Visitor figures to UK attractions up 7.3% in 2017 - Museums Association

Visitor figures to UK attractions up 7.3% in 2017

Scotland and Northern Ireland see significant increases
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Visitor numbers to attractions across the UK rose an average of 7.3% in 2017, according to the latest figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

Scottish museums experienced another good year, with footfall up an average of 13.9% at the country’s attractions. The National Museum of Scotland (NMS) moved up one spot to 11th place on Alva’s list of top UK attractions. The museum attracted almost 2.2 million visitors – an increase of 20% on the previous year; it has seen its footfall rise consistently since it opened 10 new galleries in 2016.

Edinburgh Castle reported a 16% increase, attracting just over 2 million visitors, while the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) experienced a 30% rise.

Glasgow’s Riverside Museum was the most visited attraction outside the Scottish capital, attracting almost 1.4 million visitors – a 7.7% rise on 2016. The city’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum recorded a rise of 3.6%, bringing in 1.3 million visitors.

Alva’s director Bernard Donoghue said: “The fact that Scottish visitor attractions are outperforming the rest of the UK in visitor growth reflects years of strong investment by central and local government in Scotland, and by organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, in Scotland’s visitor economy and cultural landscape."

Attractions in Northern Ireland also had a successful year, with footfall rising an average of 6.5% in 2017. The nation’s most visited attraction remained the Giant’s Causeway, which saw its figures rise by 7% to just over 1 million.

Titanic Belfast came in second, recording an increase of 13.4%, while Ulster Museum saw its number rise by 15.9%.

While some of London’s national museums experienced a decline in visitors, venues outside the English capital had a better year.

Stonehenge remains the most popular heritage site in England outside London, in 14th place on the list. Visitors to the English Heritage-run site rose by 14.5% last year.

Oxford University’s six museums, libraries and galleries reported a combined increase of 13%, with the Ashmolean Museum and Museum of Natural History reporting increases of 3.3% and 15% respectively.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth saw its visitor numbers jump by 17%, partly because the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was docked nearby.

Meanwhile Birmingham Museum Trust’s Sarehole Mill site, which held a Middle Earth-themed festival last year to celebrate its links to JRR Tolkien, recorded a 28% rise in visitors.

Museums in Wales do not feature on Alva’s list, but the nation’s top reporting attractions were Bodnant Garden (up 4%), the National Trust’s Erddig site (no change), and Penrhyn Castle (down 5%).

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