Scotland is home to the most visited attractions outside London for the first time in four years, according to new tourism figures.
The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle hosted more than 2 million visitors last year, ranking the 11th and 12th most popular attractions in the UK and welcoming more visitors than anywhere outside of London, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva). Overall, attractions in Scotland saw an increase of 13.9 per cent over the period, compared to 7.3 per cent in the UK.
The four National Galleries in Edinburgh saw numbers rise to 2.5 million, boosted by a 30 per cent increase at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, known as Modern Two. Meanwhile, Mary King’s Close on the capital’s Royal Mile had a record breaking 9 per cent increase in visitor numbers to 245,700.
Other attractions outside of Edinburgh to enjoy large increases in visitors included Glasgow Cathedral and Stirling Castle, which saw number rise by 36 per cent and 18 per cent respectively and Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, with a near-24 per cent rise.
Tourism experts attributed these increases to a boom in inbound and domestic tourism to Scotland. Recent data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in January found that the combined number of domestic and overseas tourists in Scotland increased by two percent, taking the total to 14.1 million visitors. They also said that the number of visitors to some major attractions in London dropped slightly this year, due to “economic factors” influenced by the high associated costs of a visit to London.
Bernard Donoghue, director of Alva, said: “2017 was a remarkable and record-setting year for Scottish attractions. The fact that Scottish visitor attractions are outperforming the rest of the UK in visitor growth reflects years of strong investment by central and local government in Scotland, and by organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
He added: “We know from research that overseas leisure visitors say that their primary reason to visit the UK, and Scotland especially, is to experience our history, heritage and world-leading cultural institutions, and this is borne out by 2017 visitor numbers.”
UK-wide, the British Museum continued to be the most popular visitor attraction overall for the 11th year running with 5.9 million visitors and moving to second place was Tate Modern with 5.6 million. In third position was the National Gallery with 5.2 million visitors and the Natural History Museum remained in fourth with 4.4 million. The most visited in England outside London was Chester Zoo,with 1.9 million visitors.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland boasts high-quality attractions that, as these latest figures confirm, are continuing to draw increasing numbers of visitors. Our tourism sector is of vital importance to Scotland’s economy. We have a rich heritage, a global reach and are confident of our place in the world.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, pointed to new attraction openings in the coming year, including the V&A in Dundee and Fingal, the Royal Yacht Britannia’s new floating hotel.
He said: “2017 was another fantastic year for tourism in Scotland and the sky is the limit.”