On the high road and low road, tourism in Scotland is booming

"There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make," wrote the Scots playwright J M Barrie. Seventy years later, his words have a new currency with figures showing that Scottish tourism is steaming ahead of the rest of the UK.

"There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make," wrote the Scots playwright J M Barrie. Seventy years later, his words have a new currency with figures showing that Scottish tourism is steaming ahead of the rest of the UK.

While tourist numbers for the rest of the UK climbed 12 per cent last year, they soared by 20 per cent north of the border, according to the latest International Passenger Survey.

Experts put Scotland's success down to the country's transport links and its ability to cash in on niche holidays, including golfing and mountain biking, cultural city breaks and holidays specially tailored to the gay community.

The country's tourist authority, VisitScotland, has worked hard to promote the country as a destination for long and short-break travellers, encouraging the millions of the Scottish diaspora to return "home". Patricia Ferguson, the MSP and Scotland's Tourism Minister, said: "I believe we are beginning to reap the rewards of increased marketing activity, increased air and ferry routes into Scotland and an upturn in the quality of the tourism experience.

"The number of visitors coming from both EU and non-EU countries is considerably higher than the UK average. I believe this is in no small part due to continued investment in opening new routes to Scotland from Europe."

Figures from last year showed that holidaymakers coming to Scotland from Europe (EU and non-EU countries) were up 13 per cent on the previous year, while there was also a rise in the number of tourists from America and the rest of the world, despite an overall downturn in global travel. Earlier this month, VisitScotland increased its efforts to attract more Americans to Scotland with a high-profile presence at the New York Tartan Week celebrations.

The agency used a specially designed super-sized Scottish village - its marketing tool - at the Vanderbilt Hall in New York's Grand Central Station, seeking to catch the attention of the half a million people passing through the station each day. By the end of the week VisitScotland estimated that the village had been seen by more people than the entire population of Scotland.

"Roots tourism" has become a major money-earner as the industry attempts to cash in on the history shared between Scots descendants and the "old country". Tourism is Scotland's biggest sustainable industry, raking in more than £4.4bn a year from 18 million visitors and VisitScotland now aims to raise income from visitors by 50 per cent within 10 years. Tourism accounts for 5 per cent of the country's GDP, employing 197,000 people and paying the wages of more workers than the oil, gas and whisky industries combined. It is estimated that for every £1 the agency spends on promotion, £12 is generated in return on behalf of Scotland's tourism industry.

Phillip Riddle, the agency's chief executive, says there is no room for complacency. "People can come on a budget airline and spend a fortune," he said. "The industry is adapting to this short-break market, which has been the big growth area over the past few years. It does require us to be more flexible. It requires us to be more attentive to people who want to come for that short period. It is a different market from some years ago when people were coming for two or three weeks, perhaps spending less."

While new direct air and ferry links have helped draw tourists, industry experts admit internal transport needs to be improved; most of the country's attractions lie within its central belt, and there are calls for better transport to spread the wealth.

David West, of Loch Lomond Seaplanes, the UK's only commercial seaplane service, said: "Many short-break visitors don't have time to spend a day driving here and there so they ask us to take them. What may only be a 15-minute flight can take several hours by car or bus.

"There really is a need to improve internal links and we can do that without the need for expensive runways and damage to the environment."

The top ten attractions

* 1. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, 1,172,534 visitors. More than one thousand years of history sit on the famous volcanic rock that dominates the city. Described as the castle of castles, it is visitors' number one destination.

* 2. World Famous Old Blacksmith's Shop Centre, Gretna Green, 715,556. Dating from when runaway marriages became the vogue, it has a reputation as the first place over the border where English elopers could marry.

* 3. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 706,161. The Garden, founded in the 17th century, is now primarily a scientific institution. Its grounds are notable for a world-famous rock garden, peat and woodland areas.

* 4. Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 686,531. The Royal Museum houses important international collections of decorative arts, science and industry, archaeology and the natural world.

* 5. Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh, 614,571. The zoo is the largest wildlife attraction in Scotland with more than 1,000 animals and is heavily involved in promoting animal welfare, conservation and environmental education.

* 6. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 434,429. Home to Scotland's national collection of art since 1859, the National Gallery has a works encompassing the 14th century to the present day.

* 7. Glasgow Science Centre, Glasgow, 416,924. The gleaming titanium crescent overlooking the Clyde is packed with hands-on exhibits, interactive workshops, labs on three floors and one of the finest planetaria in the world.

* 8. New Lanark Village and Visitor Centre, Lanark, 404,500. Founded in 1785 as a model industrial town, New Lanark is now a beautifully restored 18th-century cotton mill village. It is an award-winning World Heritage site.

* 9. Museum of Transport, Glasgow, 404,107. The 40-year-old museum houses nationally and internationally important vehicles. It also has the oldest pedal cycle and a fine collection of Scottish-built cars.

* 10. St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, 402,550. The City Church of Edinburgh, with its crown spire on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, St Giles is also the High Kirk of Edinburgh.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform