THE history and heritage of the Highlands - as well its scenery and landscape - are the main reasons tourists visit the region, a massive survey has revealed.
Attractions like Urquhart Castle, Fort George, Dunvegan Castle and Castle of Mey are proving a major draw to the Highlands, according to VisitScotland’s biggest ever Visitor Survey.
Carried out in the summers of 2015 and 2016, the national tourism organisation’s poll saw 753 visitors to the Highlands interviewed, and 975 visitors answered specific questions about their visit to the area in a follow-up survey online.
A total of 65% of those who replied cited visiting a historic house, stately home or castle amongst the top activities undertaken in the region – five per cent above the national average of 60 per cent.
There’s a haunting air of mystery that cloaks the Highlands, and the region’s turbulent history has left behind some of the most beautiful and romantic castles in the world.
From Dunvegan Castle on Skye to the much-photographed Eilean Donan Castle - they remain a huge draw for visitors from both the UK and overseas.
A total of 87 per cent of respondents cited scenery and landscape as the main draw to the region, compared to the national average of 50 per cent.
Another draw for visitors was that the Highlands was a place they had always wanted to visit.
A total of 58% of respondents said this was what had attracted them to the region, compared to the national average of 15 per cent.
Visitors to the Highlands gave positive ratings of their holiday experience, with 94% giving scores of 7-10 on the satisfaction scale, and well over half - 60% - gave the highest ratings of nine or ten out of ten.
Holidaymakers also expressed a high likelihood to recommend the region to friends or family, with 92% scoring it between 7-10 and 64% selecting nine or ten out of ten.
Sightseeing by car, coach or on foot was the most popular activity. With 81% of respondents citing this as a reason to visit the region, sightseeing in the Highlands is above the national average of 74 per cent. In second spot is visiting a historic house, stately home or castle - 65%, 5% above the national average - while enjoying a short walk or stroll is enjoyed by 59%, also 5% above the national average.
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Ken Massie, Head of Strategic Partnerships at VisitScotland, said: “With nearly 12,000 visitors all over the country interviewed, this is the biggest Scotland Visitor Survey we have ever produced.
“I am delighted, but not surprised, to see that so many people rate their trips to the Highlands so highly.
“Finding out what drives people to enjoy a holiday in the region provides the tourism industry with valuable insight into the makeup of our visitors and helps them to ensure we continue to provide the best customer experience.”