About Us

6 October 2017

Record-breaking summer for Scotland’s historic sites

Best ever season as Historic Environment Scotland announce summer visitor figures

castle on a rock with blue sky above

It’s been a spectacular summer for Scotland’s historic sites as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced record-breaking visitor figures for the 2017 summer season today (Friday 6th October).

The period from April to September 2017 saw the historic sites in the care of HES record an impressive overall 20% increase in footfall on the same period last year, making it the busiest season on record. HES manage over 70 ticketed Historic Scotland visitor attractions throughout the country, including Edinburgh Castle, Iona Abbey and Fort George.

August 2017 saw over 870,000 visitors flocking to Scotland’s iconic historic sites, making it the busiest individual month ever recorded.

As well as a record-breaking season overall, individual sites across the length and breadth of the country have also hit milestones. The top 10 most-visited Historic Scotland paid-for attractions – including sites such as Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle - have all recorded their best ever season. A further 13 sites have already exceeded their visitor totals for last financial year.

The seasonal figures also show sites continuing to celebrate the “Outlander effect”, with those featuring in the television series continuing to see large increases in visitor numbers. Blackness Castle saw the most significant rise in visitors at 44%, closely followed by Doune Castle - famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the series – with a 42% increase.

The announcement comes as Scotland celebrates Heritage Awareness Day, the first-ever day dedicated to showcasing the country’s rich and diverse heritage and encouraging individuals, organisations and communities all over Scotland to share and celebrate heritage in all its different forms.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: 

“This year’s summer season has surpassed our previous visitor records, as we welcomed over 3.8m visitors to our historic sites across the country – an excellent 20% increase on last season’s showing.

“It is fitting that we celebrate this success on Heritage Awareness Day, the first-ever national celebration of heritage and the contribution it makes to communities across the country.

“We’ve responded to the increasing interest in Scotland’s historic environment by extending opening at seasonal sites across the country throughout October, giving people further opportunity to explore the wealth of history that Scotland has to offer and to uncover the hidden historical gems on their doorstep during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“From Edinburgh Castle to Skara Brae, historic sites across Scotland are continuing to draw record numbers of visitors, which is further demonstration of the value of Scotland’s historic places within the country’s wider tourism offering.”

The top ten paid-for heritage attractions for April to September 2017 were

  1. Edinburgh Castle - 1,433,896
  2. Stirling Castle - 430,405
  3. Urquhart Castle - 405,388
  4. Skara Brae - 104,224
  5. Doune Castle - 96,497
  6. St Andrew’s Castle - 71,763
  7. Linlithgow Palace - 66,860
  8. Fort George - 62,301
  9. Iona Abbey - 61,531
  10. Melrose Abbey - 49,962

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “Congratulations to Historic Environment Scotland on another great seasonal performance. As today’s numbers confirm, Scotland’s historic environment is acting more and more as a magnet for tourists, attracting millions of people from far and wide each year to our world class attractions.

“I am particularly pleased to be announcing this success as we celebrate the first-ever Heritage Awareness Day and as we approach the end of this Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

"The Year has contributed to further enhancing the international profile of Scotland's intriguing history, impressive cultural heritage and fascinating archaeology.”

Join in the Heritage Awareness Day conversation on Twitter by following @HistEnvScot and using #heritageday17 to share your stories.

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.

Get involved on Twitter with #HHA2017

Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 logo

Follow Historic Environment Scotland

Twitter: @HistEnvScot | @welovehistory 

Facebook: @HistoricEnvScotland @VisitHistoricScotland


For further information, please contact:

Claire Mullaney
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Direct Line: 0131 668 8588
Mobile: 07881 512 379