Heritage Tourism in 2021: Historic Environment Scotland

Compiled by © David Gill

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.

Heritage Tourism in 2021: An Overview

Details of the impact that the pandemic has made on the heritage sector is becoming clear. Visitor figures for 2021 are now available. The top 10 properties in 2021 for the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland, English Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic Royal Palaces, and the Treasure Houses of England are collated here: 51 properties in all.

The National Trust has recovered best best with 4.3 million visits to its top 10 properties, down slightly from 4.6 million visits to the same 10 properties in 2019. In contrast Historic Royal Palaces attracted just over 1 million visitors in 2021, down from 4.5 million in 2019.

These 51 properties attracted 11.7 million visitors in 2021, compared to 21.8 million in 2019 (7.7 million in 2020).

Heritage Tourism in 2020: an overview

© David Gill

The impact of lockdowns due to the pandemic is making itself clear on the visitor figures released by ALVA. Reduced visitor numbers will see a reduction in income from ticket sales as well as through retail outlets. We have yet to see the impact on those who pay annual memberships.

These figures use the numbers for the Top 10 properties for the National Trust (NT), the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), English Heritage (EH), and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The number for Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is based on three properties: the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Hampton Court.

The 44 properties represented in this histogram received over 20 million visitors in 2019; in 2020 it was just over 6 million. The Top 10 properties for HES dropped by nearly 4 million visitors.

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Historic Environment Scotland

© David Gill, 2021

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 %.

Based on Top 10 locations for 2019 © David Gill, 2021

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.

Who Built Scotland

(2018) [2017 Hardback]

This wonderful series of essays—journeys in the title—transports us from Mousa Broch on Shetland, to Abbotsford in the Borders; from Bell Rock Lighthouse off Angus, to Sweeney’s Bothy on Eigg.

Kathleen Jamie ignites our imagination with her reflection on Geldie Burn, and more specifically Mesolithic sites in their landscape. Her essay on Maggie’s Centre in Fife makes sense of contemporary therapeutic space by comparing this location with the prehistoric site at Links of Noltland on Westray.

Some of the locations are well-known and perhaps to be expected: Calanais (James Robertson), Iona Abbey (Alexander McCall Smith), and Edinburgh Castle (Alistair Moffat). But there are some unexpected gems here: James Robertson in Innerpeffray Library.

I was surproisingly gripped by Alistair Mofffat on Glenlivet Distillery and Inchmyre Prefabs, and James Crawford on Hampden Park and Sullom Voe. They were reminders of how society can leave its mark on the built environment.

James Robertson’s essay on Auld Alloway Kirk not only explores Tam O’ Shanter, but also rural parish churches, for example at Kiltearn and Croick. Alexander McCall Smith reflects on the Italian Chapel on Orkney.

This creative volume provides a range of insights and voices on Scotland’s history.

Dryburgh Abbey: main west door

Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

In 1385 the English army under King Richard II sacked three of the monasteries along the line of Dere Street: these included Dryburgh and Melrose. The western entrance to the abbey church was rebuilt in the 15th century in part due to the award of properties by Richard III.

A window would have been placed immediately above the doorway.

Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

Carnasserie Castle: signs

Carnasserie Castle © David Gill

Canrasserie Castle lies to the north of Kilmartin village. In February 1559 the castle was awarded to John Carswell (c. 1522–1572) [ODNB], the minister of Kilmartin. (Note the alternative spelling on the site sign.) In 1567 he was presented as bishop of the Isles. One of his main contributions was his translation of the Book of Common Order (1564) into Gaelic, Foirm na n-urrnuidheadh (1567).

The present castle was constructed between 1565 and 1572, replacing an earlier building. The castle was destroyed in 1685 during the rebellion of the 9th Earl of Argyll.

Carnasserie Castle © David Gill

Leading Visitor Attractions 2019: Historic Environment Scotland

Iona © David Gill

The visitor numbers for Leading Visitor Attractions in 2019 are now available. Properties managed by Historic Environment Scotland attracted over 5 million visitors in 2019. Top of the list is Edinburgh Castle with 2.2 million visitors, followed by Stirling Castle (609,000), Urquhart Castle (547,000) and Glasgow Cathedral (537,000). Skara Brae on Orkney received over 115,000 visitors, no doubt reflecting the presence of cruise ships.

The top six sites attract over 4 million visitors in 2019.

Heritage sites in Scotland reopening

Doune Castle © David Gill

Historic Environment Scotland has released details of its plans to re-open the heritage sites in its care during August and September. From 15 July this includes the grounds of Caerlaverock, Doune and Dundonald Castles.

Caerlaverock Castle © David Gill

Melrose Abbey: danger sign

IMG_2065-Edit
Melrose Abbey © David Gill

This is a variant of the more usual, ‘Danger. Do not climb on the walls’ sign (e.g. Bury St Edmunds Abbey; Hadleigh Castle; Kirkham Priory; Lindisfarne Priory; Pickering Castle; Warkworth Castle). Lindsifarne also has, ‘Danger. Do not climb’.

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