Bank holiday sun breaks through tourism's gloom

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The Independent Online

A sunny bank holiday weekend across much of Britain bought relief to many businesses struggling as a result of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

A sunny bank holiday weekend across much of Britain bought relief to many businesses struggling as a result of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

As temperatures peaked at 17C yesterday, tourist attractions reported early signs of an improvement in business.

Tourism officials in northern England said that in some areas visitor numbers were "back to normal" despite continuing footpath closures, while in Scotland and Wales day trippers were turned away from the most popular outdoor attractions because they were full.

The biggest improvements were expected in the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Dales, and Northumberland National Park.

Mike Pratt, the head of information for the North York Moors park, said: "Before this weekend, due to the foot-and-mouth problems, our visitor numbers were down by about half. Over the weekend, it does seem as though they are pretty much back to normal."

English Heritage said that many attractions were still benefiting from the closure of footpaths. At Stonehenge in Wiltshire, which has been reopened recently, there was a 30 per cent increase in visitor numbers compared with the same time last year. Similar increases were recorded at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Scarborough Castle in North Yorkshire. While inland footpaths remained closed, ramblers headed for the coast, especially towards Devon and in parts of East Anglia. Mark Baird, the general manager at Clacton Pier in Essex, said: "We had an excellent day yesterday. We had a big firework display last night. We do have very busy bank holidays which have been growing each year bit by bit."

Large numbersvisited Blackpool, and on the south coast Bournemouth reported that most of its accommodation was booked out. The New Forest also had an influx of visitors.

Large areas of Cumbria remained closed to walkers. A spokeswoman at a visitor centre in Ambleside, in the Lake District, said: "We are looking to probably the busiest day of the year so far, but numbers are still down on what we would expect on a normal bank holiday."

In Scotland, which had some of the best weather, staff were forced to turn away visitors at to several attractions including Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park, near Stirling.

In Wales, the Museum of Welsh Life in Cardiff had to close its doors after more than 12,000 people turned up.

On Snowdon, the opening of four paths to the summit on Friday produced a "marvellous" response, officials said. But the chief executive of the Wales Tourist Board, Jonathan Jones, said: "If you look at those areas where the access to the countryside has been closed down since February they are doing very, very badly."