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27 March 2017

Edinburgh Castle named 16th most visited UK attraction

2016 members’ visitor figures announced by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)

A photograph of a castle at night with fireworks exploding over it

Scotland’s top paid for visitor attraction, Edinburgh Castle, has jumped up two places in the rankings to be named as the 16th most visited attraction in the UK in 2016. Footfall at the historic site exceeded 1.7 million visitors, a 13% increase on 2015.

Scotland’s staffed heritage and cultural assets were well represented in the 2016 leader board, as a total of 14 new Historic Environment Scotland managed attractions joined the rankings for the very first time.

New additions included filming locations Doune and Blackness Castles, better known as Castle Leoch and Fort William in the hit historical time-travelling TV series, Outlander. Both attractions are benefitting from their stardom as a record 90,172 and 30,053 people explored the sites for themselves, a surge of 32% and 39%, respectively, compared to the same period for 2015.

A photograph of a castle by the water.

Blackness Castle, which provides the setting for Fort William in time-travelling TV series, Outlander, has seen a 39% increase in visitor numbers.

These figures were amongst those released today – Monday 27 March – for UK wide member sites of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). The association, which releases its figures annually, counts some of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions as members, also revealed that Scottish attractions had one of their best years on record, reporting the greatest increase of 16% and a total of 15 million visitors.

Strong visitor numbers for the same period were recorded at heritage attractions throughout the country. In Inverness, the ruins of Urquhart Castle attracted 396,397 people, St Andrews Cathedral was up 25% year on year to over 46,000 visitors. Elsewhere the 5,000 year old Skara Brae hit a total of 93,375 visitors and more than 52,000 people turned out at Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders.

A photograph of a blonde woman in a hat look out over a castle and lake behind it

396,397 people visited Urquhart Castle in 2016.

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland and ALVA Board Member, said: “These latest figures from ALVA for last year show that Scotland is a major player in the UK tourism sector. It’s fantastic that Scottish member attractions collectively reported a 16% increase in footfall year on year, with over 15 million visits taking place in total. Heritage tourism is a key element in this wider success story."

"Together our iconic castles, abbeys, palaces and other historic sites, which represent thousands of years’ worth of Scottish history, welcomed over 3.7 million visitors in 2016 alone. Our visitor offering is stronger than ever before and it’s something that we will continue to build upon during 2017 as we mark Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.”

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, added: “Like the 2015 figures, Scotland has continued to outperform the rest of the UK with a substantial increase in their visitor numbers. 2016 was a great year for Scottish Tourism – proving that Scotland is reaping the benefits of significant capital investment in attractions and creative programming by its institutions.”

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (HHA), a year that will celebrate Scotland’s people, our distinct culture and traditions, our historic landscapes, attractions and icons as well as our hidden gems and amazing stories. From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends, 2017 is the year to explore Scotland’s fascinating past. This is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland and a variety of partners.

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For further information, please contact:

Ali George
Historic Environment Scotland Communications and Media Office
Direct Line: 0131 668 8714
Mobile: 07583 018 790