Lonely Planet Writer

Scottish tourism powering along with the help of steam trains and transport-related attractions

Transport-related visitor attractions including steam trains, boat and bus tours and the gigantic Falkirk Wheel are making a growing contribution to Scottish tourism.

Falkirk Wheel, Scotland
Falkirk Wheel, Scotland Image by James West / CC BY-SA 2.0

According to The Scotsman, the sites saw a 10% rise in visitor traffic in 2016, compared to an overall increase of 2%. The Falkirk Wheel had its most successful year ever, with 605,000 visitors. The Strathspey Railway in Aviemore was one of a number of steam lines to welcome record numbers, with 70,600 passengers, while Edinburgh Bus Tours attracted 552,000 visitors.

The figures come from the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University. The centre’s director, Professor John Lennon, said that changing patterns of travel were part of the reason for the attractions’ success. “Folk want to do activities and have an experience, such as travel on a steam railway or a boat trip,” he said. “This area of tourism seems to have momentum.”

An aerial view of the Flying Scotsman going over the Digswell Viaduct near Welwyn Garden City on its inaugural run from London to York after a decade long, £4.2 million refit.
An aerial view of the Flying Scotsman going over the Digswell Viaduct near Welwyn Garden City on its inaugural run from London to York after a decade long, £4.2 million refit. Image by Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Iconic train journeys have long appealed to visitors to Scotland. The return of the iconic Flying Scotsman locomotive, which travelled between Edinburgh and London, was met with enormous excitement this year. The handsome Glenfinnan Viaduct, in the Western Highlands, stood in for the route into Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

The Falkirk Wheel, which lifts boats up to the Union Canal, has been given a boost by the Kelpies, a popular sculpture inspired by the horses that once pulled barges along the canal. A representative of Strathspey Railway suggested the line had benefited from the introduction of fine dining on its carriages.