The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said on Friday that its members visited 16.2 million sites north of the border last year, a 128% increase on 7.1 million in 2021.

But last year’s visitor numbers were still down 24% compared to 2019, when the attractions saw 21.4 million visitors.

Bernard Donahue, director of Alva, said the figures showed people were “returning to their favorite places in 2022” but warned: “We are still experiencing the tourism equivalent of a long Covid and many attractions are still not up to visitor levels in 2019. , mostly to absence international guests, especially from China and the Far East.

“But I’m confident they’ll come back this year and we’ll see a continued healthy recovery.”

Scotland’s top tourist attraction last year was the free National Museum Scotland in Edinburgh, which saw 1.97 million people, a 199% increase on 2021.

Edinburgh Castle was named the second most popular attraction, with 1.35 million people paying to visit the building that dominates the cityscape and is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

The number of visitors to the castle last year increased by 218% compared to 2021.


At Glasgow’s Riverside Museum on the Clyde, visitor numbers increased by 276% to 1.17 million, while the neighboring Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum saw a 209% increase to 891,114 visitors.

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The Barrel Collection in Glasgow reopened last year after extensive refurbishment and immediately became one of Scotland’s 10 most popular attractions.

Duncan Dornan, head of Glasgow Museums, which manages the city’s attractions, said: “Like museums and galleries across the UK, it’s been great to open new venues and new exhibitions throughout 2022, and to see the galleries busy again and people enjoying themselves. from a more relaxed, more traditional and often impromptu visit to some of Glasgow’s most popular attractions.’

Attractions run by the National Trust for Scotland also saw an increase in visitors.

The Glenfinnan Visitor Center in Lochaber saw more than 398,000 people stop at the site where Charles Edward Stuart II raised his standard in 1754.

Robert Burns’ home museum in Alloway, South Ayrshire, saw a 28% increase in visitor numbers compared to 2021, welcoming more than 180,000 people.

Philip Long, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “It’s been fantastic to see how popular our venues have been with people over the past year as we all begin to recover from the effects of the global pandemic.

“It is our charity’s privilege to share Scotland’s nature, beauty and heritage with everyone, and these numbers show that people really value the trust, its places and the experience we offer.

“We’ve had visitors come back, our members have stayed with us, and we’ve also been generously supported by donors despite challenging times for everyone.”

Historical Environment Scotland runs Edinburgh Castle, as well as Stirling and Urquhart Castles, which have also seen an increase in visitors.


A spokesman for the organization said that “Scotland’s world-renowned historic environment makes an important contribution to the country’s tourism sector”.

He added: “As we continue to recover from the challenges of the past few years, we are very encouraged to see continued growth in visitor numbers, including Edinburgh Castle, which was once again the most visited attraction in Scotland in 2022.

“It is fantastic to see that Scotland also enjoyed the highest annual attendance figures last year (up 128%) – second only to London in terms of the whole of the UK.

“As the sector continues to move in the right direction, we are positively focused on the upcoming season and key milestones, including our program of popular events, and look forward to welcoming new visitors to our iconic historic sites.”

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