National Museum of Scotland named as most popular attraction

Dinosaur in the National Museum of Scotland Image copyright Other
Image caption More than 1.6 million people visited the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

The National Museum of Scotland was the country's most popular visitor attraction in 2014, with more than 1.6 million visitors, according to research by Glasgow Caledonian University.

The study estimated that about 55 million people visited tourist destinations in Scotland last year.

That figure represented a 3.3% increase in visitor numbers from 2013.

Researchers said Scotland's tourism sector benefited from its high profile during the Commonwealth Games.

Professor John Lennon, the director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, said 2014 was a "winning year" for the industry, which also benefited from the Ryder Cup and Homecoming 2014.

He added: "Many operators also saw positive impacts from the anniversaries associated with the First World War, which served to heighten Scotland's profile and destination awareness, nationally and internationally."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Edinburgh Castle was the most popular paid-for attraction

A survey of 687 tourist sites found that the most popular destinations in Scotland were those with free admission, like the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

They welcomed more than twice as many visitor as those with entry fees.

The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, Lomond Shores, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow were among the most popular free destinations.

Edinburgh Castle welcomed the most visitors of any paid-for attraction, with almost 1.5 million visitors going through its gates.

Glasgow's Science Centre, Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Zoo and the city's bus tours were also popular.

However, two of the biggest success stories were the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and the Helix Park at Falkirk, which is home to the Kelpies.

Image copyright Andrew Milligan
Image caption An estimated 800,000 people visited the Kelpies during their first year

More than one million people visited the free-entry Riverside Museum in 2014 - an increase of almost 42% on the previous year.

The Helix welcomed an estimated 800,000 visitors during its first year of opening, a figure which has been credited for increasing visitors to the nearby Falkirk Wheel by 26%.

Alasdair Smart, Lowland Canals Waterway manager, said: "It's been an exciting year on Scotland's canals and we're immensely proud that the Falkirk Wheel has enjoyed its busiest 12 months since it first started turning back in 2002."

He added: "The Falkirk Wheel is the jewel in the crown of Scotland's canal network and now, with The Helix and The Kelpies nearby, the area has even more to offer."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Riverside Museum in Glasgow saw visitor numbers increase by more than 40%

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