Scotland's outdoor attractions prove popular with visitors

Glenfinnan Monument Image copyright Alex Marr
Image caption Visitor numbers to the Glenfinnan Monument near Fort William rose by more than 25% in 2013

Scotland's top outdoor attractions experienced an increase in visitor numbers last year, new figures show.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said outdoor sites enjoyed a rise of 5%, but footfall to museums and galleries was down.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) benefitted the most with large footfall increases across its locations.

The association said last summer's good weather may have contributed to the rise.

'Bond effect'

National Trust for Scotland locations with the biggest rise in visitor numbers included Glencoe, up by about 42% on the previous year, and Culloden Battlefield near Inverness which enjoyed an 11% boost.

The conservation charity's Glenfinnan Monument near Fort William saw numbers rise by 25%, while visits to Pitmedden Garden in Aberdeenshire were up by 29%.

Image copyright Luke Mao
Image caption Edinburgh Castle always proves popular and was the biggest paid-for attraction
Image copyright Catherine J Campbell
Image caption Reader Catherine J Campbell took this shot of flora and fauna on a trip to Pitmedden Garden
Image copyright Liz Melvin
Image caption The area around Glencoe is a magnet for hillwalkers, as Liz Melvin found on her visit
Image copyright Darren Buchan
Image caption Darren Buchan captured the sunshine on Stob a' Ghlais Choire, looking toward Ben Nevis and the Mamores

The NTS said its Glencoe site may also have benefited from its appearance in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

A spokeswoman said: "Trends for the trust seem to be moving in the right direction with a small increase in paying visitors overall and a growing membership too.

"A few of our properties have performed very strongly, especially at Glencoe which seems so be basking in the Bond effect. We're hoping to build on these results in 2014, when Scotland welcomes the world."

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the most popular free attraction outside London with 1,768,090 visitors, but that was a drop of 7% on the previous year.

Numbers at Edinburgh Zoo also fell by 6%, although they remained 40% higher than before the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang in 2011.

Elsewhere in the capital, visits to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art fell by around 16% and numbers at the Scottish Portrait Gallery dropped 20%.

But footfall at Historic Scotland's Edinburgh Castle increased 15%, topping 1.4 million for the first time and making it the number one paid-for place to visit outside London.

Image copyright Gary Cousin
Image caption The Kelvingrove has enjoyed a good year and is a firm favourite for visitors to Glasgow
Image copyright Michael Beglan
Image caption The Riverside is the European Museum of the Year 2013, but it has seen a drop in visitors
Image copyright Keith Bell
Image caption Reader Keith Bell visited Leanach Cottage on Culloden Moor with his children Toby and Connie
Image copyright AP/Sony Pictures
Image caption The Bond movie Skyfall is credited with boosting levels of interest in Glencoe

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "Edinburgh Castle continues to captivate visitors from around the world and I am delighted that it has welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors for the first time, which is a significant milestone.

"Scotland's heritage sector continues to play an important role, supporting 60,000 jobs, contributing over £2bn to our economy and continuing to enthral visitors from home and abroad."

In Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum attracted 1,044,067 visitors, a slight increase on the previous year, but numbers at the nearby Riverside Museum fell by about 27%.

Stephen Duncan, Historic Scotland's commercial and tourism director, said that the figures, showing an overall increase across the board, highlighted the increasing importance of tourism in Scotland.

He said: "2013 was a fantastic year for our sites - with record-breaking figures, membership at an all-time high and Edinburgh Castle breaking the 1.4 million visitor mark for the first time.

"In terms of trends, we had anticipated an increase in travel trade numbers this year after a flattening-out of numbers in 2012, however the increase has exceeded all expectations.

"We are also benefiting from an increase in visitors from China and the emerging markets."

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