Historic sites in Scotland see busiest summer season

Edinburgh Castle Image copyright AFP
Image caption Edinburgh Castle continues to be Scotland's most popular historic paid-for attraction

Scotland's historic sites have set record-breaking summer visitor numbers, with Edinburgh Castle topping the list.

The period from April to September 2017 saw a 20% increase in footfall on the same period last year, making it the busiest season on record.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said the busiest month was August, with more than 870,000 visitors recorded.

Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle were the three most popular paid-for attractions.

The visitor numbers of more than 70 ticketed Historic Scotland sites were recorded - giving a total of 3.8 million.

Outlander effect

HES bosses said a further 13 sites have already exceeded their visitor totals for the last financial year.

Image copyright Nick Briggs
Image caption TV series Outlander has boosted the popularity of Doune Castle

The seasonal figures show sites are still benefiting from the "Outlander effect", with places featured in the television series continuing to see large increases in visitor numbers.

Blackness Castle saw the most significant rise in visitors at 44%, followed by Doune Castle - used as the fictional Castle Leoch in the series - which recorded a 42% increase.

The figures were published as Scotland celebrated Heritage Awareness Day, dedicated to showcasing the country's diverse heritage.

2017 season: Top three paid-for attractions

Image copyright PA
  • Edinburgh Castle - 1,433,896 visitors
  • Stirling Castle - 430,405 visitors
  • Urquhart Castle - 405,388 visitors

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: "This year's summer season has surpassed our previous visitor records, as we welcomed over 3.8 million visitors to our historic sites across the country - an excellent 20% increase on last season's showing.

"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.

"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."

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop congratulated HES 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," she said.

"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."

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