Edinburgh Castle at the peak of paid for attractions

The most popular Scottish attraction was the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh,

The most popular Scottish attraction was the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh,

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Scotland’s tourists attractions outperformed the rest of the UK last year with an annual increase of more than 15 per cent in visitors, according to new figures.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) said Scottish destinations welcomed a total of 15 million visitors in 2016, giving them one of their best years on record.

Across the UK, visitor numbers increased by 7.2 per compared to 2015’ figures, meaning that more than 130 million visits were made to the top 241 ALVA sites around the country.

The most popular Scottish attraction, and the 15th most visited in the UK, was the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which opened 10 new galleries in 2016 and attracted around 1.8 million visitors.

This was closely followed by Edinburgh Castle in 16th position with 1,778,548 visitors, retaining its position as the most visited paid-for attraction in Scotland, with a 13 per increase, reflecting the same increase in international visitors flying into the city’s airport.

There were also 14 new Historic Environment Scotland-managed attractions on the 2016 leader board which joined the rankings for the very first time.

These 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 per cent and 39 per cent respectively, compared to the same period for 2015.

Other notable increases were the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, which saw a 29 per cent increase and rose 11 places after attracting 285,688 visitors.

Urquhart Castle at Drumnadrochit, near Inverness, saw a 14 per cent increase and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum enjoyed an 11 per cent rise in visitors.

ALVA director Bernard Donoghue said: “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.”

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “As these figures illustrate, this has been a record year for Scotland’s leading visitor attractions. Our wide range of attractions and excellent heritage and museum collections continue to provide high-quality and exciting experiences, both to people who live here, and to our visitors.

“The success of our leading visitor attractions will continue to play a vital role in making Scotland a destination of first choice for visitors from the UK and across the world.”