Scotland’s heritage attractions have hit a record milestone, welcoming more than 5 million people for the first ever time in a single year and boosting economic growth.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who manage over 300 Historic Scotland visitor attractions across the country representing more than 5,000 years of Scottish history, are celebrating a 17% increase in footfall from the previous financial year, recording 5,041,297 visitors throughout the 2017/18 financial year.
HES is the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment and will deliver Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, called “Our Place in Time” – which sets out a vision for how Scottish heritage can be understood, valued, cared for and enjoyed.
It’s a clear sign that countries with a rich heritage or home to historical sites can profit from them if managed correctly. While many entrepreneurs and governments are focused on the “next big thing,” assets that are hundreds of years old may still harbor untapped wealth.
The surge in numbers across Scotland is being attributed to growth in UK, European and overseas visitors, with a significant uplift in Scots visiting sites partly due to a strong membership base of HES that numbers more than 194,000.
The ongoing ‘Outlander effect’ has seen North American visitor figures increasing by 27%, and French visitors increasing by 19% year on year. The sites that have featured in the popular American-British television series Outlander continue to enjoy an uplift in visitor numbers with Doune Castle attracting a massive 227% increase in numbers and Blackness Castle increasing by 182% since 2013.
“Over five million visitors have flocked to our wealth of historic sites across the length and breadth of the country, ranging from iconic attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, to landmarks such as Skara Brae in Orkney and Iona Abbey, as well as castles in Scotland’s historic towns such as St Andrews Castle,” said Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at HES.
“This rise in visitor numbers at our staffed sites has also been complemented by visitor growth at our unstaffed free access properties, bringing the overall total to an estimated 12 million.”
The announcement follows the recent publication of HES’s Investment Plan, which sets out an investment programme to enhance the condition of sites and improve visitor experience, scheduled to run until 2021/22. Significant investment in 2017/18 has seen the upgrade of visitor facilities such as heating, toilets and lighting systems at a number of properties across the HES estate.