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‘Outlander effect’ helps Scotland’s heritage attractions reach record-breaking visitor figures

Junior Tour Guides ( L-R) Orla Mayling , Finlay Turner, Reuben Kennedy and Ellie McDonald (front) help Historic Environment Scotland (HES) celebrate a record-breaking year at Linlithgow Palace with local staff member Isabella Ogg (Neil Hanna Photography)
Junior Tour Guides ( L-R) Orla Mayling , Finlay Turner, Reuben Kennedy and Ellie McDonald (front) help Historic Environment Scotland (HES) celebrate a record-breaking year at Linlithgow Palace with local staff member Isabella Ogg (Neil Hanna Photography)

SCOTLAND’S historic sites have welcomed over five million people for the first time ever in a single year.

There has been a 17% increase in footfall at over 300 Historic Scotland visitor attractions across the country.

5, 041,297 visits to staffed sites were recorded by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who manage the estate, throughout the 2017/18 financial year.

The hit TV series Outlander is partially responsible, with North American visitor figures rising by 27% and a 19% increase from France too.

The sites that have featured in the drama continue to enjoy an uplift in visitor numbers with Doune Castle attracting a massive 227% increase in numbers and Blackness Castle increasing by 182% since 2013.

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at HES, said: “Our record breaking visitor figures, including across all of our top ten sites, are a tremendous achievement for Scotland’s heritage tourism sector, reflecting the continued interest shown by tourists and home-grown visitors to learn more about our rich Scottish heritage.

“The exchange rate, as well as strong airport numbers, have both contributed to the growing figures.

“This rise in visitor numbers at our staffed sites has also been complemented by visitor growth at our unstaffed free access properties, bringing the overall total to an estimated 12 million.”

The top 10 most-visited HES attractions all individually celebrated record-breaking years, with over 2 million people passing over Edinburgh Castle’s drawbridge, an increase of nearly 300,000 visitors in comparison to the previous year.

In pics: Outlander comes to Fife village to film season 4

Glasgow Cathedral saw an increase of 27% to 400,324 visits to the medieval cathedral, whilst St Andrews Castle welcomed 90,253 visitors, an increase of 16%.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures are very encouraging and suggest that 2018 is set to be another excellent, record-breaking year for our world-class attractions and Historic Scotland sites.

“From Orkney to the Borders, Scotland’s diverse landscapes and iconic sites are of great importance to communities throughout the country, stimulating economic growth and further promoting our cultural heritage both in Scotland and internationally.”