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Record breaking year for Historic Attractions

14 June 2012

Historic visitor attractions across Scotland had a record breaking year in 2011/12 with footfall and income reaching unprecedented levels.

Historic Scotland’s 78 paid-for staffed sites welcomed 3,374,552 visitors – up 7% on the previous year; with all of the agency’s tourism and commercial activities generating a 13% rise in income to £31.5million.

The agency’s top three attractions all had a record-breaking year with Edinburgh Castle remaining as the top venue, attracting 1,314,975 visitors – 10% more than the previous year. Stirling Castle, in second place, saw a massive 17% more visitors year-on-year with 441,924 through the gates. This is mainly due to the reopening of Stirling Palace in June 2011 following a £12million restoration.

The agency’s third busiest attraction, Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness also saw a 10% rise in visitors to 317,811.

The agency’s retail and membership income also broke records, breaking through the £7million and £2million barriers respectively. There has been major investment in the retail facilities across a number of sites which has improved the retail offering for visitors and resulted in greater footfall.

Across all sites there was a 16% rise in income from general admissions from the public, and the agency saw a 20% jump in income from visitors brought to the sites by travel and tour operators.

Despite the increases across the visitor sites, there was a 4% drop in income to £414,385 from corporate events. This decrease reflects the ongoing challenges which faces the sector as corporate budgets become more constrained.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs welcomed the figures. She said: “These statistics speak for themselves and show that Scotland’s historic visitor attractions continue to play a vital role in the country’s tourism industry and the wider economy.

“Many visitors from all over the world come to Scotland to experience our rich, diverse and colourful history and Historic Scotland’s properties provide our visitors with a unique experience to see our history up close.

“The rise in income is also to be welcomed as it allows Historic Scotland to continue reinvesting in the country’s important historic environment and the visitor experience they provide. While we have seen major improvements in areas such as the retail offering, what has also been key has been the continued improvements in the interpretation of these sites such as the major investment undertaken at Stirling Palace.”

Stephen Duncan, Historic Scotland’s Director of Tourism and Commercial added:

“The Diamond Jubilee holiday was very successful in terms of visitor numbers with  84,643 people coming to our attractions between Friday 1st and Tuesday 5th of June 2012.   .

“This is a 14 % increase in visitors across all of our sites, compared to last year’s bank holiday weekend which began on 27th May 2011.  

“Monday 4th June 2012 was our busiest day with 20,595 visitors across our sites.

“Edinburgh Castle, our top attraction, was the best performing site with 30,769 visitors over the five day Jubilee holiday, including two days with over 7,000 visitors, which is a new record for June.  

"Stirling Castle was also a popular choice, attracting 10,166 visitors who enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Royal Court in years gone by."

The refurbished Stirling Palace boosted visitors at Stirling Castle by almost a fifth in 2011/12. This area of the Castle had been closed for the previous two years to allow for a major multi-million improvement project to restore the historic property to how it would have looked during the reign of James V and Mary of Guise in the mid-16th century. The attraction – regarded as one of Britain’s finest Renaissance buildings  - attracted a staggering 4,500 visitors to see the fantastic restoration work, during its reopening weekend in June 2011.

The Palace also houses a display of the Stirling Heads – 41 replica hand-carved plaques of numerous Kings and Queens and mythical heroes.

Notes for editors:

  1. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with ensuring that our historic environment provides a strong foundation for a successful future for Scotland. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  2. To register for media release email alerts from If you wish to unsubscribe at any time, please email

  3. The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at:

  4. The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at

                                                       Year of Creative Scotland 2012

For further information

Jennifer Johnston-Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866