Sun and sport brought visitors to Scotland in 2014

Edinburgh Castle was the most popular 'paid-for' site. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Edinburgh Castle was the most popular 'paid-for' site. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Scotland’s visitor attractions were the best performing in the UK last year as the nation basked in a summer heatwave, new figures have revealed.

Spin-offs from the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup golf tournament, along with a Homecoming marketing campaign to capitalise on them, were also thought to have helped visitor numbers rise by almost 10 per cent.

In contrast, London’s attractions saw a 7.1 per cent increase in visitors, while the rest of England, Northern Ireland and Wales all recorded increases of under 6 per cent.

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the UK’s busiest outside London, despite closing several galleries for refurbishment, while the most popular “paid-for” site was Edinburgh Castle. The castle and the museum attracted more than three million visitors between them.

Also in Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery – a focal point of Generation, Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of visual art – saw a 39 per cent increase in visitors, while the Royal Botanic Garden was up 19 per cent.

Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, close to Commonwealth Games venues like the SECC and the Hydro, saw its visitor numbers soar by 42 per cent. Kelvingrove art gallery also claimed a place in the UK top 30 with more than 1.1 million visitors.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of NMS, said: “We’re delighted that the museum remains the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland and the most popular museum outside of London.

“We’re currently creating ten exciting new galleries of decorative art, fashion, design, and science and technology and look forward to welcoming even more visitors when these open in summer of 2016.”

Sir John Leighton, director general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “A strong programme of exhibitions led by Generation was extremely popular with both international and local visitors, and a dedicated marketing campaign targeting visitors to the city worked exceptionally well, enabling us to capitalise on the huge success of the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming.”

Councillor Archie Graham, chair of Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s main cultural attractions said: “Glasgow is Scotland’s cultural powerhouse and while we enjoyed an incredible summer of sport with the 2014 Commonwealth Games, our museums and attractions continued to attract millions of visitors.

“The success of the Riverside Museum, in particular, has been nothing short of phenomenal and is an outstanding example of how investment in musuems can reap huge rewards.

“Glasgow is continuing to invest in our rich cultural heritage with the redevelopment of the Kelvin Hall and our ambitious plans for a full refurbishment and redisplay of the Burrell Collection.”

Across Scotland, more than 12 million people flocked to sites whose operators are members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

Scottish attractions outperformed the rest of the country in all three categories of Alva’s survey – gardens and leisure castles, heritage and culture, and museums and galleries. With the latter, there was an 11.5 per cent increase across Scotland compared to the UK average of 6.5 per cent.

Bernard Donoghue, director of Alva, said: “Scotland’s impressive visitor figures – which outperform the rest of the UK –are proof of the need for the successful investment strategy by the Scottish Government, local government and the Heritage Lottery Fund in investing in tourism – Scotland’s most important industry.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures build on the successes of Homecoming 2014, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup and underline Scotland’s global reputation as a welcoming, first class destination for visitors from at home and around the world.

“I’m confident we can build on the momentum created in 2014 and continue to deliver strong, high quality experiences that will entice visitors back to our cultural attractions time and time again.”

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