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Have yourself a day to remember

As over 300 tourist attractions open their doors for European Hertitage Days Mark Bain has a look around

More than 300 properties across Northern Ireland are set to open their doors to visitors for free this weekend as part of the 2018 European Heritage Open Days. Now in their 21st year, the open days encourage people all over Europe to visit historic buildings and take in the "heritage and nature" of nearby properties. Many well-known properties province-wide will be taking part today and tomorrow, including Mount Stewart House in Co Down, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Lissan House in Co Tyrone. Here's a sneak preview.

Annalong Cornmill, Co Down

Annalong Cornmill, which was in operation from the early 1800s until the 1960s, was restored in 2014 to incorporate a new multi-media display.

Three stories are told within the mill: learn about the processes involved in milling and about how the water wheel provided power to the building; explore how the harbour played a key role in the life of people from Annalong and the surrounding area, exporting precious Mourne granite and importing coal for the kiln; and hear about the life of a stone man and the skills that were required to work in the industry.

Experience Mourne life of the past, meet the miller and watch the water wheel in action. Suitable for everyone.

Today/tomorrow, 2pm-5pm.

Second World War Nissen Hut, Co Armagh

A great opportunity to visit a Second World War Nissen hut in Meigh village, Newry, the design of engineer and inventor Major Peter Norman.

Local Ring of Gullion ambassador Ann Ward will showcase its history, from its origins on Greencastle airforce base to its contemporary use.

Her vision is to transform the hut - built during wartime - into a symbol of peace and a shared creative, cultural and healing space.

The European Heritage Open Day event will include an interactive talk on the origins of the hut by Joe Boden, who was 10 years old when American soldiers arrived at the airforce base in 1942.

Joe will use maps of the base and memorabilia to engage the audience.

Local musicians will entertain and help celebrate the hut as a cultural community hub.

Booking is essential. Email: ann@xhale.biz.

Tomorrow, 7pm-9pm.

Mount Stewart house, gardens and demesne, Co Down

Mount Stewart, the Irish family home of the Marquesses of Londonderry, is filled with the spirit and character of Edith, Lady Londonderry.

In 2017, the property unveiled the newly restored Central Hall floor and stunning Rome bedroom at the end of a major restoration project.

Visitors can explore the wonderful home at their leisure, or by guided tour, to learn more about the Londonderry family and the important role they played in local and international history.

Voted among the top 10 gardens in the world, each of the formal gardens around the estate has a distinct character and appeal.

Today, 10am-5pm.

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, Co Armagh

Join staff for a day of stargazing as Armagh Planetarium celebrates its 50th year, and find out about the history and people behind this unique attraction.

You can enjoy a tour of the Planetarium building and grounds and explore the heritage of this unique organisation that is involved in ground-breaking research that has been exploring the cosmos from 1790.

Numbers are limited for the tours and they are expected to book out quickly.

Pre-booking for tours can be made at www.armaghplanet.com.

Today, 10am-5pm.

Whitehead Railway Museum, Co Antrim

As part of European Heritage Open Days, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland will be offering free museum tours at Whitehead Railway Museum today.

In addition, steam train rides will run on the site and passengers can visit the Edwardian tea room.

Discover the secrets of the RPSI's 110-year-old Midland Railway buildings, together with the more recent additions to the award-winning museum.

Train rides will be running from noon to 4pm, every 15 minutes. Museum tours are free (no booking required). Train fares apply (pay on the day).

Today, noon-4pm.

Heritage Tour of Moneymore, Co Londonderry

Join Moneymore Heritage Trust to discover the hidden beauty of the historic village.

Make your way around Moneymore to hear the history behind its fabled limestone, with visits to unique buildings, including the Common Barn, Corn Stores, Courthouse and Assembly Rooms.

Tours are hourly today from 10am-4pm.

And while in the Co Londonderry village, you can also visit the finest example of an Ulster Plantation home at the 17th-century Springhill House, with its walled gardens and parkland, full of tempting, waymarked paths.

There are 10 generations of Lenox-Conyngham family tales to hear.

Today, 11am-5pm.

Lissan House, Co Tyrone

Lissan House is situated at the centre of a 267-acre demesne of rolling parkland at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains in Co Tyrone.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the house and estate were purchased by Thomas Staples, and it remained the family home for nearly 400 years.

In 2006, Hazel Dolling, the last of the Staples of Lissan, left the house and estate to the Lissan House Trust, an independent charity tasked with the restoration and preservation of the property.

Guided tours today, 10.30am-5pm, and tomorrow, 11am-5pm.

Behind the Scenes Museum Tour, Londonderry

Londonderry's Tower Museum throws open the vaults, which are usually closed to the public, this weekend.

Take a closer look at the vast collection of items not currently on display and see how the objects and archives are stored and cared for.

Return bus transport from the Tower Museum to the museum stores (15-minute journey) is provided, with the bus leaving from Tower Museum at 11am sharp today and tomorrow, returning around one hour later.

There's no need to book in advance, but seating on the bus will be limited to 30 and priority will be given to those arriving first.

Today and tomorrow, 11am.

Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, Co Londonderry

There's free entry to both these National Trust properties, Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, over the weekend.

See the stunning landscape and beautiful gardens, which have magnificent clifftop walks, giving rugged headland views across the awe-inspiring North Coast.

Discover the striking 18th-century mansion of the eccentric Earl Bishop that now lies in ruins, then explore Mussenden Temple, perched on the cliff edge.

As an extra treat, learn about the reality of life in the rural 17th-century cottage of Hezlett House, told through people who once lived in one of Northern Ireland's oldest buildings.

Today, 10am-5pm.

Enniskillen Castle, Co Fermanagh

Enniskillen Castle, on the banks of the River Erne, was built almost 600 years ago by the Gaelic Maguires.

Guarding one of the few historic passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history.

It has been an English garrison fort and was later part of a military barracks.

This historic site houses Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum.

The castle and museum were transformed by a £3.5m development project which opened in 2016.

Today and tomorrow, 11am-5pm.

As over 300 tourist attractions open their doors for European Hertitage Days Mark Bain has a look around

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