Scotland’s whisky distilleries attracted as many tourists as Edinburgh Castle and St Paul’s Cathedral last year — and spending at distillery visitor centres was £50 million.
New research by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) found that distillery visits increased by 7% to 1.6 million and have increased by more than 20% since 2010.
The SWA survey also found that visitors to distilleries spend on average around £25 per head during a visit.
Total spend at distillery visitor centres in 2015 was £50 million, up from £27 million in 2010.
Around half of Scotland’s 118 whisky distilleries are open to the public.
Scotch Whisky companies have invested significantly in visitor centres and tourism facilities in recent years with the success of whisky festivals such as Islay and Speyside helping to attract new visitors to the country.
Distilleries reported that the largest proportion of visitors came from Scotland and other parts of the UK as well as Germany, the United States and France — some of the largest markets for Scotch.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association deputy chief executive, said: “Scotch Whisky distilleries offer high-quality and unique opportunities to visit the homes of some of Scotland’s most famous brands.
“It is testament to Scotch Whisky companies that visits have increased at a time when overall Scottish visitor numbers fell.
“This brings important benefits to the wider rural economy, as distillery visitors will also then be staying at the local B&B, visiting a local pub or café, or buying souvenirs of their stay in Scotland.”