Dunrobin Castle enjoying 'best ever' start to new season
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Summer tourism in Sutherland could be in for a great year if monthly figures at Dunrobin Castle are anything to go by.
The east Sutherland castle is enjoying its "best ever" start to a new season after posting record numbers of visitors for April.
Having opened for the new season on April 1, the attraction has welcomed over 9300 tourists so far – up by almost 6 per cent on their previous record figure of 8812 in 2019.
Managing director Scott Morrison credits the castle's flexible offering throughout the pandemic as the catalyst for this year's great start.
He said: "We were able to open half of the castle by mid July of 2020, along with our gardens and falconry displays. We are very fortunate that we have a big, open site at Dunrobin, so our gardens in particular have been incredibly popular with visitors in the last two years.
"We have had to adapt how we do things. Our catering, for example, has been almost entirely 'takeaway' with no inside seating available inside.
"We managed just three and half months in 2020 overall and we welcomed 40,000 visitors, which in contrast to 122,000 visitors in 2019, is still quite impressive.
"Last year, we couldn't begin our season until May but we still managed to welcome 85,000 visitors in the six months we opened, which put us in a position where we could survive through the winter.
"With less people going abroad, I think people are looking at the map of the UK and are considering the North Highlands as a place to holiday.
"This year, we have had a really positive, good start to the season, and we are starting to see more international visitors back, such as American tours, Dutch, French, German. The cruises are also now back in Invergordon which helps greatly.
"If someone had told me last year that we would start this year off with over 9000 visitors in April, I'd have gladly taken them up on that and said thank you very much."
Ken Massie, head of regional leadership and development at VisitScotland, said: "After a difficult two years for the region’s tourism and events industry, it is very encouraging to see the visitor figures for Dunrobin Castle looking so positive.
"As the traditional visitor season gets under way in the Highlands, it is still really important that we help the industry to recover by supporting local tourism businesses who have been hit hard by Covid, whether that be by heading to a visitor attraction, eating out at a local restaurant, attending an event or booking a staycation.
"Tourism is a force for good. It creates jobs, sustains communities and contributes significantly to the economy. The impact of tourism spreads far beyond the industry itself - it benefits our economy, our community and our wellbeing."