Travel: What's On Around The UK: Britain behind closed doors

England's "unofficial festival of architecture" takes place this weekend, with hundreds of the country's finest buildings, normally closed to the public, throwing open their doors.

Almost 2,000 buildings will take part in Heritage Open Days, including a former slaughterhouse (now architects' offices) and an art nouveau Turkish baths. This is England's contribution to European Heritage Days '99, in which more than 40 countries will take part.

There are similar events in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland throughout September, and in London on 18 and 19 September. (Telephone 09068 800603 for details; calls cost 60p per minute.)

To help you dash from site to site on the cheap, you should take advantage of the "Sunday Rover" bus ticket. For just pounds 5.50 it offers unlimited travel on buses and some rail lines in East Anglia and the Home Counties north of London. There is no central point of contact for this offer, so check travel or bus information lines in the area.

Visitors to Heritage Open Days' Menagerie Lodge in the Midlands (one of only two menageries existing in the UK, modelled on one at Versailles) may also want to call into Birmingham for the final day of ArtsFest (tel: 0121-248 1300).

Billed as the biggest free arts festival in the UK, ArtsFest has more than 200 events in and around Birmingham's Centenary Square, ranging from bite-sized bits of opera and dance, for the high-art shy, to bhangra, comedy and street shows. Some 100,000 visitors are expected, with a finale that includes the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and a performance of Philip Glass's opera Satyagraha.

Nordic arts are the theme this week in Scotland's northernmost town of Wick as it hosts the Northlands festival (14-20 September).

Nordic neighbours Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Greenland unite to bring to-gether talents in classical music and jazz, along with dance and theatre. Highlights include the debut performance of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's newly formed soloists ensemble; Mari Boine, the internationally renowned Sami singer from north Norway; a lecture from writer and journalist Neal Ascherson; a performance of Ibsen's classic play Ghosts; and a chance to sample fresh and imported produce prepared by top chefs. Call for details (tel: 01955 606660).

In Cumbria "art" takes on a rather more savage form this week as the World Gurning Championship, 18 September, snarls and contorts itself into an annual fit of pique. As part of the Egremont Crab Fair, valiant face- pullers from around the world contest for the title, which has to date been won only by home-grown ugly mugs.

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