North-east visitor attractions see tourism boom

Fyvie Castle.

North-east tourist attractions have seen an increase in visitors by up to 49%, according to new industry figures.

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) has released statistics that show visits to its sites across Scotland have risen for the fourth consecutive year in 2017.

Many of the attractions in the North-east – including castles, gardens and an aquarium – reported significant increases in visitors from 2016.

ASVA said that Castle Fraser Garden & Estate, near Inverurie, achieved a 49% increase in visitors, attracting 44,635 people in 2017, while Fyvie Castle enjoyed a 39% increase on 2016 figures, with 56,250 people visiting the site last year.

© National Trust
Castle Fraser

Elgin Cathedral attracted 43,045 visitors, marking a 25% increase from the previous year while Pitmedden Gardens also have cause to celebrate, after receiving an 18% rise.

Cashmere suppliers Johnstons of Elgin, who have operated out of Scotland since 1797, took the top spot in the North-east’s best performers.

Simon Cotton, CEO of Johnstons of Elgin, said: “It is a pleasure to see so many people discovering us here in the North-east of Scotland. Visitors love to get inside a true working factory and it’s the only place in Scotland to see products being made right from the source fibre through to finished garments. It is a unique place in the world, making for some of the most prestigious international brands and a must for lovers of industry or fashion.”

Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “The North-east has a rich offering of family-friendly visitor attractions, and it’s great to see those which offer a great authentic Scottish experience doing so well.

“Castles rank among the most visited attractions in the North-east, which can perhaps be attributed to the growing trend for touring routes, as Aberdeenshire is home to the longest castle trail of anywhere in Europe.

“Macduff Marine Aquarium rounds up the top 10, as visitors are keen to explore the rich diversity of our marine wildlife.”

The Marine Aquarium in Macduff.

Welcoming the figures in ASVA’s 2017 Visitor Trends Report, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “With Scotland’s iconic tourist sites attracting more than 30 million visits, 2017 was another hugely successful year for our world-class visitor attractions.

“Tourism is of vital importance to communities throughout Scotland, stimulating economic growth and promoting the importance of our cultural heritage to a wider audience.”

Out of the 450 members of ASVA, The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle both took the top spot after attracting more than 2 million visits each – marking the first time that any visitor attraction in Scotland surpassed this milestone.

Sectors which fared particularly well in 2017 include castles and heritage sites (+14.7%), museums and galleries (+7.5%), gardens (+13.6%) and distilleries/whisky-related attractions (+11.8%).