IT was opened to great fanfare last year with the hope that it would firmly establish one of Scotland's lesser-visited cities on the cultural map.

And now it appears that as well as attracting hoped-for crowds, the V&A Dundee helped boost visitor numbers at nearby attractions by up to 40 per cent.

The first V&A museum anywhere in the world outside London, the building designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma on the banks of the River Tay is the centrepiece of an ongoing £1 billion regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront.

New research has found that in its first three months, 341,265 people visited the £81 million museum, which opened in September, and many went on to take the opportunity to explore other places in the city.

Visitor numbers in 2018 at nearby Discovery Point - which tells the incredible tale of Captain Scott’s journey to Antarctica on board the Dundee-built ship in 1901 - were up 40.5 per cent on the previous year while there was also a 31.2 per cent rise in people visiting The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery & Museum.


The museum has been hailed as an architectural masterpiece

The figures are laid out in the 2018 Visitor Attraction Monitor, created by experts from Glasgow Caledonian University's Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism.

They analysed the performance of 680 paid and free tourist sites around Scotland.

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However, while business was booming in the city of jute, jam and journalism, overall the number of visits to Scottish attractions fell to 61,419,965 in 2018, down 0.5 per cent on the previous year.

Experts believe this was largely due to indoor attractions being affected by record-breaking temperatures over the summer months, in a rare case of people visiting Scotland and not leaving with memories of at least one rainy day.

Professor John Lennon, Director of the Moffat Centre, said: "There is no doubt visitors are seeing more of the country and the benefits of tourism are being spread across Scotland.

"There's been a lot of interest in the V&A but that interest has spread out and has had an impact on nearby attractions, like Discovery Point, the McManus Art Gallery, and the Botanic Gardens.

"It has brought tourists to a part of the country that was not really on the visitor map."


Visitors fell at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum due to the hot weather

Aside from Dundee, other parts of the country were also popular stops on the tourist trail. 

Prof Lennon added: "Stirling Castle is up - which takes a bit of pressure off Edinburgh. Visitors are getting out to Urquhart, which is a good thing, and we are seeing a growth in Loch Ness cruises."

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The affect of the dry summer was most keenly felt in Glasgow, where people took to the city's abundant parks and turned their backs on indoor attractions.

The study found that  visitor numbers to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum dropped by almost one in five compared to the previous year, while the Riverside Museum was down 7.4 per cent to 1,254,498.

Edinburgh fared better, with the National Museum of Scotland named the top free attraction in 2018, with 2,227,773 people passing through the doors, followed by the Scottish National Gallery and St Giles' Cathedral, also in the capital.

Glasgow's Riverside Museum, Loch Lomond Shores, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the National War Museum, the Regimental Museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop are also in the top ten.

Edinburgh Castle was the most popular paid attraction in 2018 with 2,111,578 visitors, while Stirling Castle was in third place with 606,281 and Urquhart Castle in fifth place with 518,195 visitors.

Other Highland attractions in the paid-for top ten last year were the Glenfinnan Monument and cruises on Loch Ness by Jacobite.


Edinburgh castle remains popular

Apart from the Glasgow Science Centre, the other top ten attractions were all in the Scottish capital and were Edinburgh Bus Tours, Edinburgh Zoo, The Royal Yacht Britannia and The Scotch Whisky Experience.

The report found that Scotland remains a value-for-money destination for visitors from North America, Eurozone countries and South East Asia, due to currency exchange rates.

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Professor Lennon said: "As long as the government maintains the message that we are open for business and open to visitors, and deals with any misinformation about getting into or out of the UK, then we won't spook what is a good growth trajectory."

He added: "As long as we get the message out there that Scotland is open for business, it's quite a positive scenario for tourism."


Opening night at the V&A last September

V&A Dundee, with an annual budget of £4.5m, will stage large scale exhibitions from the V&A in London as well as design museums from across the world.

It has a permanent and free Scottish Design Gallery, as well as a large exhibition space for paid-for shows, the first being Ocean Liners.

The plan for the museum expects that 500,000 people will visit in the first year, a number which will reduce to around 300,000 in the following years