Scots tourist attractions 'weather economic downturn'
Heavy snowfall and the popularity of "staycations" helped Scotland's tourist attractions weather the economic downturn last year, a report has found.
More than 43.2 million people visited attractions in 2010, a fall of just 0.3% on the previous year.
Wintry weather boosted ski centres, which recorded big rises in the number of skiers hitting the slopes.
The biggest paid-admission attraction remained Edinburgh Castle, which hosted more than 1.2 million visitors.
Glasgow Caledonian University's Moffat Centre, which monitors visitor attractions, said Scotland's ski slopes benefited most from heavy snowfalls.
Glenshee Ski Centre attracted 171% more skiers (up from 46,355 to 125,831 in 2010), while the Nevis Range saw a rise of 16% in visitor numbers. The Cairngorm Mountain Railway also attracted 15% more passengers than in 2009.
Other success stories included Dundee's McManus Art Gallery and Museum, which welcomed almost 200,000 visitors last year following an extensive five-year refurbishment programme, and Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, which drew more than 707,000 visitors - a 22% rise on the previous year.
Ayrshire and Arran experienced the greatest increase in visitor numbers (20.8%), while Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley saw the biggest fall (-6.3%).
A change in the way figures were compiled saw Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow lose its status as Scotland's top free attraction.
Strathclyde Country Park topped the list following the inclusion of country parks in the annual Moffat survey for the first time. The National Galleries of Scotland, which for the first time combined visitor numbers across all its Edinburgh sites, pushed Kelvingrove into third spot.
Prof John Lennon, of the Moffat Centre, said: "Our survey reflects that the effects of the recession have been balanced by the popularity of the staycation market and the relative benefits of the sterling/euro exchange rate.
"It also shows that Historic Scotland sites such as Edinburgh Castle remain must-see icons for international and national tourists and it is notable that the Scottish ski industry demonstrates its importance to the tourism industry with the presence of Nevis Range and Cairngorm Mountain Railway in the top 20 paid-admission table."