Top tourism sites attract 27m visitors in 2015

Edinburgh's art galleries enjoyed another good year for visitors

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) said almost 27 million visits were made to 260 of its member sites in 2015, a rise of 3.4% on 2014.

The increase comes on top of a 6% rise in 2014, “suggesting that visitor attractions in Scotland are currently enjoying a period of sustained growth,” said ASVA.

ASVA representing key visitor attractions in Scotland comprising some of Scotland’s most popular castles, galleries, museums, historic houses, heritage sites, wildlife parks, gardens and leisure attractions.

The 2015 results come from analysis of statistics submitted by 260 of the organization’s 450 members for its annual “Visitor Trends Report.”

Edinburgh continued to dominate the marketplace, with nine of the top 20 attractions located in the city and with Edinburgh Castle welcoming the most visitors.

Glasgow attractions also fared well with exhibitions such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum’s “Hatching the Past: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies,” which attracted 82,000 people from Easter to mid-August, contributing to a 2.4% increase in visitor numbers overall for the city’s attractions.

Heather Jackson, director of enterprise at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which saw a rise of 10.2% in visitor numbers said: “April, May and June saw us welcoming more than 100,000 visitors each month.

“We also had a really strong summer season, driven by events such as Cake Fest Edinburgh on Midsummer’s Day, as well as our unique autumn ‘Botanic Lights’ event, which attracted an audience of 26,000.”

Attractions in The Highlands also did well, with Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre and Highland Folk Museum both recording notable increases on the back of media coverage generated by the ‘Outlander’ TV series.

Jacobite Cruises, which offers scenic cruises on Loch Ness, also recorded an 11% rise in passengers.

In Grampian, National Trust for Scotland properties outperformed other similar heritage sites.

Drum Castle’s new gallery space, created in a collaboration with Aberdeen Art Gallery, generated a high number of repeat visits while innovative events programmes at Brodie and Crathes Castles proved popular.

Douglas Walker, chair of ASVA said: “After a number of challenging years for the sector, it is clear that visitor attractions are entering what we hope will be a period of sustained growth.

“The attractions which have done particularly well in 2015 are those that have invested in their visitor offer by developing innovative new products and services, as well as launching creative events and exhibitions programmes, all of which are vital for keeping visitors coming back time and again.”