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Issue 72 - Simply the best

Scotland Magazine Issue 72
December 2013


This article is 4 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Simply the best

Your round up of the best visitor attractions

In a country with so much to offer visitors, how do you pick the top 10 visitor attractions? Some people love museums and culture, some people love castles and history, while yet more will forego all of these to climb to the top of a munro and gaze at the scenery. It’s all just a matter of opinion, of course. But for once we decided to let the official numbers do the talking and turned to the most recent visitor figures from ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions). Presenting, then, the actual bona fide top 10 visitor attractions in Scotland! As voted for by you, the visitor.

1 National Museum of Scotland
Everything you’d expect from a world-class museum. Offers a simply dizzying array of well-lit and interactive exhibits on animals and biology, astronomy, geology, ancient cultures, the modern age and so on. It is easy to lose hours here, especially on a rainy day (and there are few of those in Edinburgh, which may contribute to the nearly two million annual visitors.).
Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF Tel: +44 (0)300 123 6789 Website: Visitors in 2012: 1,893,521 Admission: Free to permanent exhibitions; special exhibition charge: Adult £9, Concession £7.50, Child (5-15) £6. From Fri 24 January – Sun 20 April 2014 this will be ‘Mammoths of the Ice Age’

2 Edinburgh Castle
What is there to be said about this world-famous visitor attraction? A mighty fortress atop a volcanic rock, home to Scotland’s crown jewels, three military museums, the Scottish National War Memorial, the Prisons of War exhibition, amazing views over Edinburgh and much more. Be prepared to tackle lots of hills and stairs when you visit, and it is worth waiting for the Yeoman Warder’s tour of you can. Our tip: book online before you go and skip the ticket queues. A
ddress: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG Tel: +44 (0)131 225 9846 Website: Visitors in 2012: 1,230, 177 Admission: Adult £16, Child £9.60, Concessions £12.80

3 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
An eclectic and interesting museum boasting some 8,000 objects within its fascinating collection. Perhaps there is more of a focus on local interest here than at the National Museum (eg. The Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, Scottish art, history and archaeology), but dinosaurs, weaponry and world cultures are well represented too. The permanent collection contains paintings by big names like Rembrandt and Dali, and there are daily organ recitals in the vast central hall. A feast for all the senses!
Address: Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8AG Tel: +44 (0)141 276 9599 Website: Visitors in 2012: 1,037,594 Admission: Free

4 Riverside Museum
Formerly known as the ‘Transport Museum’, this has long been a favourite of Scotland Magazine, and even more so following the completion of a major refurbishment in 2011. It is home to some of the world’s finest cars, bicycles, ship models, trams and locomotives, but where the museum really earns its stars is from the scale of the exhibits, which are huge. You can clamber aboard a vintage bus, wander one of three period streets recreated from Glasgow’s history and even go inside some of the shops. You can even explore an authentic Tall Ship moored right outside the building. It’s no wonder that the Riverside Museum is winner of European Museum of the Year 2013.
Address: 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow G3 8RS Tel: +44 (0)141 287 2720 Website: Visitors in 2012: 1,008,092 Admission: Free

5 Scottish National Gallery
A gallery of amazing art in beautiful rooms, with an eclectic mix from known masters like Monet and Van Gogh, to Scottish artists including Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart. For a nation of Scotland’s size, the collection is rightfully regarded as one of the very best in the world.
Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL Tel: +44 (0)131 624 6200 Website: Visitors in 2012: 961,311 Admission: Free

6 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
“A world-renowned scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation.” Sounds a little dry, when the reality is 31 acres of beautifully kept gardens which never feel busy, despite being in the heart of the city. The glasshouses are a must-see, despite being subject to an admission charge, and there’s a wonderful audio tour for anyone wanting to find out a bit more about the plants. And we like it because, unlike a gallery or museum, a garden changes every time you visit. Address: 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR Tel: +44 (0)131 248 2909 Website: Visitors in 2012: 721,827 Admission: Garden admission is free. Admission to Glasshouse is: adult £4.50, Concession £3.50, Child £1.00, Family £9.00, RHS Members free.

7 Gallery of Modern Art
This beautiful neoclassical building in the centre of the Glasgow creates a beautiful juxtaposition to the modern art within. If you like modern art, you’ll love it. And if you don’t, it will still provoke lively debate!
Address: Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AH Tel: +44 (0)141 287 3050 Website: Visitors in 2012: 595,977 Admission: Free

8 Stirling Castle
Everything a castle should be, beautifully restored by Historic Scotland to how it would have looked 500 years ago. There’s lots to do other than wander around peering over the ramparts: the guided tours are a treat, there are actors in certain rooms you can engage with, you can watch tapestries being made, try on period costume or even have a go at some authentic parlour games! Address: Castle Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ Tel: +44 (0)1786 450 000 Website: Visitors in 2012: 401,843 Admission: Adult £14, Child £7.50, Concession £11

9 Scottish National Portrait Gallery
This gallery’s collection contains some 30,000 fascinating images, housed in yet another of Edinburgh’s stunning neo-gothic palaces. Yet it is more than just a building full of paintings, because the portraits here depict the men and women whose lives and achievements helped to shape the country itself: from historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Robert Burns, through to more recent pioneers in science, sport and the arts.
Address: 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD Tel: +44 (0)131 624 6200 Website: Visitors in 2012: 327.980 Admission: Free

10 Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Leaping in at number 10 (narrowly beating the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum), is the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This actually encompasses two buildings: Modern One and Modern Two. Modern One holds an outstanding collection of international post-war work from the likes of Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Andy Warhol, with more recent works by artists including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Modern Two is home to a changing programme of world-class exhibitions and displays. Address: Modern One, 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR Tel: +44 (0)131 624 6200 Website: Visitors in 2012: 314,814 Admission: Free