Historic visitor attractions report record numbers

Visitor numbers at Scotland's historic sites have rocketed by 13 per cent over the past year, tipping over the four million mark for the first time.

Edinburgh Castle was the most visited Historic Environment Scotland attraction.
Edinburgh Castle was the most visited Historic Environment Scotland attraction.

Historic Environment Scotland - the body formed from Historic Scotland and RCAHMS, which runs over 300 historic sites across the country - said that Edinburgh Castle remained the top most visited site in the eleven months from April 2016 to the present, followed by Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle.

Meanwhile, Doune Castle was still feeling the "Outlander effect", it said, with 84,972 people having explored the 1300s castle which was used as a location for the fictional Castle Leoch ion the hit TV series - almost a third more than the number of visitors it attracted last year.

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “This financial year has seen us hit an incredible milestone, achieving a record breaking first for Scotland’s heritage tourism sector. A fantastic four million visitors turned out at our staffed sites, which include some of the country’s most recognisable landmarks from Orkney to the Borders and everywhere in between.

“We welcomed 474,198 more visitors to our staffed sites compared to the same period last year – recording our greatest number of visitors ever. This milestone is made even more special and exciting as we embark on Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.”


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In addition to a new overall personal best for total number of visitors turning out at Scotland’s historic sites, a number of attractions have also been setting new individual records during the same period.

Over 1.6 million people passed over Edinburgh Castle’s drawbridge, around 200,000 up on the same period last year. Whilst Stirling Castle, recently crowned Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction at the Scottish Outdoor and Leisure Awards, welcomed 447,512 visitors, a rise of seven per cent.

The medieval stronghold of Urquhart Castle, which overlooks Loch Ness, jumped up by 13 per cent overall to 380,152 visitors.

Membership of Historic Environment Scotland was up by 6.5 per cent to 170,000 members over the period.