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Historic Scotland reports record breaking summer

10 September 2013

From June – August 2013, the organisation, which is Scotland’s biggest operator of visitor attractions, reported 1,692,611 visitors, an increase of 14.8% on the same period last year.

Across the agency’s 78 ticketed attractions, records were broken at flagship site Edinburgh Castle – up 26% on 2012 for the period June – August. August alone saw 229,940 visitors go through the doors of the castle, an increase of 35.8%, more than any single month ever recorded.

Other record breakers included Linlithgow Palace – the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, which welcomed over 37,548 visitors, up 36%, and St. Andrews Castle, up 9.3%.

Iona Abbey, which has recently benefited from a significant investment in its visitor offering and a re-interpretation project to mark the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of St. Columba from Ireland, also saw a surge in visitors over the summer - up 13.5% to 34,957 visitors.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said;

“These figures illustrate the important role that heritage plays for modern day Scotland.

“The benefits are many,  in terms of highlighting our diverse culture both at home and abroad, but also in terms of supporting and driving economic growth.

“All of the income generated is invested back into our rich historic environment.  Most recently this has included a significant investment in Iona Abbey to continue to provide world class attractions for Scots and overseas visitors alike.

“As the custodians of Scotland’s rich heritage, it is important that we continue to engage with both Scots and visitors from around the world as we look forward to Scotland welcoming the world in 2014.”

Throughout the summer period, a number of trends were evident across Historic Scotland’s portfolio of properties. This included a very strong performance by the travel trade sector, which saw income up 41% year on year. In July alone, Edinburgh Castle saw an increase of 69% in travel trade visits on the previous year.

In terms of visitor origin, there were increases in visitors coming from the emerging tourism markets of China and Russia, whilst Scots saw the biggest increase in visits to attractions out with the big three of Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart castles.

Membership also continued to attract domestic visitors, at an all-time high, up 7% on the same period last year.  

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism for Historic Scotland said;

“Last year saw a flattening out of visitors due to a combination of severe weather and displacement of the travel trade.

“We had always expected 2013 to see a return to previous levels, but the summer performance has surpassed all expectations.

“We’ve broken a number of records including the highest ever visitor numbers for July and August on record for Edinburgh Castle.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see patterns at Edinburgh, Scotland’s number one paid for tourism attraction, replicated at many of our other properties across our estate who enjoyed record breaking summers and substantial increases in visitors.

“As an organisation we are continuing to evolve our offering to visitors – be that through our retail, e-commerce and membership products, or investing in areas such as our award winning events programme to make history an accessible, fun and enjoyable part of people’s lives.

Notes to editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

Follow Historic Scotland:
Twitter:@welovehistory ; @edinburghcastle ; @ScottishTen
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Edinburgh Castle:
Climate Change:
Year of Natural Scotland:

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For further information

Iona Matheson
Media & PR Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858