A festival which will see hidden gems and well-known historical sites throw open their doors to visitors for free returns to Norfolk this weekend for an eight-day celebration of the county's heritage.

Eastern Daily Press: Cromer Museum - Victorian Fisherman's Cottage Credit: Norfolk Museums and Archaeology ServiceCromer Museum - Victorian Fisherman's Cottage Credit: Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (Image: Archant)

The annual Heritage Open Days event starts on Thursday and for the first time will run over two weekends giving thousands of people the chance to look behind the usually closed doors of some of the county's most interesting buildings.

With almost 300 events programmed, including free guided tours, talks, open buildings, exhibitions and performances, Norfolk's Heritage Open Days festival is one of the biggest in the country.

In Norwich there will be the opportunity to explore familiar landmarks such as Norwich Cathedral, The Great Hospital, The Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News offices.

Alternatively, lesser-known buildings including The Missing Kind in Castle Meadow, the former leper hospital Lazar House or a new feature for 2018, Wherry Maud.

Eastern Daily Press: Wherry Maud at Thurne windmill picture Neil ThomasWherry Maud at Thurne windmill picture Neil Thomas (Image: Neil_Thomas)

But it's not just Norwich where events are taking place; locations across Norfolk are opening their doors to the public, including a former atomic weapons bunker in Thetford, the Blicking Estate, The Old Fisherman's Hospital in Great Yarmouth and Doric Lodge in Wymondham.

To mark 100 years since women got the vote, the county's extraordinary women will be remember and celebrated in a number of exhibitions and the weird and wonderful of Norfolk's history will be bought to life at the Weird Norfolk exhibition in the Forum.

Cathy Eden, Heritage Open Days coordinator from The Forum, said: 'We can't wait for the start of Heritage Open Days 2018. It's a great opportunity to explore our community, visit places that aren't always open to the public and learn more about where live.

The festival brings people together and is a wonderful celebration of our county's heritage.'

The Heritage Open Days festival will take place from September 6-9 and 13-16. A brochure covering most of the events in Norfolk is available from the Forum in Norwich, Tourist Information Centres, libraries and many other places across the county.

Where to find out more

The Heritage Open Day festival events in Norfolk are co-ordinated by the Forum and information about all the events can be found via the Forum's website.

Tickets for pre-booked events went on sale July and many were snapped up within minutes of being released. While some events have sold out there are still plenty of tickets left for events and there are dozens of un-ticketed exhibitions, performances, tours and activities taking place across Norfolk.

The brochure listing all of this year's Heritage Open Days is available from the Forum, tourist information centres, libraries and many other venues across the county.

A copy can also be downloaded from: theforumnorwich.co.uk/hods