Alastair Dalton: Doors Open Days is a gateway to hidden worlds

Edinburgh Trams' depot is taking part in Doors Open Days for the first time. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Trams' depot is taking part in Doors Open Days for the first time. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Doors Open Day (DOD) provides the chance to see behind the scenes in hundreds of normally closed buildings, including parts of Scotland’s transport network, reports Alastair Dalton.

Going behind the scenes is one of the great privileges of being a journalist.

I’ve been lucky enough to be shown round many extraordinary places that are off limits to the public, from airport runways to the top of the Forth Bridge.

However, once a year, hundreds of normally closed buildings across Scotland are opened for people to have a peek inside.

Launched nearly 30 years ago as part of Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture in 1990, Doors Open Days (DOD) now describes itself as Scotland’s biggest free festival, generating 200,000 annual visits.

DOD now provides not just access to 800 historic and architecturally notable buildings but a wide-ranging programme of guided tours and lectures, also all free.

Over the years, I’ve looked inside many buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow during DOD, joined fascinating tours of the Clyde and its bridges by bike and on foot.

I’ve also been to lectures about Glasgow’s pioneering underground railways, visited former shipyards and the city’s oldest railway station building – the 170-year-old Pollokshaws West.

Of course, there are myriad other sites on offer by DOD over several weekends next month, a different one for each part of the country.

READ MORE: Alastair Dalton: Experts reveal Scotland’s transport heaven – and hell

They include everything from private swimming baths and sheriff courts to breweries and an animal hospital.

However, for those interested in how we get about, there are some 20 buildings and events connected with transport in Glasgow alone, and at least seven in Edinburgh, with the capital’s DOD events programme to follow.

Elsewhere, you can visit a newly installed train turntable at a railway heritage centre in Aberdeen, HMS Unicorn – Scotland’s oldest ship – in Dundee, and the construction site of a £35 million road in Perth, the new A9/A85 link.

Edinburghers will have their first chance to enter the Edinburgh Trams nerve centre, at its depot in Gogar.

Also on show will be Lothian Buses’ headquarters off Leith Walk, which are nearly a century old, and the Northern Lighthouse Board’s offices in George Street, which are approaching their 200th anniversary.

There’s also a shed in Leith where the last shipbuilding at the historic port ended in 1984 after 500 years, and a bunker in Barnton from where RAF fighter attacks were co-ordinated during the Second World War.

In Glasgow, I’m looking forward to hearing about the city’s roads from prehistoric times to the M8, and prospects for walking improvements, while you could also be shown round the radical Avenues project to widen pavement and cycle lanes on several major city centre streets and also create a new “Underline” route beneath the motorway.

READ MORE: Alastair Dalton: Travel is all about the joy of the ride

Also available will be tours of the original Queen Mary – the 1947 Clyde cruiser – which is being restored at Pacific Quay, a guided trip round Glasgow Airport, and trips along the Forth & Clyde Canal.

A novel tour of Glasgow streets will involve parkour – jumping and climbing over obstacles, while the less energetic can journey between DOD buildings on a fleet of historic buses provided by the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust.

But you’ll have to move fast, with many of the Glasgow events that require booking already sold out, although you can join waiting lists.

I’m expecting to see and learn a lot – for nothing. The only problem is deciding what to choose as there is so much available.