Edinburgh Castle attracts over 2 million visitors a year for the first time

Edinburgh Castle attracts over 2 million visitors a year for the first time

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One of Scotland’s headline attractions goes from strength to strength.


The number of visitors flocking to Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark has been on the rise every year since 2012. But in 2017 Edinburgh Castle reached an important milestone as it passed the two-million visitor mark for the first time.

Record numbers of tourists and locals alike have taken the time to experience all that Edinburgh Castle has to offer over the last twelve months, reflecting a growing trend in visiting historic sites.

Edinburgh Castle holds the title of Scotland’s busiest pay-on-entry attraction, but in 2017 it saw its ticket sales increase by a huge 15%. As a result, there are over 800,000 more people visiting Edinburgh Castle than there were just five years ago. This data come from recorded visitor figures from the period of 1st January 2017 – 24th December 2017.

The heritage agency behind Edinburgh Castle (Historic Environment Scotland) has cited several factors for this success, including the first official Year of Heritage, History and Archaeology, and Outlander: the popular television drama set and filmed in Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland also revealed that its ten most popular sites have all seen record visitor numbers in the last twelve months, including Urquhart, Stirling, Doune and St Andrew’s castle. Part of this growing global interest comes from the fascination with iconic figures from Scotland’s history like Mary, Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce.

By reaching two million visitors, Edinburgh Castle could see itself propelled into the top ten attractions in the UK, finding company alongside other iconic sites of interest like the National Gallery, National History Museum, British Museum and Tate Modern.

Chief executive of VisitScotland, Malcolm Roughead, said:

“Edinburgh Castle is one of the most awe-inspiring landmarks in the world. Sat high up on volcanic rock overlooking Edinburgh in all its magnificence, it is no surprise that it has broken through the two million visitor mark. In our recent survey, Edinburgh Castle was voted the best castle in Scotland by the British public and I’m not surprised at all. I hope that visitors keep on exploring Scotland’s fascinating heritage in 2018 and beyond.”

Another of the Scottish capital’s famous attractions, the National Museum of Scotland, announced in mid-November last year that it had attracted over two million visitors for the first time in its history. Despite being a largely-free attraction, these figures further show the growing interest in Edinburgh across the globe.

The museum staged several popular exhibitions over the course of 2017, including a major exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. It also offered visitors the chance to see Britain’s biggest ever discovery of Viking treasures, the ‘Galloway Hoard’, during a £2 million fundraising campaign.

Director of commercial and tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, Stephen Duncan, had this to say about the increasing interest in Scotland’s capital:

“The Year of Heritage, History and Archaeology has given us a fantastic platform to highlight Scotland’s historic environment. The connections of the castle to Robert the Bruce, the Stuart Kings and Mary, Queen of Scots and the impact of dramatizations such as Outlander illustrate a long and romantic history, which attracts visitors from home and abroad.

“Globally, we’ve seen more visitors arriving in Britain and Edinburgh thanks to the strength of our air connections to other countries. Many of these visitors will have chosen to visit Edinburgh Castle due to its place as an international symbol of the city and of Scotland.”

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