FREE admission helped to draw the Boxing Day crowds to a regimental museum and art gallery yesterday.

The offer, which will be repeated on New Year's Day, saved a family of four the usual £6.25 charge at the dli, Durham Light Infantry Museum and Durham Art Gallery.

Visitors taking advantage of the opportunity were able to enjoy the treasures of the county's famous regiment, and run the rule over two touring exhibitions now resident at the Aykley Heads complex, in Durham City.

A near £1m revamp, completed almost 18 months ago, made the attraction much more family orientated, with lots of "hands-on" activities for youngsters while still remaining faithful to the history and traditions of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI).

Young visitors yesterday were able to don special red uniform tunics, as worn by the 68th Regiment of Foot, a forerunner of the DLI.

They were also able to clamber over a range of old Army vehicles and handle items of military memorabilia collected in various fields of battle during the past two centuries, including First World War rifles, helmets and air raid warden uniforms.

Upstairs in the gallery area one of the eye-catching displays is The Magic of Masks and Puppets, featuring a range of marionettes from round the world, including giant Russian dolls, Punch and Judy and more modern models from films and television drama.

A second exhibition, Ikons of Identity, includes an array of masks, ranging from catwalk headpieces to the ultimate clubbing accessories, the work of 18 contemporary and more established mask makers.

The museum is open from 10am to 4pm daily, with admission charges again waived on Tuesday as another special public holiday offer.

About 340 people passed through the doors during yesterday's six-hour opening period.