and you will need to reserve tickets for both of you. Whilst the event is water themed – no one will (or should!) be getting wet!

Friday 16 September: 0930-1130. Tickets must be booked for all attending – children and guardians.

Access: A lift is available is required, however some areas of the experience are uneven under foot so please wear suitable footwear.

Chesterfield Football Club Tour

Chesterfield Football Club, 1866 Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 8NZ

Get an inside view of this old-established football club (founded 1866) and the workings of the Technique Stadium by taking a tour of the changing rooms, tunnel area, trophy cabinet and more, giving you a chance to see the behind the scenes working of a Football Club and meet some of the key people who make the Stadium work seven days a week.

Wednesday 14 September: Tours at 1330 & 1500

Thursday 15 September: Tours at 1700 & 1830

Pre-booking: Required Contact: Peter Whiteley Call: 01246 269300 Email:

Fully accessible site.

Hardwick Hall & Stainsby Mill National Trust

Hardwick Hall, Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 5QJ

Explore the magnificent Hardwick Estate, from the Elizabethan mansion set in 2000 acres of parkland to the Victorian water mill at Stainsby. With expert guided talks throughout the day, discover something new about Hardwick.

On Saturday 10 September, enjoy free entry to Hardwick Hall, gardens, parkland and Stainsby Mill. With pop-up expert talks throughout the day, discover the story of Bess of Hardwick and the innovative architecture and design of her Elizabethan masterpiece. Learn how modern-day inventions help to protect Hardwick’s collection, from light monitoring to pest management. Explore the formal gardens and find out how the Elizabethans creatively used plants in their everyday lives. Visit Stainsby Mill and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this Victorian water mill. Then take the time for a leisurely walk in Hardwick’s stunning parkland, exploring the woodland and ponds.

Saturday 10 September: 0930-1700

All talks must be pre-booked on arrival.

Access: Disabled parking is available close to Visitor Reception. Wheelchairs and an all-terrain mobility scooter are available to book from Visitor Reception. Please call 01246 858435 to book these. A buggy shuttle service is available from Visitor Reception to the Gatehouse entrance to Hardwick Hall. Hardwick Hall: The ground floor of the hall is accessible to wheelchair users. No lift access to higher floors in the hall. Stainsby Mill: the entrance to the mill is down a steep slope. There are steep steps up to the first floor of the mill.

Dogs are welcome in the Stableyard and parkland. Access to the formal gardens and house is for assistance dogs only.

Read my review of Hardwick Hall.

‘Meet Joseph Paxton’

Revolution House, High Street, Old Whittington, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 9JZ

Come and meet ‘Joseph Paxton’ and discover more about his fascinating life as a gardener, architect and engineer. Discover his connections with Chatsworth and marvel at his amazing, astounding inventions.

Learn about Paxton’s friendship with the Duke of Devonshire, his time as head gardener at Chatsworth designing the Emperor Fountain and glasshouses for exotic plants and his designs for Crystal Palace in London for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

There will also be a hands on activity for children to plant their own seeds.

Sunday 18 September: 1100-1600.

No booking required.

Tapton Lock Festival Tapton

Lock Visitors Centre, 59A Lockoford Lane, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 7JB

Junction Arts and Derbyshire Countryside Service invite you to a weekend of arts and well-being activities in a beautiful setting by the historic Chesterfield Canal. Enjoy crafting and performances and take part in one of our workshops. The Tapton Lock Festival is a celebration of performance and hands on ‘arts’ workshops and wellbeing activities at Tapton Lock on the restored Chesterfield Canal.

Visitors will be invited to join in and have a go at traditional crafts including wet and needle felting, spinning and weaving as well as enjoying performance art from local groups. Ukrainian dancers will perform and the local Asian Association will provide tasty treats. Alongside the ‘arts’ workshops, there will be opportunities to enjoy the water with have-a-go canoeing and trips on the Chesterfield Canal Trust’s historic narrowboat, the John Varley II.

If water isn’t your thing, try scaling the dizzy heights on our climbing wall and take in a different view of the local landscape. This family-friendly weekend event takes place along the banks of the beautiful Chesterfield Canal. We are planning an exciting and dynamic programme of activities for the whole family to enjoy, including performances, art workshops, outdoor ‘have a go’ activities and refreshments.

Saturday 10 September: 1100-1600

Sunday 11 September: 1100-1600

No booking required

Access: There is no parking at this event (Except for blue badge), please walk or cycle to us if possible. The events field is grassed, with a surfaced path. Manual wheelchair users may require some assistance.

Arkwright Spinsters at Cromford Wharf

Cromford Wharf, Mill Road, Cromford, Derbyshire, DE4 3RQ

The Arkwright Spinsters will be demonstrating spinning and other traditional crafts. Traditional textile crafting from the days before mass production was developed by Richard Arkwright at his Cromford Mills.

Sunday 18 September: 1000-1600

No booking required

Calke Abbey National Trust

Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derby, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE With peeling paintwork and overgrown courtyards, Calke Abbey is one of the National Trust’s unique houses, where you can discover the tales of an eccentric family who amassed a vast collection of hidden treasures.

Calke Abbey tells the story of the dramatic decline of the Harpur-Crewe’s grand country house. Little has been done to restore the house and stables and they are preserved in the condition found when the National Trust began caring for Calke. Grand rooms are crammed full of collections, from art to natural history which contrasts with abandoned rooms and objects no longer used. The stables have overgrown courtyards and peeling paintwork and are great for exploring. The gardens are beautiful and full of flowers, plants and produce throughout the year. Faded garden buildings such as the Orangery and unique Auricula Theatre hint at the former fortunes and passions of the family. The pleasure grounds are great for strolls; stumble across the grotto and the ice house, or find a spot for a peaceful picnic. Discover the ancient and fragile habitats of Calke Park and its National Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife.

Adventures await at Calke Explore, where you’ll find natural play, walking and cycle hire, and easy access to the Limeyards and wetlands. With over 243 hectares (600 acres) of ancient trees, ponds and meadows, there’s plenty of parkland to explore.

Sunday 11 September: 0930-1700

No booking required

Access: There is a buggy available to take visitors with mobility issues to the house and gardens. There are also 3 trampers available, please call the main number to book. Booking is on a first come, first served basis. There are a number of stairs in the Mansion, wheelchairs are available and visitors who can’t access the stairs can view a virtual tour of the house.

Read more about National Trust properties in Derbyshire.

The gorgeous orangery at Calke Abbey

Lark in the Park in combination with Derby Peace Week Concert

Derby Arboretum, Grove Street, Derby , Derbyshire, DE23 8EL

Come along for fabulous music, as well as other performances and workshops, family activities, and refreshments.

Sunday 18 September: 1-5pm

No booking required

Derby Arboretum can be accessed from Grove St where there is free parking on Sundays (DE23 8EL), or from Arboretum Sq which is a short walk from Derby Station (DE23 8FN), or from Reginald St (DE23 8FQ) or Rosehill St (DE23 8GG).

Model Make a Mill – Build your own Silk Mill

Museum of Making Silk Mill Lane, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 3AF

3D model-making workshop by Rebecca Morledge at the Museum of Making in Derby Silk Mill, creating an accurate model of the Silk Mill itself. Come along to the Museum of Making and be guided by artist Rebecca Morledge to paint and construct your own accurate model of the Silk Mill building.

Get ready to be creative and learn paint techniques to represent the architectural materials and construction and see your cardboard spring into 3-D life by cutting and sticking! Free children’s guide “The Story of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site” illustrated by Rebecca Morledge for all participants. Suitable for adults and children aged 8+ accompanied by an adult.

Friday 16 September: 1630-1830

No booking required

Tots Make and Do

Museum & Art Gallery, The Strand, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 1BS

A Georgian-themed craft session at Derby Museum and Art Gallery (for children aged 2-5). Just drop in. Event Times

Friday 16 September: 1000-1130

No booking required

Tour of Derby Cathedral

18-19 Irongate, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 3GP

A tour of Derby Cathedral, exploring the building with a guide as part of the first Georgian Derbyshire Festival. The main body of the Cathedral as it stands today is a Georgian re-build by architect James Gibbs, completed in 1725. The tower dates from the 16th century. The tour will explore these and other areas of the cathedral.

Friday 16 September: 1100-1200

No booking required

Toilet Tours at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum

Sharpe’s Pottery Museum, West Street, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, DE11 9DG

Be inspired by one of the most underrated inventions. Enjoy a guided tour of the museum and learn how one of the first patented toilets came to life in our very own Swadlincote!

Thursday 15 September: 10.30-11.30

Saturday 17 September: 13.30-14.30

Pre-booking preferred. Free entry to the museum but book the tour to avoid disappointment.

Access: Fully accessible for wheelchair users but the lift is unsuitable for mobility scooters at this time.

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By Molly Scott

Derbyshire blogger - bringing you the best places to eat, drink, spa and stay in the wider Derbyshire area. Champion of the most fabulous independents.

2 replies on “18 Free Derbyshire Days Out this September”

Great to have all these together. Have you thought of doing a tabular summary so that key information is to hand at a glance? That would be very handy, especially for busy people.

Thank you Dennis, that’s a great idea. I’m not sure I’ll have time to do that this year but will bear it in mind for next year. Do check out the official Heritage Open Days website though – you can search by specific date and by postcode etc.

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