The National Museum of Scotland overtook Edinburgh Castle as the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland last year, new figures have revealed.
In total, 1.81 million people visited the museum in Edinburgh, which opened ten new galleries in July 2016, a 15.5% rise on the previous year.
The Highlands showed a healthy increase in visitors, according to the figures from the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA).
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness by Jacobite, which offers scenic cruises on the loch, recorded significant increases in visitor numbers of 14% and 15% respectively.
Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie reported a 10% rise in numbers, while Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre continued to benefit from media coverage generated by the ‘Outlander’ TV series, recording a 21% increase.
Almost 30 million visits were made to 249 ASVA members sites in Scotland in 2016, a rise of 6% on 2015 figures.
Edinburgh Castle welcomed 1.77 million people, up 13.4%.
National Museums Scotland director Dr Gordon Rintoul said: “I am delighted that the latest ASVA visitor figures have confirmed the National Museum of Scotland’s place as the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland.
“In addition, we recorded the highest-ever visitor numbers across all our sites with nearly 2.7 million visits.”
Four other sites welcomed more than one million visitors each, with Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Riverside Museum, both in Glasgow, drawing more than 1.25 million people each.
The Scottish National Gallery and St Giles’ Cathedral, both in Edinburgh, drew 1.54 million and 1.17 million visitors respectively.
Eleven of the top 20 attractions were located in the capital, compared with nine in 2015.
Sites outside the top 20 also celebrated successes.
The Black Watch Castle & Museum in Perth and Kinross saw a 1,248% rise in visitor numbers, largely on the back of “Weeping Window”, a sculpture featuring thousands of handmade ceramic poppies commemorating those who died in the First World War.
Last year, 195,301 people visited the museum, up from 14,483 visitors in 2015.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It is fantastic that Scottish visitor attractions recorded another successful year in 2016, with almost 30 million visits to some of Scotland’s most popular and iconic tourist sites.
“I commend the sterling work of ASVA in creating quality visitor experiences and building Scotland’s reputation as a top tourist destination for visitors from around the world.”
ASVA chair Douglas Walker said the figures demonstrated that the visitor attractions sector in Scotland is in “robust health”.