Visitor numbers for the top 10 sites in the care of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) suggest that the road to recovery will be a long one. These top 10 sites attracted 855,626 visits in 2021: in 2019 the same 10 sites attracted 4.3 million.
ALVA has released the visitor figures for 2020 and they are showing the harsh impact of the COVID-19 on the heritage visitor economy. The top 10 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sites (for 2o2o) have dropped from just under 4.4 million visitors in 2019 to 517,210 in 2020. Edinburgh and Stirling Castles saw a fall of 87 % and Urquhart Castle saw a drop of 89 %. Some sites, unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, saw a fall of over 90 %.
Using the Top 10 visitor numbers for 2019, visitor numbers fell from 4.5 million to 512,203.
These numbers indicates the impact of the pandemic both on a specific heritage organisation as well as on the tourism sector more generally.
One of the earliest Ministry guidebooks for properties in Scotland was prepared for Edinburgh Castle (1929). The description was by James S. Richardson, with an extended history (pp. 15–40) by Marguerite Wood. It contains black and white photographs with a fouldout plan inside the back cover.
The second edition was published in 1939, and the third in 1948.
This guide continued as the Blue Guide. The plan was moved to the centre pages.
A souvenir guide was prepared for the Ministry of Works by the Central Office of Information in 1960. It has a subtitle, ‘An illustrated guide with the story of the castle through the centuries’. A small plan is placed on p. 3. At the end of the guide are sections on the Scottish United Services Museum; the Honours of Scotland; and the Scottish National War Memorial.
The present Historic Scotland souvenir guide is by Chris Tabraham. It starts with a guided tour (Thirty steps to history), and then a history as ‘Symbol of Scotland’. There are ‘Did you know?’ boxes on each of the double page spreads. The guide also has the logo for the World Heritage Site.
The latest figures for the top UK visitor attractions for 2014 have been announced (see ALVA). Top of the list is the British Museum with 6.695 million visits. Other attractions that caught my eye include the Tower of London (no. 8; 3.075 million), Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (no. 13; 1.749 million), Edinburgh Castle (no. 17; 1.480 million), Stonehenge (no. 21; 1.346 million), The Roman Baths in Bath (no. 27; 1.143 million), Fountains Abbey (no. 77; 366,150), and Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (no. 162; 104,511). One of my favourite spots, Glenfinnan (NTS), came in at no. 212 with 20,491.
The list is demonstrating the importance of the heritage sector to the UK economy.