Historic Scotland, the agency that runs many of Scotland's historic sites, has recorded an unprecedented 4 million visitors over its current financial year.
The agency reported an additional 470,000 visitors to its 300-plus attractions, between April 2016 and now. It's the equivalent of a 13% year-on-year increase.
The four million visitor milestone was reached with a visit to the impressive ruins of St Andrews Cathedral.
Individual attractions have also set new records.
Edinburgh Castle, the top paid visitor attraction in Scotland, attracted over 1.6 million people, around 200,000 more than during the same period last year.
Stirling Castle, recently crowned Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction at the Scottish Outdoor and Leisure Awards, welcomed 447,512 visitors, a rise of 7%.
Meanwhile Doune Castle, famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the hit historical time-travelling TV series Outlander, is still feeling the ‘Outlander effect’. During this period 84,972 people explored the 1300s castle and filming location for themselves, an increase of more than 20,000 or 31% compared with the same period last year.
Blackness Castle has also benefited from its cameo in the series as the stand in for Fort William. Visitor numbers at the 15th century, Firth of Forth fortress are up 40% to 27,750. The coastal attraction is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’ due to its boat like shape.
The medieval stronghold of Urquhart Castle, which overlooks Loch Ness, jumped up by 13% overall to 380,152 visitors.
Further North, Orkney’s staffed cultural heritage attractions collectively welcomed 138,711 visitors over the 11 month period – an increase of 8% on footfall. Over 7,300 more people explored the prehistoric village of Skara Brae than last year, with the site recording 91,860 visitors. Numbers reported at Maeshowe Chambered Cairn were comparable to the previous financial year at over 23,000 visitors.
Home to a significant collection of carved stones and crosses, a total of 63,502 people made the pilgrimage to Iona Abbey and Nunnery on the west coast isle. A growth of 8% year-on-year.
“This (4 million) milestone is made even more special and exciting as we embark on Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology,” said Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland.
“Achieving this milestone is truly a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of our site staff who bring Scotland’s past to life every day for our visitors, providing them with a real insight into our shared history and heritage.”
2016-17 financial year top ten staffed heritage attractions:
1. Edinburgh Castle – 1,647,351
2. Stirling Castle – 447,512
3. Urquhart Castle – 380,152
4. Skara Brae – 91,860
5. Doune Castle – 84,972
6. Linlithgow Palace – 68,958
7. Iona Abbey – 63,502
8. St Andrews Castle – 72,283
9. Fort George – 58,098
10. Melrose Abbey – 49,566