THE plummeting pound and rising popularity of the stay at home holiday boosted tourism in Scotland last year, with two attractions each welcoming more than two million visitors for the first time.

The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle broke visitor records.

A further five attractions each welcomed more than a million visitors as tourism overall rose five per cent, with the popularity of the “staycation” playing its part, as well as the slipping sterling amid uncertain economic times.

The research was compiled by industry experts at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre.

Professor John Lennon, director, said the bumper year bodes well for the future.

He said: “Two Scottish visitor attractions welcoming more than two million visitors for the first time is a sure sign of the enduring appeal and strength of the sector.

Edinburgh and Glasgow continue to dominate the country’s tourism industry but regional performance across Scotland is also buoyant and encouraging.”

“As a destination, Scotland continues to benefit from the lower value of sterling against the euro and the dollar, ensuring tourists receive value for money as well as a high-quality experience.

“Demand has been further buoyed by a resurgent domestic staycation market as Britain faces economic uncertainty and the reduced purchasing power of sterling.”

The National Museum of Scotland was the top free attraction in the country, drawing 2,165,601 visitors, a 19.6 per cent rise, while Edinburgh Castle was the leading paid attraction, with 2,063,709 visitors – up 16 per cent on 2016.

The other top free spots included the Scottish National Gallery, Loch Lomond Shores and Glasgow’s Riverside and Kelvingrove museums, while the top paid attractions also featured Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Zoo, Urquhart Castle, near Inverness, and the Glenfinnan Monument in Lochaber.

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism for Historic Environment Scotland, which looks after Edinburgh Castle, said: “2017 was an excellent year for Edinburgh Castle and we’re pleased to have welcomed more than two million visitors through the gates. The record-breaking numbers we’ve seen across many of our sites demonstrates the drive – both cultural and economic – of the heritage sector.”

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, described welcoming over two million visitors in a calendar year for the first time as “a huge achievement”.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, said the benefits of tourism to Scotland are integral.

He said: “It’s also important to remember the benefits these visitors bring. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is integral to sustaining communities across Scotland by generating income, creating jobs and stimulating social change.”