For the seventh year running the increase north of the Border (19.07 per cent) was higher than the UK average (8.68 per cent) with the National Museum of Scotland the most visited attraction outside of London.
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) counted 2,227,773 visits for the museum followed by 2,111,578 for Edinburgh Castle - making it Scotland’s most visited paid attraction.
Weather played a part in visitor numbers with drops attributed to the Beast from the East and the summer sun – however the latter caused a 2.5 per cent increase in visitors (929,140) to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for 2018.
Bernard Donoghue, ALVA director, said 2019 “should be another exciting year”.
He added: “Attractions across the UK have shown that by investing in their buildings, gardens and staff, presenting globally significant exhibitions and working together to bring iconic artefacts - whether poppies or dinosaurs - to more people, has been hugely successful.
“It’s also clear that the bad weather at the beginning of 2018 – ‘the Beast from the East’ – the very hot summer and the impact of the World Cup resulted in some of our members experiencing a fall in visitor numbers, especially at outdoor attractions. Tourism is our fifth biggest industry and third largest employer and ALVA members are proud to be the principal reason that overseas visitors cite when choosing to visit the UK.”
Three new permanent galleries opened at the National Museum of Scotland in February – Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, Exploring East Asia and the Art of Ceramics – while the National Galleries of Scotland will play host to Bridget Riley’s first major collection of work in the UK for 16 years.
The new V&A Dundee, which recorded 341,265 visits by the end of 2018, will welcome Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt on April 20.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will be the first UK venue to exhibit the Linda McCartney Retrospective, curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, from July 5, following the success of Dippy the Dinosaur’s touring visit to Glasgow.
Scotland’s Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our galleries, castles and museums showcase Scotland’s incredible culture, heritage and history and it’s thanks to the hard work of those in the industry that we have seen this impressive increase in visitor numbers.”