Scottish heritage attractions pass 5m milestone

Scotland’s heritage attractions welcomed a record five million visitors for the 2017-18 financial year, thanks to increased interest in Scottish history and culture.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which manages more than 300 Historic Scotland visitor attractions, reported a 17% year-on-year increase in footfall, to more than 5,041,000 visitors.

The surge in numbers is attributed to growth in UK, European and overseas visitors, with a significant uplift in Scots visiting sites partly due to a strong membership base of over 194,000.

The ongoing ‘Outlander effect’ has seen North American visitor figures increasing by 27%, and French visitors up by 19% year-on-year.

The sites that feature in this popular American-British television series continue to enjoy boost to numbers, with Doune Castle seeing a 227% increase and Blackness Castle up by 182% since 2013.

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism at HES, said: “Our record-breaking visitor figures, including across all of our top 10 sites, are a tremendous achievement for Scotland’s heritage tourism sector, reflecting the continued interest shown by tourists and home-grown visitors to learn more about our rich Scottish heritage.

“The exchange rate, as well as strong airport numbers, have both contributed to the growing figures.”

He added: “More than five million visitors have flocked to our wealth of historic sites across the length and breadth of the country, ranging from iconic attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, to landmarks such as Skara Brae in Orkney and Iona Abbey, as well as castles in Scotland’s historic towns such as St Andrews Castle.

“This rise in visitor numbers at our staffed sites has also been complemented by visitor growth at our unstaffed free access properties, bringing the overall total to an estimated 12 million.”

Scottish tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop added: “These figures are very encouraging and suggest that 2018 is set to be another excellent, record-breaking year for our world-class attractions and Historic Scotland sites.