Scotland’s top VisitScotland Quality Assured visitor attractions welcomed 19.2 million people in 2016

EDINBURGH, Scotland, 2017-Feb-28 — /Travel PR News/ — Scotland’s top VisitScotland Quality Assured visitor attractions welcomed an incredible 19.2 million people in 2016, up by over a million on the previous year.

The figure, released by the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, covers the top twenty paid for and top fifteen free attractions which currently participate in the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme. The same sites attracted 18.1 million visitors in 2015.

The news comes as Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs joined the national tourism organisation to roll out an enhanced grading scheme for Scotland’s visitor attractions at Dynamic Earth – one of Edinburgh’s Five Star Quality Assured attractions.

The most comprehensive review in the scheme’s history, the new criteria aims to bring the scheme in-line with visitors’ current needs and expectations.

The result of extensive consultation with the tourism industry, the updated criteria places a strong emphasis on the warmth of welcome offered to visitors and also highlights the growing importance of digital in the visitor journey.

The review was guided by an industry support group with significant input from the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and other representatives of the visitor attraction sector.

Fiona Hyslop MSP said:

“Scotland’s tourism sector is vital to our economy. Every year we welcome millions of visitors and give them exciting experiences at a range of high-quality attractions.

“It is our aim to become a destination of first choice for visitors from around the world. Providing a quality visitor experience is vital to achieving that aim.

“VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme plays an important role in this and ensures we continue to provide the quality of experience that our visitors look for when they come to Scotland – both now and in the future.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:

“Scotland boasts world class visitor attractions in every corner of the country and it is absolutely fantastic to see just how many people took a trip to one last year.

“Our Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance review aims to bring the scheme up-to-date and in line with the changing needs and expectations of visitors while also providing a structure for businesses to continually improve.

“The input from industry was vital in the redevelopment of scheme and we are confident the work done in recent years will play an active role in keeping Scotland’s visitor attractions competitive on the global stage.”

Douglas Walker, Chair of Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, said:

“The ASVA Membership has a long standing and productive relationship with the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme for visitor attractions. Our Members are highly engaged in the process and the assessments give our businesses a professional insight into how they are performing in relation to visitor experience.

“We were pleased to be involved in the industry group that helped update and develop the scheme to deliver the best possible results for our industry. Scottish attractions have seen sustained growth in visitor numbers over the last 4 years and the development of the Quality Assurance scheme will help to ensure this is maintained through delivering excellent experiences for our guests.”

Susan Loch, Head of Visitor Operations and Community Engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, said:

“Our visitor attractions across the length and breadth of the country have benefited from being part of this grading initiative since it was first pioneered. We’ve been pleased to work with VisitScotland and other key partners in the tourism sector to help shape and further develop this recognised Quality Assurance scheme. In its new form this programme will help realise improved experiences for visitors and drive success throughout Scotland’s wider tourism industry for years to come.”

The new grading scheme officially began on 30 January 2017. All grading visits between now and 2019 will be treated as advisory visits and no awards will be negatively impacted by the changes made to the scheme.

During this re-grading period, Visitor Attraction Quality Tourism Advisors will deliver bespoke advice and support highlighting to a business where they currently score within the new grading scheme and what changes are required to maintain or improve their award.

If actions are required to consolidate or improve an award under the revised scheme, the visitor attraction will have until 2019 to implement these actions.

There are currently 1,284 participants in the Quality Assurance scheme in Scotland.

For more information on the VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme, visit

Top VisitScotland Quality Assured Visitor Attractions (Moffat Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University, 2017)

Paid Admission Attractions

Attraction 2016 2015
Edinburgh Castle 1,778,548 1,568,508
Edinburgh Bus Tours 604,846 552,006
Edinburgh Zoo 574,175 633,351
Stirling Castle 481,970 458,932
Urquhart Castle 396,397 348,691
Royal Yacht Britannia 348,272 308,906
Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre 331,747 302,946
Glasgow Science Centre 326,181 302,709
Scottish Seabird Centre 268,096 262,996
Culzean Castle and Country Park 219,559 228,174
The British Golf Museum 200,895 E 101,476
Nevis Range 200,667 E 176,830 E
Five Sisters Zoo 180,046 123,274
Rosslyn Chapel 174,935 161,307
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum 162,392 235,668
Heads of Ayr Farm Park 160,711 161,750
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens 144,003 123,345
Highland Wildlife Park 136,843 124,259
Almond Valley Heritage Centre 135,721 136,000
Landmark Forest Adventure Park 131,358 137,480
Total 6,957,362 6,448,608

Free Admission Attractions

Attraction 2016 2015
National Museum of Scotland 1,810,948 1,567,310
Scottish National Gallery 1,544,069 1,377,710
Loch Lomond Shores 1,316,656 E 1,252,107
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum 1,259,318 1,261,552
Riverside Museum 1,259,042 1,131,899
Gretna Green Famous Blacksmith’s Shop 794,543 775,868
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 790,050 836,755
National War Museum 678,982 601,074
Gallery of Modern Art 646,567 591,943
Falkirk Wheel 538,373 E 605,432 E
Dundee Contemporary Arts 380,000 E 389,598 E
Scottish National Portrait Gallery 322,219 312,877
New Lanark Village and Visitor Centre 317,624 E 352,704 E
People’s Palace 298,352 363,673
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Art) 285,688 221,361
Total 12,242,431 11,641,863
Total top paid and free 2016 2015
19,199,793 18,090,471

Notes to Editors

  • Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
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2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

  • 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • For more information visit or join the conversation at #HHA2017


Stewart Ross
Corporate Press Officer – National
Sports Tourism, Events Tourism, Edinburgh and Lothians, North Coast 500
0131 472 2219
Out of hours – 0131 472 2324

Source: VisitScotland