Record-Breaking Summer for Historic Sites Across Orkney

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Friday October 6 2017

It’s been a spectacular summer for Orkney’s historic sites as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced record-breaking visitor figures for the 2017 summer season today (Friday 6th October).

The summer season saw Skara Brae – part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and one of the top 10 paid-for Historic Scotland heritage attraction in the care of HES – record its busiest ever season, already exceeding visitor totals from last financial year.

104,224 people visited the site between April and September 2017 – a 19% increase on the same period last year.

The Broch of Gurness and Bishop’s & Earls Palace’s in Kirkwall also broke their existing visitor records, witnessing surges in footfall of 34% and 17% respectively.

Maeshowe – one of the finest chambered tombs in Europe - also had an impressive showing, seeing a 6% rise in visitors.

The summer season has seen many visitor records broken across the country as a whole, with historic sites in the care of HES welcoming over 3.8m visitors in the period from April to September 2017, an impressive overall 20% increase in footfall on the same period last year, making it the busiest season on record.

August 2017 saw over 870,000 visitors flocking to Scotland’s iconic historic sites, making it the busiest individual month ever recorded.

HES manage over 70 ticketed Historic Scotland visitor attractions throughout the country, including Edinburgh Castle, Iona Abbey and Fort George.

The announcement comes as Scotland celebrates Heritage Awareness Day, the first-ever day dedicated to showcasing the country’s rich and diverse heritage and encouraging individuals, organisations and communities all over Scotland to share and celebrate heritage in all its different forms.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said:

“This year’s summer season has surpassed our previous visitor records, as we welcomed over 3.8m visitors to our historic sites across the country – an excellent 20% increase on last season’s showing.

“It is fitting that we celebrate this success on Heritage Awareness Day, the first-ever national celebration of heritage and the contribution it makes to communities across the country.

“We’ve responded to the increasing interest in Scotland’s historic environment by extending opening at seasonal sites across the country throughout October, giving people further opportunity to explore the wealth of history that Scotland has to offer and to uncover the hidden historical gems on their doorstep during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“From Edinburgh Castle to Skara Brae, historic sites across Scotland are continuing to draw record numbers of visitors, which is further demonstration of the value of Scotland’s historic places within the country’s wider tourism offering.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said:

“Congratulations to Historic Environment Scotland on another great seasonal performance.

“As today’s numbers confirm, Scotland’s historic environment is acting more and more as a magnet for tourists, attracting millions of people from far and wide each year to our world class attractions.

“I am particularly pleased to be announcing this success as we celebrate the first-ever Heritage Awareness Day and as we approach the end of this Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

"The Year has contributed to further enhancing the international profile of Scotland's intriguing history, impressive cultural heritage and fascinating archaeology.”


Full details of the sites extending opening hours throughout October can be found at  


For more information on Heritage Awareness Day, visit

Join in the conversation on Twitter by following @HistEnvScot and using #heritageday17 to share your stories.



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