Edinburgh still has the most pulling power for tourists visiting Scotland, new figures have revealed.
The Capital continues to dominate the country’s tourism marketplace with ten of the top 20 most popular attractions, according to latest visitor statistics.
The two top crowd-pulling sites – the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle – each attracted more than two million visits, only the second time that any visitor attraction in Scotland has passed the two million milestone.
The National Museum of Scotland retained top slot in the survey by the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) and saw numbers increase by 2.9 per cent to 2,227,773 last year.
The Castle was close behind with 2,111,578 visitors, up 2.3 per cent, making it Scotland’s most popular paid-for attraction.
The Scottish National Gallery saw one of the biggest increases in visitor numbers, up 8.6 per cent to 1,739,128.
And visitors to St Giles’ Cathedral rose 3.5 per cent to 1,330,816.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: “It is terrific that the latest ASVA visitor figures have once again confirmed the National Museum of Scotland as the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland. In addition we recorded the highest ever visitor numbers across all our sites with over 3.2 million visits. It has been a busy year for the Museum with the hugely popular exhibitions, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop and Art of Glass and a packed programme of activities including a Q&A with astronaut Tim Peake as he unveiled the display of his Soyuz spacecraft, Science Festival events and workshops and the sell-out Fringe showcase, Museum After Hours.
“This month we have just completed the 15-year, £80 million transformation of the National Museum of Scotland with the opening of three new galleries devoted to our outstanding collections of ceramics, ancient Egyptian and East Asian material and we look forward to welcoming visitors to these over the coming year.”
The Royal Botanic Garden remained in seventh place in the table of attractions, but numbers fell by 8.6 per cent.
The National War Museum at the Castle, in eighth place, increased its visitor numbers by 4.5 per cent to 798,165.
And Edinburgh Bus Tours attracted 702,235 visitors, up 1.8 per cent on the previous year.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art saw its numbers slip by 5.9 per cent.
Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo were 8.4 per cent down, but the attraction in Corstorphine still drew over half a million.
And numbers visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith were almost unchanged at 390,848.
ASVA said 232 sites across the country had recorded over 30 million visits, a 0.1 per cent increase on 2017. It follows increases of 9.7 per cent in 2017 and six per cent in 2016.
It noted a continuing “Outlander” effect with numbers up at many sites featured in the cult TV series and others with Jacobite connections.
Distilleries and whisky-related attractions did well, including a two per cent rise in visitors to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.
Culture and Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s fantastic to see the success of ASVA’s iconic tourist sites attracting more than 30 million visits in 2018.
“However with the on-going uncertainty of the EU exit, the Scottish Government recognises we cannot take tourism success for granted. We will continue to work to support sustainable growth of the industry as it creates jobs, boosts the local and national economy and builds on our strong international reputation.”
Gordon Morrison, chief executive of ASVA, said: “Although reporting only a modest increase in visitor figures, it should be remembered that 2017 was something of a stellar year. To be reporting even a modest increase in 2018 visitor figures is therefore a great achievement for the industry.”