Harry Potter and Outlander drive visitor surge at Glenfinnan

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It was once a little-known part of the Highlands at the head of Loch Shiel where Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised 
his standard as he rallied the clans for the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Now, thanks to the worldwide popularity of Outlander, the British-American drama about the uprising, and the nearby Glenfinnan Viaduct which the Hogwarts Express crossed in the Harry Potter films, the Glenfinnan Monument has seen a rise in visitor numbers of almost 60 per cent in just one year.

The popularity of the Glenfinnan Viaduct has soared. Picture: TSPL

The popularity of the Glenfinnan Viaduct has soared. Picture: TSPL

The phenomenal surge is revealed today in an annual survey of more than 700 of the country’s paid-admission and free attractions by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for travel and tourism business development.

The research also revealed tourism across Scotland was up by 5 per cent last year.

The Glenfinnan Monument, in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), and which features in the top ten paid admissions attractions, has seen visitor numbers increase from 251,181 in 2016 to 396,448 last year – an increase of 57.8 per cent.

Last year the NTS warned it was “extremely worried” about the possibility of serious accidents due to the large car loads of people, tour buses and camper vans flocking to the area, or stopping off en route to the Isle of Skye.

The Trust said its Glenfinnan car park is regularly overrun with up to 2,000 visitors a day.

Many of them gather to take photos of a tourist steam train crossing the viaduct.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “2017 was another fantastic year for tourism in Scotland and I’m delighted to hear our visitor attractions enjoyed another bumper year.

“It is a testament to all the hard work put in by businesses across the country to ensure visitors have the best experience possible.”

Edinburgh Castle was the top paid-for attraction, while the National Museum of Scotland topped the league of free attractions.

Professor John Lennon, Moffat Centre director, said: “Two Scottish visitor attractions welcoming more than two million visitors for the first time is a sure sign of the enduring appeal and strength of the sector. Edinburgh and Glasgow continue to dominate the country’s tourism industry but regional performance across Scotland is also buoyant and encouraging.

“As a destination, Scotland continues to benefit from the lower value of sterling against the euro and the US dollar, ensuring tourists receive value for money as well as a high-quality experience.

“Demand has been further buoyed by a resurgent domestic ‘stay-cation’ market as Britain faces economic uncertainty and the reduced purchasing power of sterling.”