Tourists flock to Scotland’s ‘magnificent seven’ attractions

Stirling Castle attracted nearly half a million paying tourists last year. Picture: Neil Hanna
Stirling Castle attracted nearly half a million paying tourists last year. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A RECORD seven Scottish tourist attractions passed the one million visitor mark last year, new figures have revealed, with Edinburgh Castle scooping the top spot.

Overall, visits to the top ten attractions in Scotland increased by five per cent in 2015, according to a report from Glasgow Caledonian University – despite a strong performance in 2014, when Scotland hosted both the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

Experts said the study showed that Scotland was “punching above its weight” in attracting visitors to sites around the country.

A total of 1.57 million people paid to visit Edinburgh Castle during 2015, though the other places attracting a million visitors were free to enter.

The National Museum of Scotland was the second most popular tourist site in Scotland in 2015, followed by the Scottish National Gallery and St Giles Cathedral.

In Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which ten years ago, undertook a three-year, £27.9 million refurbishment, was the most popular place for people to visit, attracting 1.26 million visitors in 2015.

Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch was the remaining site to pass the one million mark.

Professor John Lennon pg Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Scotland is clearly punching above its weight in visitor attraction performance.”

In the list of the top ten paid for attractions, Stirling Castle also performed well, attracting 458,932 visitors last year.

In the non-paid for category, after Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, which saw 836,755 visitors flock through its doors in 2015, Gretna Green’s Famous Blacksmith’s Shop was the next popular, with 775,868 tourist visits.

The Helix Park in Falkirk, which features the Kelpies horse head sculptures and the Falkirk Wheel provided a combined appeal to 1.3 million visitors to Scotland. Other top paid-for sites included Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh Bus Tours, Glasgow Science Centre and Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit.

The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Scotch Whisky Experience, both in Edinburgh, the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick and Culzean Castle and Country Park in Ayrshire completed the top 10 paid-for list.

The top ten visitor attraction table forms the initial findings of the Moffat Centre Visitor Attraction Monitor. Its full report covering over 680 tourist sites will be completed in March.

Last month, official figures showed that the number of overseas tourists to visit Scotland slumped last year, resulting in a 13 per cent drop in expenditure by foreign tourists during the summer holidays.

A 4.7 per cent rise in overseas visitors to the UK outperformed a 1 per cent annual drop in the number of foreign tourists who travelled to Scotland last year, according to the report from the Office for National Statistics and VisitScotland. The amount spent by overseas travellers also fell compared to the previous year, dropping by two per cent in the 12 months to September.