Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

National Museum of Scotland is most visited outside of London

National Museum of Scotland
Image caption The National Museum of Scotland's target of a million visitors a year was passed within four months

The refurbished National Museum of Scotland was the most visited attraction outside of London last year, new figures show.

The museum has had a 141% increase in visitor numbers since it reopened last summer following a £47m refurbishment.

The Edinburgh museum's original target of a million visitors a year was passed within four months.

The British Museum in London attracted the most visitors for the fifth year in a row, with 5.8 million people.

Visits to the Natural History Museum in London rose nearly 5% to 4.87 million, while the nearby Science Museum saw visitor numbers rise 6% to 2.91 million.

The million visitor mark was also reached by Glasgow's new Riverside Museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, which only opened its doors last June.

'Wedding effect'

The figures, released by the Association of Leading Visitors Attractions (ALVA), included a record year for Edinburgh Castle, which remains Scotland's number one paid for tourist attraction after recording an 8% increase on the year before.

The "royal wedding effect" was credited with a huge increase in visits to Westminster Abbey, which welcomed nearly 1.9 million visitors in 2011 after millions of TV viewers watched the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April.

This was a 36% increase on the 2010 figure and saw the Abbey included the top 10 of most-visited attractions for the first time.

And The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich saw a 31% increase in visitor numbers, rising to 1.67 million, helped partly by its starring role in films including The Iron Lady and Pirates Of The Caribbean.

In contrast, St Paul's Cathedral, where protesters set up an anti-capitalism camp, saw visitor numbers dip 4% to just under 1.82 million.

The Tower of London welcomed nearly 6% more visitors last year - up to 2.55 million - while the National Portrait Gallery numbers rose 3% to 1.88 million.

There were also increased numbers visiting Scottish attractions such as Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Bernard Donoghue, ALVA director, said: "Scottish attractions' successes demonstrate very clearly that political and financial investment in building new attractions or refurbishing existing ones results in real returns on investment for the Scottish local and national economies, for job creation, for regeneration and in delivering a truly quality Scottish experience and welcome for visitors from home and abroad.

"The Scottish government, local authorities, the Scottish Lottery Heritage Fund and the attractions themselves have had the courage to invest in a difficult economic climate but their investment has been entirely justified."

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: "These results are testimony to our achievement in creating a truly world-class visitor attraction which brings and will continue to bring huge benefits to the country's tourism economy."

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