Scottish attractions lead UK rise in visitor numbers

Jonathan Knott, 14.03.2016
Edinburgh Castle overtakes National Museum of Scotland as most visited attraction in Scotland
Museums, galleries and heritage sites in Scotland performed well last year, with visitor numbers increasing above the UK average, according to figures released last week by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

Visits to Scottish attractions rose 5.5% compared with a UK average of 3.2%. The rise in numbers of visitors to attractions in London was below average for the UK, at 1.6%.

Edinburgh Castle overtook the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) as Scotland’s most visited attraction last year.

Visitor numbers at Edinburgh Castle in 2015 were 5.9% higher than the previous year, while those at those at NMS fell by 4%. But the numbers visiting each were very close, at just under 1.6 million. The castle received about 1,000 more visitors.

It is the first time since 2010 that the order of the two attractions has been reversed. Within the UK overall, Edinburgh Castle fell one place from 17th to 18th, while NMS fell five places from 14th to 19th.

The third most visited attraction in Scotland was the Scottish National Gallery, which received 1.4 million visitors, 6% more than in 2014.

There were also increases in the numbers of visitors to many Glasgow venues. The number of people visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum rose by 12.4% to 1.3 million, while the numbers visiting the Riverside Museum rose by 7.8% to 1.1 million.

The two institutions were the fourth and fifth most visited attractions in Scotland respectively.

Stephen Duncan, the director of commercial and tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, which manages Edinburgh Castle, said:

"It’s great to see Edinburgh Castle at the top of the table in Scotland after another record breaking year for the castle. We’ve seen particular growth in online and travel trade at the castle in 2015, and following a refresh of the castle website towards the end of the year I’m sure this will continue.”

There are 64 Alva members, who manage almost 2,200 venues and sites across the UK. All of the top ten most visited UK attractions were in London.