Hit TV series Outlander has been credited with providing a boost to Scottish tourism, which has seen its fourth consecutive year of growth.

According to the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), the TV series, filmed in Scotland, has aided local growth at sites such as Culloden Battlefield and Doune Castle.

Overall, Scottish tourist attractions recorded a 3 per cent rise in visitors, with a total of 6,246,846 tourists visiting sites between January and April - an increase of more than 200,000 the previous year.

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Some of the largest increases in visitors were seen at Loch Ness by Jacobite, a cruise operator on the loch, and Edinburgh Castle, which saw rises of 21 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: "Our tourism sector is of vital importance to the Scottish economy, and as these industry figures confirm, visitor attractions in Scotland are enjoying a four year period of sustained growth.

"Many of our paid and unpaid attractions are reporting brisk business, which underlines Scotland’s place as a tourist destination that offers quality experiences and value for money.

HeraldScotland:

"More visitors coming through the doors help stimulate economic growth, supporting jobs and the companies that supply goods and services to the attractions."

The figures point to the fourth year of growth for Scottish tourism over the first four months of the year, with 2013 seeing an increase of 0.5 per cent, 2014 going up 6.1 per cent and 2015 seeing a boost of 3.4 per cent.

ASVA chairman Douglas Walker said the increases pointed to the consistently high standards of tourism operators in Scotland.

He said: "It is clear that attractions are investing and developing innovative new products and services.

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"Our members work tirelessly to deliver top quality attractions that offer authentic, memorable experiences delivered to a consistently high standard.

"We will work with our members to help them come up with ideas for exciting experiences that are essential for keeping visitors coming back time and again."

The ASVA figures came as organisers of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup confirmed a record crowd attended the event in the Scottish Highlands earlier this month.

Rare Management said more than 22,000 fans attended the event in Fort William, making it the best attended UCI World Cup in Scotland yet.

Following the event’s success, the UCI has confirmed that the Mountain Bike World Cup will return to the Scottish Highlands in 2017.

Event organiser, Mike Jardine, from Rare Management, said: “This year’s Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup has surpassed all of our expectations thanks to the biggest ever crowds, emotional farewells, stunning gravity action and of course the glorious weather.

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"The event is a huge celebration of a sport that continues to grow in popularity thanks to the success of home grown riders such as Rachel Atherton who won her third Fort William World Cup title at the event.

"We’re thrilled by the number of fans from around the world who came out to support all of the elite riders and make 2016 the best we’ve ever experienced in 15 years."

More than a quarter of a million fans have descended on Fort William since the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup came to the Highlands 14 years ago, delivering a £33m boost to the Highland economy since 2002.