Edinburgh's botanic gardens topple castle in visitor rankings

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Palm house at Royal Botanic Garden in EdinburghImage source, Getty Images
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The Royal Botanic Garden welcomed more than 450,000 visitors despite Covid restrictions

Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden has unseated the city's famous castle and national museum as Scotland's most popular visitor attraction.

Covid restrictions meant numbers were drastically lower last year but outdoor sites were less badly affected.

More than 452,000 people visited "The Botanics" compared with fewer than 277,000 for Edinburgh Castle.

The castle, which attracted more than two million visitors in 2019, saw visits fall by 87%.

It came fifth in the rankings, whereas in 2019 it was the top paid-for attraction, and second overall.

The National Museum of Scotland, the most visited attraction in 2019, fell to second place in this year's list.

It welcomed fewer than 445,000 visitors compared to more than 2,210,000 the previous year, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva).

Edinburgh Zoo, with many outdoor spaces, was third most popular, despite a 45% drop in visits.

While almost all sites saw visitor numbers plummet, Ben Lomond and the Ben Lawers nature reserve near Killin had an increase.

Top 10 Scottish visitor attractions 2020. .  .

Other sites such at the Culloden Visitor Centre, the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie and Crathes Castle saw numbers slump, but they were hit less hard than other places.

Bernard Donoghue, director of Alva, said: "Our annual figures for 2020 reflect what a devastatingly hard year the attractions sector and the wider visitor economy faced.

"Tourism is the UK's fifth biggest industry and, as these figures show, it was hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover."

Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park have already reopened as restrictions introduced during the second national lockdown begin to ease.

Many museums and galleries are due to reopen from 26 April under the Scottish government's route map out of lockdown.

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