HUNDREDS of people poured through the gates of Edinburgh Zoo yesterday for the first glimpse of Scotland's two newest tourist attractions.

Panda fans have been waiting eagerly to see Yang Guang and Tian Tian since the bears arrived in Scotland nearly two weeks ago, and the lucky ones who viewed the creatures yesterday said it had been worth the wait.

Some had travelled from England for the first sight of the eight-year-old pandas who were said to have been settling in well since their arrival from China.

Fans of all ages filed past the two specially designed enclosures agape as the pandas came out of their shelters almost on cue.

Groups of around 25 visitors at a time shuffled past the new £300,000 facility, taking photographs of the animals on the guided tour.

Zoo bosses said around 600 visitors had pre-booked to see the pandas, a 200% increase on the usual gate numbers for a mid-December Friday.

The first person to buy a ticket also got to cut the tape to start the viewings. Andi McLean, 41, from Warrington, runs a website about pandas and has visited reserves in China.

He said: "It was thrilling. Yang Guang seems to have settled in well and Tian Tian is taking a little more time but she seems ok.

"Now we just have to see if they mate. There are odds of 12-1 on there being a cub in the first year so maybe I'll have a bet."

Denise Stronach, 46, from East Kilbride, was also one of the first through the gates.

She said: "It was absolutely fantastic. I'm ecstatic. I can't believe I was one of the first ones. As soon as I knew the pandas were coming to Scotland I kept coming into the zoo every time I was through in Edinburgh, asking: are they here yet?

"As soon as I found out the exact date, that was it. I was right down to be first on the list. I want them to have a wee baby and I want to be first to see that as well.

"It's a big thing for Scotland. It will bring so much tourism here."

Eve Miller, 14, of Bridge of Allan, did her project at Dollar Academy on the pandas and has been following progress and maintaining contact with the zoo throughout the process of bringing the bears to Scotland.

"They were a lot smaller than I imagined, but they were really cute. The are really interesting animals and hopefully they won't end up extinct," she said.

Lesley MacNiven, 40, from Edinburgh, took her two young daughters to see the pandas.

She said: "We are zoo members and we come at least once a month. The girls aren't at nursery on a Friday, so we thought: why not come on the first day?

"The enclosure looks fantastic. The panda looks quite at home there and not bothered about the visitors, which is lovely to see.

"I think it's a real privilege for the zoo to have them and a real testament to the good work that they do here. It will attract more people to Edinburgh and the zoo and that can only be a good thing."

Pre-booked visitor numbers for this weekend are up by about 80% on usual expectations for a pre-Christmas winter weekend, the zoo said. More than 10,000 tickets have now been booked in total.

A "panda patrol" of 14 trained helpers will guide the expected influx of visitors keen to set eyes on female Tian Tian, whose name means Sweetie, and male bear Yang Guang, or Sunshine.

The animals' arrival from Ya'an reserve in Chengdu, China, is the result of five years of work to bring them to Scotland.

Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said it was wonderful to witness the visitors' initial reactions to seeing the bears.

He said: "We've been working for this moment for so, so long. When you get the public coming in, it's a moment that says it all because the pandas are here for everybody in the UK and everybody in Scotland."