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Scottish museum named as country’s most popular attraction

by Staff

The Edinburgh site, which houses everything from scientific artefacts to natural specimens, saw off competition from the likes of Edinburgh Castle and Glasgow’s Burrell Collection to boost its footfall by more than 200,000 compared to 2022.

Elsewhere, historic venues maintained by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) saw visitor numbers exceed pre-pandemic levels as 4.3m people toured its heritage properties – up from 4.1m in 2019.

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The most popular historic venue was the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayrshire, where a new collection of previously unseen artefacts went on display in January 2023.

Visitor numbers topped 200,000, an increase of 13% on the previous year.

The NTS also saw a surge in interest for the House of Dun in Angus, a grand 18th Century home and parkland which drew more than 44,000 visitors in 2023.

Work was completed in July 2021 to transform the historic stable block area into an exhibition celebrating the rural heritage of Angus, and visitors can now get guided tours led by experts in costume.

Meanwhile, a project to restore the interior decoration at Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s Holmwood House in Glasgow has been credited with boosting visitor numbers by 40% year-on-year.

The House of the Binns near Linlithgow, reopened in March 2023 after a programme of restoration and redecoration has helped to nearly double its visitor numbers since its last season in 2018.

Chief executive of NTS Scotland Phil Long said: “For 2023, we have exceeded our visitor targets for the year and our pre-pandemic levels too with 4.3m visitors coming to experience our special places all across the country.

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“It’s especially pleasing to see that our programme of projects is making a difference too, encouraging more people to visit and ensuring that they have a more memorable time when they do.

“In 2024, we are looking forward to sharing the new properties which joined our charity last year – the Treshnish Isles and the Mackintosh at the Willow – which show the amazing variety of places in our care and ways people can enjoy and experience Scotland’s nature, beauty and heritage.”

The news comes as figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) show that overall numbers to tourist attractions across the UK remain lower than they were pre-Covid.

The trade body, which monitors over 2200 tourist sites including museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions, said many people remain “out of the habit” of going to them due to closures during the pandemic.

Alva director Bernard Donoghue said attractions are “recovering well” but suggested the cost of living crisis is having an impact with many visitors making “tactical judgements about how they spend their leisure pounds”.

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