Scotland’s top visitor attractions have outperformed those in the rest of the UK for the sixth year running.
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) found that Scottish tourist destinations had a “record-setting” 2017 with a 13.9% increase in numbers through the doors compared to the previous calendar year.
This was up against the 7.3% boost in visitor numbers recorded for sites across the UK as a whole.
For the first time in four years, the most visited attractions outside London were in Scotland, where two attractions welcomed more than two million visitors.
The National Museum of Scotland, which opened ten new galleries in 2016, was the most visited attraction outside the UK capital.
It moved to 11th place in the overall UK list, with 2,165,601 visitors – a 20% annual increase.
Edinburgh Castle was in 12th position with a 16% increase in numbers to 2,063,709, making it the most visited paid-for attraction north of the border.
Visitor numbers across the four sites for National Galleries Scotland topped 2.5 million, with a 30% increase at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Mary King’s Close on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile experienced a 9% boost in numbers to almost a quarter of a million, while Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross, on the North Coast 500 route, enjoyed a 109% rise.
Other strong increases were recorded at Glasgow Cathedral (36%), Stirling Castle (18%), People’s Palace Glasgow (19%), Culzean Castle (11%), Crathes Castle (23%) and Culloden (27%).
Overall, 129,954,657 visits were made to the top 238 ALVA sites in the UK.
ALVA director Bernard Donoghue said: “The fact that Scottish visitor attractions are outperforming the rest of the UK in visitor growth reflects years of strong investment by central and local government in Scotland, and by organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, in Scotland’s visitor economy and cultural landscape.”
He said 2018 promises to be an “exciting” year with the opening of the V&A in Dundee in September.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our tourism sector is of vital importance to Scotland’s economy. We have a rich heritage, a global reach and are confident of our place in the world.
“We will continue to work with our tourism industry, including our visitor attractions, to make Scotland a world-class and welcoming visitor destination.”