Monument back after 64 per cent drop in visitor numbers

A view of the Glenfinnan Monument. Glenfinnan-monument-scaled.jpg
A view of the Glenfinnan Monument. Glenfinnan-monument-scaled.jpg

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One of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions has re-opened after a 64 per cent drop in tourist numbers last year.

The 60-foot Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel and its nearby visitor centre saw numbers fall by nearly 300,000 people in 2020 to 162,536. In 2019 visitor numbers were 462,235.

The 60-foot monument, built in 1815 as a tribute to the Highlanders who fought in the 1745 Jacobite Rising, is a top attraction in any other year.

It offers an eye-watering panorama of the area and viaduct and ranks in the top five of Scotland’s most visited paid-for tourist attractions.

Emily Bryce, operations manager for The National Trust for Scotland, said improvements had been made at the visitor centre to welcome people back.

She said: ‘We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from across Scotland and the UK this year, with our new Viaduct View café and the long-awaited opening of extra parking.

‘It has been great to see more locals coming for walks, climbing the monument and enjoying views of the Jacobite steam train too – people who were perhaps put off in recent seasons due to the busyness.

She added: ‘It will take our charity a while to recover from the challenges of the last 12 months, so we are grateful for all the support our members and visitors can offer.’

Glenfinnan is an example of how important international visitors are to Scotland.

Overseas visitors represent around 50 per cent of its customers, but there is little sign global travellers will be back in Scotland until next year.

Ms Bryce added: ‘Pre-pandemic, we also welcomed a large number of visitors on organised coach trips or cruises. Tour operators have been severely affected too and it seems unlikely this will recover significantly until 2022 either.’

Official figures show that visits to attractions in Scotland slumped by almost 34 million in 2020.

It represent an across-the-board fall of 63.2 per cent with as many as 153 sites closed for the entire 12 months.

The figures were collated by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Professor John Lennon, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said: ‘With international tourism unlikely to return until well into 2022, domestic visitors will provide the sole source of income. Their custom will be vital going forward.’

People are being urged to try a visitor attraction this year as many are expected to be 30 per cent ‘less busy’ due to the fall in international tourists.

There are changes at some National Trust for Scotland properties with some trialling timed entry or with changed opening patterns.

Visitors are advised not to travel without pre-booking. Bookings can be made on each property’s websites. You can also see opening information at www.nts.org.uk

Philip Long OBE, chief executive for the National Trust for Scotland, said: ‘We’ll be re-opening more of our built heritage in late May and across summer.

‘Our charity is grateful to all of those whose support and generosity means we can re-open more properties than we’d thought would have been possible this year.’