Scotland has seen a 5.5% increase in visitor numbers in 2015, with Edinburgh Castle leading the surge of major attractions.
The castle has overtaken the National Museum of Scotland as the country’s leading tourist hub for the first time, with over 1.5 million visitors, according to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).
The National Museum was also the UK’s most popular museum outside of London, and Scotland’s most popular free attraction.
For the first time, the National Galleries of Scotland welcomed a combined total of more than 2.1 million visitors – thought to be a result of The Amazing World of M.C. Escher and Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein exhibitions, with a 35% and 47% rise respectively.
Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens saw a 10% increase, which they credited to their Lights programme in the winter months.
Glasgow’s nine civic museums continue to be a draw for citizens and visitors to the city alike, with almost 4 million recorded visits – up 5% on 2014. The city’s Riverside Museum has seen a year on year rise since it opened in 2011.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum also saw a rise of 12.4%.
Tourism bosses have attributed the Scottish success to the current weakness of the pound to the euro and dollar, in making UK attractions more popular.
Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “2015 continued to be a record year mainly due to our members continuing to show how diverse the UK is to both domestic and overseas visitors.
“More people visited Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, combined, than visited Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba.
“More people visited Stirling Castle, Kelvingrove, the Riverside Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Glasgow, combined, than visited New Zealand. Together more people visited these 9 Scottish attractions than visited Australia and New Zealand combined.”
Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, also praised the findings.
“It’s great to see Edinburgh Castle at the top of the table in Scotland after another record breaking year for the castle.
“We’ve seen particular growth in online and travel trade at the castle in 2015, and following a refresh of the castle website towards the end of the year I’m sure this will continue.”