Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said it had seen a 20 per cent average increase in footfall at its 70 sites across Scotland between April and September this year – the busiest season on record.
HES said that sites which feature in the hit US television series Outlander, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, continued to see large increases in visitor numbers. Blackness Castle saw the most significant rise in visitors at 44 per cent, closely followed by Doune Castle – famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the series – with a 42 per cent increase.
Meanwhile, the top ten most-visited Historic Scotland paid-for attractions – including sites such as Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle – have all recorded their best ever season. A further 13 HRS sites have already exceeded their visitor totals for last financial year.
Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: “This year’s summer season has surpassed our previous visitor records, as we welcomed over 3.8 million visitors to our historic sites across the country – an excellent 20 per cent increase on last season’s showing.
“From Edinburgh Castle to Skara Brae, historic sites across Scotland are continuing to draw record numbers of visitors, further demonstration of the value of Scotland’s historic places within the wider tourism offering.”
August saw more than 870,000 visitors flocking to Scotland’s iconic historic sites, making it the busiest individual month ever recorded.
The figures came as Scotland celebrates Heritage Awareness Day, the first-ever day dedicated to showcasing the country’s diverse heritage.
Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, said she believed the Outlander effect could continue for some time as more people become hooked on the show.
She said: “It has been a spectacular summertime at all of the sites, but a lot of it is down to the Outlander effect as well.
“Outlander has only become more mainstream viewing for the UK very recently, while other markets are at different stages of catching up with the Outlander story.”
Last month, VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead hailed Outlander as the new “Braveheart” of tourism, for its ability to attract international visitors to its locations around Scotland.