Visits to gardens were particularly badly hit - dipping 7 per cent - while numbers going to country parks fell 4 per cent.
One attraction that bucked the trend was Windsor Castle, where tourists eager to see the restored fire-damaged apartments boosted visitor numbers by 32 per cent.
Published by the UK's four national tourist boards, the 1998 figures showed that Alton Towers in Staffordshire regained first place in the admission-charging attractions with 2.8 million visitors, ousting the Madame Tussauds waxworks museum in London. Blackpool Pleasure Beach was the most popular free attraction, with an estimated 7.1 million visitors
Westminster Abbey remained top of the ecclesiastical list, despite introducing an admission charge last year.
Admissions to leisure parks fell by 3 per cent and visits to historic properties and visitor centres were down 1 per cent.
Among attractions showing big increases in tourist numbers last year were Legoland at Windsor, Berkshire, the Natural History Museum in London, and Chester Zoo. Top garden was Hampton Court, while the leading visitor centre was Cadbury World in Birmingham.
A new category - top farms - was headed by Calestock Cider Farm in Truro, Cornwall.
The top 10 admission-charging attractions were: Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds, Tower of London, Natural History Museum, Chessington World of Adventures, Science Museum, Legoland, Canterbury Cathedral, Windsor Castle, and Edinburgh Castle.Reuse content