More than 5.2m people visited Scotland’s leading historic sites last year with hit television show Outlander continuing to drive fresh interest in the places of Scotland’s past.
Seven out of the 10 most visited attractions run by HES reported record visitor numbers in 2018 - with three of those appearing as locations in the popular time travelling drama.
Edinburgh Castle remains the most visited property owned by Historic Environment Scotland with staff welcoming more than 2.11m people through the door last year.
Meanwhile, a castle used as a location in Outlander experienced a 36 per cent surge in visitors in 2018.
Blackness Castle in West Lothian, which twinned as Fort William garrison and prison in season one of the show, surpassed 50,000 visitors for the first time.
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Glasgow Cathedral, Doune Castle and Linlithgow Palace - which have all appeared in the series - were among the top 10 most visited attractions in Scotland.
Stephen Duncan, Director for Commercial and Tourism, said: “2018 was another fantastic year for Scotland’s heritage sites, with visitor numbers continuing to grow.
“As well as the ‘Outlander effect’ bringing international visitors to Scotland to explore its rich history, we have also seen an increase in the number of Scots visiting heritage sites as evidenced in our highest ever membership figure.
“With Scotland being used as a filming location for productions such as Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots, we hope visitors will continue to be inspired to explore the history of the sites they see on the big screen.”
The appetite for Scottish history and heritage drove a 5 per cent rise visitors to HES manned properties in 2018.
Overall, visitors are said to have contributed around £620m for the local tourist economy.,
Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness were the next most visited sites after Edinburgh Castle with the Highland stronghold attracting more than 500,000 visitors in a single year for the first time.
Doune Castle and Craigmillar Castle, which were also used as Outlander locations, have also experienced an increase in footfall, HES said.
While Outlander-related interest in Scotland’s historic sites tends to comes from overseas visitors, HES also recorded a rise in home-grown interest in its properties.
A record number of memberships were bought up in 2018 with more than 200,000 people investing in the organisation’s work – up from 5% in 2017.
Sites featured in the TV show Outlander have continued to see record-breaking numbers, with Blackness Castle reaching 50,000 visitors for the first time – an increase of 36% from the previous year
Mr Duncan added: “These incredible figures show the importance that the historic environment has on local communities with the vast majority of economic growth generated by the increase in high-spending international visitors. From abbeys in the Borders to Norse settlements in Shetland, the appeal of Scotland’s cultural heritage reaches far and wide and is there to be enjoyed by all.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said: “I would like to thank all those who contribute to caring for our precious and unique heritage.
“Scotland’s historic environment is a catalyst for economic growth – driving tourism, regeneration and sustainable development, and fuelling improvements.
“I am delighted Historic Environment Scotland has seen an increase in visitors and memberships.”