ALVA has released the data for visitor numbers for 2022. The top 10 most visited sites for the National Trust for Scotland attracted 1.9 million visitors: the same ten properties attracted 1.1 million visitors in 2021. This is only slightly down on the numbers for 2019, 2 million (although some visitor figures were not available for St Abbe’s Head for that year).
Data for the top 20 properties in 2022 show a slight increase from 2019.
Note that data prior to 2018 are not available for all the 10 / 20 properties and this has distorted the presentation.
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.
The ALVA figures for 2020 have been released. I have chosen the top 10 locations for the National Trust for Scotland where there is easily accessible data for 2019. I have not included Corrieshalloch Gorge (56,060), Ben Lomond (54,266), or Balmacara Estate & Lochalsh Woodland Garden (45,957). These 10 sites attracted 934,938 in 2020, down from 2.1 million in 2019.
Using the Top 10 sites for 2019, the fall is from 2.1 million to 888,159 in 2020.
The figures reflect how landscapes and gardens have been used to allow the public to re-engage with heritage sites and locations.
The Outlander series of books and TV series is having an impact on visitor numbers at heritage sites in Scotland (“Outlander tourism effect a ‘double edged sword’“, BBC News 15 February 2020). Doune Castle is reported to have a 200 per cent increase, rising from 38,000 in 2013 to 142,000 in 2008. It is now the fifth most popular Historic Environment Scotland site.
Culloden, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, has also seen a large increase in visitor numbers to over 213,000 in 2018.
W. Douglas Simpson (1896–1968) prepared a series of Ministry guidebook for sites in State Guardianship. He was lecturer in British History at the University of Aberdeen (by 1924), and then He served as Librarian and Registrar for the University of Aberdeen from 1926 through to 1966. He served as Chair of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. He was awarded OBE (1954) and CBE (1962).
In 1959 Simpson prepared Scottish Castles: An Introduction to the Castles of Scotland (HMSO, 1959). In the Foreword he wrote: ‘Those who read this little book will come to realise that, small and poor as it has always been, Scotland yet possesses a distinctive castellated architecture, and one of which any nation might be proud’. There are eight sections:
Heritage sites need to be understood in their wider setting. And the visitor experience for those making their way to Threave Castle includes a walk along the river and then a ferry across to the island (included in the entrance fee).
Peregrine falcons have been nesting in the castle, and HES staff were more than helpful in pointing out a female perching in a tree on the far bank.
The Threave estate (NTS) also has an osprey viewing platform.
The ferryman helpfully pointed out a possible archaeological feature emerging from the waters due to the drought conditions. Is this a geological feature or perhaps traces of a ford across the river?
The NTS and HES teams work together to make this a highly rewarding site.
The details of the Leading Visitor Attractions for 2017 are now available. The National Trust for Scotland locations are:
Glenfinnan : 396,448 [+57.8%]
Culzean Castle & Country Park : 244,930 [+11.6%]
Inverewe Gardens : 191,951 [+109.6%]
Culloden : 180,875 [+27.6%]
Burns Birthplace Museum : 164,316 [+1.2%]
Crathes Castle : 121,841 [+23.7%]
Bannockburn : 55,347 [+7.9%]
Falkland Palace : 50,726 [+15.1%]
Drum Castle : 46,574 [-3%]
Brodick Castle & Country Park : 44,361 [-38.1%]
Pitmedden Garden : 43,045 [+17.9%]
Hill House : 28,518 [+6.2%]
Gladstones Land : 12,061 [-44.7%]
There are two notable changes: Glenfinnan has rocketed to the top of the NTS list, and Inverewe has risen from no. 181. Inverewe’s popularity is probably its situation on the designated Scottish coastal drive NC500.