SCOTLAND’S flagship museums and galleries attracted more than four million visitors last year as record numbers flocked to see newly-revamped attractions.
The National Galleries of Scotland recorded a 25 per cent increase across its sites in the capital, while the National Museum of Scotland witnessed a 27 per cent surge.
The latter attraction in Edinburgh, the most popular in the country, lured in 1.89m visitors, with the other national museums in East Lothian, Dumfries and East Kilbride attracting a further 650,000.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which like the museum was open for a full year for the first time in 2012 since a major refurbishment, pulled in almost 330,000 visitors alone, some 39 per cent more than in its final year prior to refurbishment.
Other sites across the NGS estate brought the overall figure up to 1.6m.
The revamp of the national museum had been completed in July 2011, with the overhaul of the portrait gallery finished in December of that year.
Sir John Leighton, director-general of the Galleries, said: “We are delighted that our strong programme of exhibitions and the reopening of the portrait gallery contributed to a record year for us in 2012.
“As VisitScotland has emphasised, art and culture are becoming increasingly important for attracting visitors to Scotland and we are working with colleagues and partners around the country to make a significant contribution to the tourist economy as well as to enhance the cultural life of the public.”
The previous high notched up by the Galleries organisation, of 1.56m. Both the Scottish Gallery on the Mound and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art recorded modest increases.
A spokesman for NMS, which recorded an 18 per cent increase across all its sites, said: “We’re delighted to have attracted over two and a half million visitors during 2012, the best ever performance for our museums.
“We’re particularly pleased with the sustained success of the National Museum of Scotland, with a 27 per cent increase in visits, even after the sustained success of full reopening in 2011.
“We’ve had more than a million additional visitors in 2012 compared with 2008, the last year that the full museum was open prior to redevelopment.”
The national museum had attracted almost 1.5m visitors in 2011, ahead of Edinburgh Castle, which notched up 1.3m visitors.
Detailed figures for all major attractions across the UK are due to be released in the next few weeks.