Edinburgh Castle stays top of visitor attractions

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle remains the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland according to figures released by Historic Scotland .Edinburgh Castle had more than 580,000 visits in the four months to the end of August, a 7% annual rise. Stirling Castle was the second most popular of Historic Scotland’s sites – with over 228,000 people over the same four months. The top 10 attractions also included Skara Brae, Iona Abbey and Fort William. All saw a rise in visitors over the year before.The main reasons for the increase are the Year of Homecoming and the fact that the weak pound made Scotland an attractive holiday destination for Europeans.

Kari Coghill of Historic Scotland said: “Our attractions enjoyed a good summer right across the country. The 2009 Year of Homecoming campaign was clearly a major help as it brought the whole of our tourism industry together to focus on the common goal of attracting visitors by promoting all that’s best about Scotland.
At the same time we obviously benefited from the fact that a weak pound made Scotland an attractive destination for Europeans. But we have also been doing a huge amount to market all that Historic Scotland has to offer, and the good value it provides, and that has seen our membership numbers pass 100,000 for the first time.” Historic Scotland is one of 2 main agencies in charge of Scotland’s castles , the other one being the National Trust for Scotland. more Edinburgh Castle pictures

Melrose Abbey is declared a world-class attraction


Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey has been declared world class and one of Scotland’s best visitor attractions. Independent quality assurance inspectors from VisitScotland have awarded it the coveted five-star status after examining every aspect of the visitor experience. This means the three staffed Borders Abbeys cared for by Historic Scotland, and Smailholm Tower, are all now five-star attractions. Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Michael Russell, said:  “You can’t get better than five star, so this is a brilliant achievement by the staff at Melrose.  It now means that all Historic Scotland paid attractions in the Borders are of five star status.  All the staff at the attractions have worked very hard to get and to keep this level of quality across the region.  This is a great achievement for the staff locally, for the heritage agency overall and something we can be very proud of.”
Melrose Abbey has a lot to celebrate this year as its visitor figures for the year so far have jumped by 15.6% compared to 2008 – an absolutely tremendous performance.”
Between April and the end of August the abbey attracted 33,558 visitors compared to 29,025.  Historic Scotland had a campaign earlier this year which offered a special price for membership especially for the Year of Homecoming 2009.  The campaign proved an enormous success due, the agency believe, to many people having “staycations ” – staying at home for holidays –  and looking for value for money family days out.  Melrose Abbey may be benefiting from this extra emphasis on value from  families suffering from the credit crunch.
The abbey had previously been a four-star attraction, but it has improved its rating thanks to the introduction of new and more modern information boards, material and information for visitors. VisitScotland has operated a quality assurance inspection scheme for visitor attractions since 1995.  The scheme gives an independent quality assurance award and incorporates the inspection of properties for Thistle tourist signposting. There are five quality grades for the standard of facilities and services following the assessment of the appropriate areas.
Historic Scotland is one of the two main organisations which run Scotland’s castles and historic Scotland , the other one being the National Trust for Scotland . HS is a  government agency which has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the top tourist attractions in Scotland, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places
Historic Scotland’s mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment. Historic Scotland has been a  major supporter of the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.