Lonely Planet Writer

Edinburgh Castle has fallen: National Museum of Scotland beats fortress into second place

The National Museum of Scotland is the country’s most popular tourist attraction, beating Edinburgh Castle into second place. The BBC reports that 1.81 million people visited the museum in 2016, a 16% rise on the previous year. Edinburgh Castle, which previously held the top spot, attracted 1.77 million people, a rise of 13% on 2015.

Exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland.
Exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland. Image by dun_deagh / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Edinburgh museum features around 10,000 objects including the stuffed body of Dolly the Sheep, Assyrian sculptures, flags from the battle of Culloden, 11 of the Lewis chessmen and one of Elton John’s suits. Dolly was the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. Image by Claudio Divizia/Shutterstock

The museum opened 10 new galleries in 2016, focusing on art, fashion, science and technology. Entry is free, while Edinburgh Castle is £16.50 for adult entry. The castle towers above Edinburgh and contains 12th Century Mary’s Chapel (the oldest building in the city), the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny and Mons Meg, a giant 15th century siege gun.

Don’t worry✌🏻 #Edinburgh #Scottish

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The top five is rounded out by the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Kelvingrove and Riverside museums. Several other attractions prospered in 2016: Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre’s visitor numbers rose over 20%, thanks in part to the famous battle featuring in the Outlander TV series. That figure was dwarfed by the Black Watch Castle & Museum in Perth, with a 1248% rise in numbers. The museum featured “Weeping Window”, a sculpture featuring thousands of handmade ceramic poppies commemorating those who died in World War One.

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The figures come from Glasgow University’s Moffat Centre. “There is no doubt that Scotland’s visitor attractions have benefitted from the lower value of Sterling against the Euro and the US Dollar,” the centre’s director, Professor John Lennon, told the Scotsman. “This has made the prospect of a visit to Scotland at its most affordable for some years. In addition the positive demand from domestic visitors has helped increase admissions as many families chose a ‘staycation’ because of concerns of the value of the pound and perceived concerns about security in many destinations.”

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