Scottish tourist attractions, museums and galleries have "outperformed" the rest of the UK with an overall 15.6% increase in visitors, new figures show.

The most visited venue in Scotland in 2016, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), and the 15th most visited in the UK, is the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

It attracted 1.81m visitors and it came ahead of Edinburgh Castle, which attracted 1.778m people, and is in 16th position in the UK.

Edinburgh Castle remains the most visited paid-for attraction in Scotland, and experienced a 13% increase in visitors.

Scottish venues in the ALVA statistics attracted 15m visitors.

Overall, 130,248,728 visits were made to the top 241 sites in the UK.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, the director of National Museums Scotland said: "I am delighted that the ALVA statistics have confirmed the National Museum of Scotland’s place, for the sixth consecutive year, as the most visited museum outside of London and one of the top 20 attractions in the UK.

"2016 has seen a record number of visits across our sites, with nearly 2.7 million visits in total.

"We are now embarking on our final phase of the transformation of the Victorian building at the National Museum, creating two new galleries for our internationally important Ancient Egypt and East Asia collections."

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern saw a 29% increase in visitors, and rose 11 places in the rankings after attracting 285,688 visitors.

Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, near Inverness saw a 14% increase and the Riverside Museum, Glasgow saw a 11.23% increase at 25th place and with 1.259m visitors.

Simon Groom, director of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland, said: "The steep rise in visitor figures is due to its strong programme and great grounds, and in particular the Gallery’s growing international reputation for showing contemporary art, following Generation in 2014, with the British Art Show 8, Bridget Riley: Paintings 1964-2015 and Karla Black and Kishio Suga: A New Order in 2016. We are delighted by our visitors' positive and enthusiastic response to the collection displays, and in particular the ground-breaking surrealist exhibition Surreal Encounters."

More than 66,9m people visited attractions in London and the Top 10 most visited attractions were all London-based.

The British Museum continued to be the most popular visitor attraction overall for the 10th year running with 6,420,395 visitors and remaining in 2nd place was the National Gallery with 6,262,839 visitors – seeing a 6% increase.

In third place was a the Tate Modern, which saw 5,839,197 visitors.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, currently at the centre of controversy over the closure of Inverleith House as a full time art gallery, registered 857,268 visitors, down 3%.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow declined slightly by 0.18% to 1.259m visits.

Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life, said: “Glasgow Museums celebrated a record year with almost 4 million visits across our nine civic museums in 2016.

"Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Riverside, in particular, continue to be a huge draw for citizens and visitors.

"Each welcomed in excess of 1.2 million people through their doors, to enjoy many of the city’s treasures that are on show.

"The Kelvin Hall has been incredibly well received since opening in August and our ambitious plans for a complete refurbishment and redisplay of the Burrell Collection are progressing well."

Bernard Donoghue, director of ALVA, said: “Like the 2015 figures, Scotland has continued to outperform the rest of the UK with a substantial increase in their visitor numbers.

"2016 was a great year for Scottish Tourism – proving that Scotland is reaping the benefits of significant capital investment in attractions and creative programming by its institutions."

He continued; “2017 should be another memorable year for ALVA members with a wonderful selection of temporary exhibitions including Frank Quitely: the Art of Comics which will open on April 1st at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, and Beyond Caravaggio will run at the Scottish National Gallery between June 17 - September 24.”

Fiona Hyslop, culture secretary, said: "As these figures illustrate, this has been a record year for Scotland’s leading visitor attractions.

"Our wide range of attractions and excellent heritage and museum collections continue to provide high-quality and exciting experiences, both to people who live here, and to our visitors."

ALVA recorded an average increase of 7.2% on 2015 visitor numbers to UK attractions.

Scottish attractions had the greatest increase of 15.6% growth.

The most visited attraction outside London was Chester Zoo, which saw a 12% increase and remained in 12th place with 1.89m visits.

Northern Ireland saw a 7.4% increase, with Titanic Belfast securing 49th position with a 9.4% increase with 679,690 visits.