IT is the one weekend of the year when York's residents unequivocally come first.
A host of the city's top attractions, museums and galleries will be throwing their doors open to local people completely free of charge this weekend.
It is the 21st year of the York Residents Festival. And to mark the occasion there are a record number of attractions and deals on offer.
In two minds about whether you should pay to get into York Art Gallery? Well, this weekend York Card holders will be able to visit for free.
Not looked around the revamped York Army Museum yet? Here's your chance - without having to pay a penny.
Never heard of the Bitchdaughter tower? Well, it's part of the city walls - and this weekend it will be opened up to visitors for the very first time.
As well as attractions in York itself, local people will be able to visit country houses, gardens and museums just outside the city free of charge: including Beningbrough Hall, the Castle Howard grounds and Eden Camp museum.
Back in York, a host of shops, restaurants, pubs and bars are offering discounts of up to 20 per cent off to York residents throughout the weekend.
There will be far too much going on for us to mention everything here - so all we can do is pick out a few highlights.
For full details see visityork.org/residents-festival.aspx or pick up a Festival brochure at the Visit York Information centre at 1 Museum Street. Remember, to enjoy the weekend you'll need your York Card or valid valid York Student ID card...
RESIDENTS FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
Bitchdaughter Tower, open Saturday 10am - 4pm
The Bitchdaughter tower
This tower on the city walls near Baile Hill between between Skeldergate bridge and Bishopthorpe Road is not named after either an unpleasant woman or anyone's daughter. During medieval times it was one of the king's prisons. The word 'bitch' is thought to be derived from a medieval word for 'nightmare' - suggesting it wasn't a terribly nice place to be locked up. The daughter part of the name, meanwhile, comes from then old French 'dortour', meaning a room or dormitory.
Inside the tower
You'll be able to visit from 10am-4pm tomorrow to see inside the small room with its brick arched roof and stone fireplace, which were built in 1645 when the nearby walls were repaired following damage during the Civil War siege. To get there walk up the grassed slope of the ramparts from Baile Hill Terrace.
Castlegate House, Castlegate, York, open Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm
Located in Castlegate directly opposite Fairfax House, Castlegate House is a private Georgian house designed by John Carr and completed in 1763. In the late 1920s it became one of York's three Masonic buildings and visitors will be very welcome view the Temple within the building.
Fairfax House, Castlegate, open Saturday 11am - 4pm and Sunday 11am – 2pm
Fairfax House steward Thomas Jacobs and property assistant Rachel Wallis prepare the entrance hall for residents' weekend
If you're visiting Castlegate House, why not take the opportunity at the same time to pop across to Fairfax House, on the opposite side of the street.
Because of ongoing work to refresh the shop and entrance area, this weekend you will actually get to enter through the main front door - a substantial porticoed double door in the centre of the main part of the house. "People will be able to experience what it would have been like to enter the house in the 18th century," said director Hannah Phillip. Inside, you'll be able to roam around most of the magnificent mansion, see 'behind the scenes' with the annual spring clean under way, and learn about volunteering opportunities. In the 20th century, the building was used as the St George's cinema and dancehall - and staff will be keen to hear from anyone who has memories of these days.
The Guildhall, St. Helen’s Square, open Saturday and Sunday10.30am – 4.30pm
Inside of the Guildhall
An opportunity not only to explore the Guildhall complex, including the council chamber, the previously unseen basement and the former council offices, but also to find out more about proposals to re-use the Guildhall as a business club. Guided tours will begin at 11am/1pm/3pm with a maximum of 30 people per time slot.
The Guildhall main hall will also be open on both days so visitors can talk to the design team and learn about the proposals. No booking necessary: just turn up and share your views.
Holgate Windmill, Windmill Rise, Holgate, Saturday and Sunday 11am – 4pm
Come and see York’s only surviving windmill, restored and in full working order. Stoneground flour milled here is available for sale.
Jacobs Well, Trinity Lane, Micklegate, open Saturday 10am-4pm Taking part for the first time in York Residents Festival, Jacobs Well - the parish room of Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate - is an unusual and unique medieval building. In 1539 the house was purchased by Dame Isabella Ward, the Prioress of Clementhorpe Nunnery, then was conveyed to Feoffees for charitable purposes. Around 1600 the hall was converted into a two storey building. Go and see it for yourself on Saturday...
St Nicks Environment Centre and nature reserve, Rawdon Avenue, York, open Saturday 10:30am-3.00pm
Explore the green heart of York and discover the importance of being outdoors and of nature for human wellbeing. Hands-on activities, information about the centre's ecotherapy project and free guided tours (starting on the hour), plus a crafts display and sale, a garden birdwatch and information on green living and volunteering.
The Stained Glass Centre, St. Martin-cum-Gregory church, Micklegate, open Saturday 10 am – 4pm
Not visited the stained glass centre yet? Family-friendly activities, an exhibition and craft stalls will all be taking place in the Grade 1* building which contains historic stained glass and fascinating graffiti. Try designing a window or painting on glass. Stained glass experts will be on hand for demonstrations and discussions.
York Army Museum, open Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm
An exhibit at York Army Museum
Taking part in York residents Festival for the first time this year, the York Army Museum tells the stories of British Army soldiers from 1685 to the present day. At the moment, it also has a new exhibition about the ‘Yorkshire Pals’ who volunteered for service in the First World War.
York Castle Museum, open Saturday and Sunday 9.30am - 5.00pm
Kirkgate at York Castle Museum
Walk the cobbled streets of Kirkgate, delve into the creepy cells of York Prison, swing by the Sixties gallery and return to the front with the First World War Exhibition, 1914: When the World Changed Forever.
York Cemetery, Cemetery Road, open Sunday 10am-4pm
Visit the Grade II* listed Chapel and catacombs and enjoy free history and garden tours of the cemetery. There will be an exhibition of the cemetery’s history and information on volunteer opportunities, sand genealogists will be at the Gatehouse to do family history searches.
“If you have never visited us before you will be amazed to discover a green oasis of almost 25 acres, bursting with natural life, charm and atmosphere," says Clive Dawson, chairman of the Friends of York Cemetery. "The cemetery dates from 1837 so guides conducting historical tours will feature a selection of the many interesting memorials, and enthral people with tales of people buried. Whilst enjoying tours and taking in the natural beauty of the grounds, visitors may even be lucky enough to catch sight of a deer or a fox!”
Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens, open Saturday and Sunday 11am - 3.30pm
This is a very special year for the magnificent redbrick Italian-style house with postcard views across sweeping lawns and tree lined avenues. Built in 1716, this is its 300th anniversary. It has a remarkable history of changing occupants, reinvented buildings and recreated gardens. Parts of the hall will be closed this weekend for conservation but galleries, the garden and facilities will be open.
Castle Howard, open Saturday January 30 - Sunday February 7, 10am – 5pm
The house itself is closed, but you'll still be able to enjoy the wonderful parkland. Discover statues, lakes, temples and fountains, the 18th century walled garden, lakeside and woodland walks and adventure playground. Dogs on leads welcome.
Eden Camp, Malton, open Saturday and Sunday10am – 5pm, last admission 4pm.
Housed in the grounds and buildings of an original World War II prisoner of war camp, a visit will transport you back in time to experience the sights, smells and sounds of life on the home front and front line during World War II.
Kirklees Light Railway, Park Mill Way, Clayton West, Nr Huddersfield, open Saturday and Sunday, trains operate between 10.30am and 3.10pm
A chance to travel a little further afield. The Kirklees Light Railway offers a scenic journey through the beautiful South Pennine foothills between Clayton West and Shelley. The railway is a popular attraction for visitors of all ages with a café, tea room, play areas and miniature train. Customers with a valid YorkCard or York Student ID will enjoy unlimited travel throughout the day.
More shops and businesses across the city than ever are offering special discounts of up to 20 per cent this weekend to York residents. Many see the York residents weekend as an opportunity to bounce back after the floods, explained Chris Price, make It York's city centre and markets manager.
"Following the Boxing Day flooding, businesses and retailers across the city need local support more than ever," he said. "We’re delighted so many of York’s shops and eateries are getting involved. With fantastic discounts of up to 20 per cent this weekend is not only a great time to explore York’s attractions but also the very best time to bag a bargain and spend your savings on a meal out. We hope residents and students will take advantage of these great offers throughout the weekend."
To enjoy the discounts, you'll need to show your York Card or valid York Student ID card. Again, there are too many business taking part to list them all. The full list is at visityork.org/residents-festival.aspx. But participating businesses include everyone from Browns, Fenwick and Marks and Spencer to MOR Music, Top Man and Top Shop and a whole host of stalls at the Shambles market...