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Open Doors festival in Wales offers free tours of Neath Abbey and a lot more

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Wales makes more than 200 historical sites open for free visits during weekends in September.

In celebration of Wales’s 2019 Year of Discovery, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government, Cadw (pronounced “kadu”), is opening up more than 200 of the most iconic Welsh landmarks for free visits and even a brand new series of tours at select locations.

The month of free admission to some of the most culturally significant sites of Wales was kicked off at Neath Abbey and Gatehouse, on August 29, but there will be another Open Door weekend on September 28 and 29. The weekend will feature access to the site’s undercroft, which was recently reopened after several years of refurbishment and conservation. Tour guides will be on site to share the Abbey’s 900-year history with visitors.

While Neath Abbey is perhaps the most popular medieval ruin in Wales, it is just one of 29 sites to offer guided tours, a feature introduced to Open Doors in 2019. Also offering tours are the Bodnant Gardens, the World War II Gunnery Dome in Pembrey,  Cae’r Gors — the childhood home of renowned author Kate Roberts — and Hafoty Medieval House, among others.

The Cadw website quotes Lord Elis-Thomas, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, praising its efforts and inviting all interested parties to take part in the month-long event. He said:

“Through free access, unique events and special guided tours, there is plenty to encourage people to discover Welsh heritage this September. So, I hope that Open Doors 2019 will inspire local people and visitors of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about Wales’s best known sites and our hidden gems alike.” He added, “After all, what better time to explore the best of Wales’s culture and history than during Wales’s 2019 Year of Discovery?”

Cadw notes that some venues have limited space and may require advanced booking for tours. A full event list of events can be found here. If you are interested in one of the nearly 200 sites that are not offering special tours, you can search for individual sites here.