Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden dethrones castle in visitor rankings

Edinburgh Castle, which was the top paid-for attraction and second overall in 2019, dropped to fifth place.

Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden dethrones castle in visitor rankings Bluebudgie via Pixabay
Royal Botanic Garden: Scotland's most popular visitor attraction in 2020.

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden was Scotland’s most popular visitor attraction last year.

It dethroned the city’s National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle, which took the top spots in 2019, as Covid restrictions affected visitor numbers across the country.

According to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), a total of 452,479 people visited the Royal Botanic Garden, a drop of 54% from 2019.

The National Museum of Scotland dropped to second place with 444,437 visitors, a fall of 80% from 2019’s 2,210,024.

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Edinburgh Castle, which was the top paid-for attraction and second overall in 2019 with more than two million visitors, dropped to fifth place with visitors falling 87% to 276,950.

Edinburgh Zoo was the third most popular attraction with 335,625 visitors, a drop of 45%. The Scottish National Gallery came fourth with 304,237, a fall of 81%.

While most sites saw visitor numbers plummet, Ben Lomond and the Ben Lawers Visitor Centre saw an increase of 10% and 6% respectively.

Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park have already reopened as the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 restrictions begin to ease.

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Meanwhile, many castles, cathedrals and museums will be able to reopen from April 26 as part of the route map out of lockdown.

Bernard Donoghue, director of Alva, said: “Our annual figures for 2020 reflect what a devastatingly hard year the attractions sector and the wider visitor economy faced.

“Tourism is the UK’s fifth biggest industry and, as these figures show, was hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.”

Top ten in Scotland

  1. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: 452,479, -54%
  2. National Museum of Scotland: 444,437, -80%
  3. Edinburgh Zoo: 335,625, -45%
  4. Scottish National Gallery: 304,237, -81%
  5. Edinburgh Castle: 276,950, -87%
  6. Kelvingrove Museum: 259,978, -86%
  7. Riverside Museum: 246,933, -82%
  8. Culloden Visitor Centre: 182,496, -13%
  9. Glenfinnan Monument: 162,536, -65%
  10. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: 148,204, -71%