Historic Scotland

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.

Castle bagging replaces Munro bagging

Edinburgh Castle 908
Edinburgh Castle 908
historic castles and stunning natural beauty but the less energetic have started a new craze , swapping Munros for the new sport of castle bagging.Touring the country and visiting the most castles in a weekend has become a popular pastime for recession hit Brits.

Historic Scotland has noticed an increase in the number of visitors to their properties who say they are on a mission to bag the most castles they can. Edinburgh Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of the UK
They have realised around 20 visitors a month are making the most of Scotland’s multiplicity of strongholds and travelling around to visit them as a day out or weekend away. One family even managed to visit 20 properties in just seven days.
In today’s credit crunch Britain one in five people are choosing to holiday at home – staycations as some people say – and experience Scotland’s culture and heritage.
Historic Scotland is taking advantage of the situation and offering six months free on their family membership when you buy 12 months. Families will pay just £6.16 a month to get free access to more than 70 properties across Scotland and can bag as many castles as they like.
To celebrate the Make Your Own History campaign they are challenging families to take up the new craze in a search to find the country’s most cultured family.
Barbara Smith, executive manager of Edinburgh Castle, said: “We have noticed an increase in visitors who say they are trying to visit as many castles as possible. It seems to have become a bit of a sport to see who can “bag” the most.
“Historic Scotland looks after more than 60 castles across the country so there’s plenty to choose from. It’s a great way in the current climate for families to spend quality time together and get out and experience Scotland’s culture and heritage for themselves.
“The hard part is choosing which castles to visit and how much time to spend there as there is so much to see and do. We’d love to find the family who have bagged the most of our castles to date.”
I have drawn up a list of the top ten castles in Scotland . You can debate this list in our castles forum
Elaine and Alistair Greig are possible contenders after notching up 39 castles around Scotland. The enthusiasts enjoy spending time with their children Ewan, seven, and Eilidh, five, touring Scotland’s keeps.

Elaine said: “I’ve loved visiting castles ever since I was a little girl and my children love it now too. Their favourite pastime at the weekend is a visit to Edinburgh Castle. They can run around for hours at a time and let their imagination go wild.
“It’s a great way to spend time together as a family. We often take a picnic with us when we go for the day. We are spoilt for choice in Scotland with the number of beautiful historic properties we have and they are perfect for families to explore.
“All young children love the history behind castles and the people who live there like knights and kings and every property has its own unique story.”
And foreign tourists are getting in on the act with one German family visiting 35 sites in 10 days and a Spanish couple managing 37 in 14 days.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the new trend is slightly less strenuous than Munro bagging but still a great way to spend a day out enjoying Scotland’s natural beauty.

David Gibson, Chief Officer for The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “Scotland’s castles and mountains are inextricably linked though their history and beauty and are both set in wonderful scenic landscapes that are great to explore. Like munro-bagging, castle bagging carries a health warning – it can be seriously addictive.”
Historic Scotland will reward the family who can bag the most castles in a weekend. The winning family will be reimbursed for entry.
For more information on Historic Scotland and the full terms and conditions of the membership offer visit www.6monthsfree.co.uk

Melville Castle Hotel redevelopment plans

A Scottish castle hotel is beating the credit crunch with news of a major expansion
Hotel owner Steven McLeod has bought Melville Castle Hotel near Edinburgh and intends to develop it into a five-star spa and event facility.

Melville Castle Hotel is due to open in March after a comprehensive refurbishment with an extra 50 staff .
However, the redevelopment doesn’t stop there and there are plans for a further 120 bedrooms, a luxury spa, a steakhouse, fine dining restaurant and meeting and event facilities for more than 500 guests.

The 33-year-old is in talks with Historic Scotland with the aim of submitting plans for the new venue within the next 18 months. The hotel is set in a 60-acre estate on the banks of the North Esk river.
The new development will create 1500 construction jobs .

Mr McLeod said: “We are facing difficult economic times but it is at times like these we have to stick together.” Guide to best hotels in Scotland