Days out 2009: Not much time to spare? How about an awayday

This year's crop of new visitor attractions proves you don't need to go far to enjoy a break. Simone Kane rounds up what to see and do


1. Homecoming Scotland 2009


This is the year to head north of the border, where a countrywide programme of events and activities celebrating Scotland's contribution to the world takes place throughout 2009. Festivities kick off on the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns and continue until St Andrew's Day. Highlights include the Burns Light Festival in Dumfries and the Edinburgh International Science Festival.



Details: 25 Jan to 30 Nov ( www.homecomingscotland2009.com).



2. Norwich Dragon Festival

Once England's second city, Norwich will be celebrating its historical and cultural links with the mythical dragon in a new three-week festival, with events taking place in some of its most beautiful and ancient buildings. The programme includes sculpture exhibitions, talks on how the dragon became such a powerful symbol in the city's history, and children's events.

Details: 31 Jan to 22 Feb (01603 305575; www.norwich12.co.uk/dragonfestival).



3. Down House, Kent

One of the most significant centenaries being marked this year is Darwin200 (darwin200.org), celebrating the 200th anniversary of the scientist's birth. Down House was his home for more than 40 years and will reopen in February. In a revamped visitor experience, new technology such as handheld multimedia tours and on-site and online interactive displays will explore his life and work.

Details: from 13 Feb (01689 859119; www.english-heritage.org.uk/downhouse).



4. Wallace & Gromit, London

The Science Museum will be putting on a full programme of events throughout the year in celebration of its 100th birthday. But one of its biggest draws will be the special exhibition, Wallace & Gromit Present ... A World of Cracking Ideas. In a fun family experience, inimitable inventor Wallace and his lovable sidekick, Gromit, will take visitors on an "inspirational and sensory journey of discovery" through some significant inventions.

Details: 28 Mar to 1 Nov (0870 870 4868; www.sciencemuseum.org.uk).



5. Snowdonia

The 350,000 people who reach the summit of Snowdonia annually will be able take a well-deserved rest at the new visitor centre and café from later on this year. Hafod Eryri, designed by Ray Hole, will withstand extreme weather, the roof will bow to preserve the landscape, while two glass walls will offer views up to the cairn and down the valley. Also opening this year is a new stretch of railway between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, making Snowdonia truly accessible without a car for the first time.

Details: from spring/summer (01766 770274; www.eryri-npa.gov.uk).



6. Kenilworth Castle

May sees the official opening of the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. Once one of the greatest gardens of the Elizabethan age, it was commissioned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The garden has been designed to be as close to the splendour of the original as possible, featuring a bejewelled aviary and a marble fountain.

Details: from May (01926 852078; www.english-heritage.org.uk).

7. Hadrian's Wall

For the first time in almost 1,600 years, Hadrian's Wall will be garrisoned once more. In May, historical re-enactors will be stationed at Mile Castles and Forts along the World Heritage Site, in one of the largest human interactions with the Northumberland and Cumbrian landscape. Later in the year, the entire 73 miles of the wall will be illuminated in another first.

Details: The Living Frontier, 28-31 May (01434 322002; www.hadrians-wall.org); Lighting of the Wall, to be scheduled in November or December ( www.northumberlandlights.com).



8. Ulster Museum

The touring collections of the Ulster Museum will be able to set down roots again when their permanent home reopens after a two-and-a-half-year redevelopment. The Belfast museum will have a further 1,225 metres of exhibition space in which to display its art, archaeology, local history and natural science collections. Additions include a Hall of Wonders, a new rooftop gallery housing its glass, jewellery and silverware, a bespoke lecture theatre, and a glass-fronted restaurant.

Details: from June 2009 (028-9042 8428; www.ulstermuseum.org.uk).



9. Manchester Festival

This year sees the second instalment of the biennial festival, which was launched to great acclaim in 2007. The only commissioning arts festival in the world has just announced the first three shows to feature in its 2009 event. Highlights include Rufus Wainright's debut opera, Prima Donna.

Details: 2-19 July (0161-238 7300; www.mif.co.uk).



10. River Tone Boat

From summer, visitors to Taunton will be able to board a solar-powered boat to enjoy short trips from the town up the river Tone and longer jaunts on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. The sustainable, silent boat will provide an accessible as well as innovative and unobtrusive way to enjoy the river environment.

Details: from summer ( www.somerset-waterways.org).

Sue MacGregor, Broadcaster

"My favourite cultural space is The Lightbox, in Woking, which is set in an unlikely place for a modern art gallery and local history museum. The building is an inspired design. The contents are intriguing, well-chosen and fun and local volunteers with knowledge and enthusiasm guide visitors ."

The Lightbox (01483-737800; www.thelightbox.org.uk) won The Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries 2008. Sue MacGregor chaired the panel of judges. This year's award will be made on 18 June at RIBA in London.

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