Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions
Login to Members Area
Home News Events Jobs Contact
Home » News & Features


Cutting-edge technology takes medieval Rosslyn Chapel around the worldCutting-edge technology takes medieval Rosslyn Chapel around the world
Added: 17 May 2017
Rosslyn Chapel’s renowned stonework can now be appreciated more easily all over the world thanks to a new app launched at the Chapel.
The app has been developed for Rosslyn Chapel Trust by The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), a partnership between specialists at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and experts in 3D visualisation at The School of Simulation and Visualisation at the GSA. Since 2008, the interior and exterior of the Chapel and its grounds have been digitally documented using laser scanning technology and the results have been used to create unique features in the app such as animations showing how the medieval Chapel was constructed, a virtual tour and a 360-degree panoramic tour.
Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust said: ‘Rosslyn Chapel is known throughout the world for its unique architecture and ornate stonework and we hope that this app will introduce the Chapel to new audiences in an innovative way and inspire future generations of visitors.’
Alastair Rawlinson, Head of Data Acquisition in the School of Simulation and Visualisation at the GSA and Project Manager at CDDV said: ‘We have undertaken 3D laser scanning at Rosslyn Chapel over the course of several years, and our skilled team has been able to apply cutting-edge digital gaming technologies to transform these laser scans and other 3D data into a rich interactive and explorable experience.’
Dr Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager at HES and Project Manager at CDDV said: ‘This is an exciting day for us as we launch our dynamic and innovative app. It cements our longstanding relationship with Rosslyn Chapel Trust, which has been a great template for collaborative working with other partners across the country. The app is a fantastic way of giving digital access to this beautiful site, which is something we’re looking to do a lot more of at HES in the future – and of course we hope this digital glimpse of Rosslyn Chapel will encourage even more visits to the Chapel itself.’
The new app can be downloaded from the App Store for £1.99.
Kelvingrove Museum begins final preparations for Mackintosh Exhibition in 2018Kelvingrove Museum begins final preparations for Mackintosh Exhibition in 2018
Added: 08 May 2017
Glasgow Museums will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Glasgow born architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh with an extensive programme of events throughout 2018. One highlight will be a significant temporary exhibition, hosted at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

It will showcase works by and relating to Mackintosh and his Glasgow Style contemporaries, many of which come from Glasgow Museums’ internationally important collection and will be on display for the first time in a generation, with others making their debut public appearance.

While the exhibition will span the lifetime of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), it will feature work by many of his contemporaries including some works by The Four: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his future wife Margaret Macdonald, her younger sister Frances Macdonald and her future husband James Herbert McNair.

Head of Glasgow Museums, Duncan Dornan, added: “Glasgow is Scotland’s cultural powerhouse, a position that is as relative today as it was over 100 years ago when Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries created Glasgow Style, which remains instantly recognisable and continues to permeate the designs of many different things we see today. His contribution to cultural life in Scotland cannot be understated. It is fitting therefore that we are planning to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth with an exhibition at Kelvingrove Museum.”

A Museums Galleries Scotland grant has enabled Glasgow Museums to recruit an Assistant Curator to assist in the development and delivery of the exhibition and in conjunction with the wider Charles Rennie Mackintosh programme.

Further details of the exhibition and wider programme will be released later this year.
“Scotland sends a huge welcome to China!”“Scotland sends a huge welcome to China!”
Added: 05 May 2017
Edinburgh is Scotland’s first City to be ‘China ready’ with its new fully translated ‘Welcome to Edinburgh’ Guide.

Scotland’s capital is the most visited destination outside London for Chinese visitors. Last year 160,000 Chinese travellers visited Edinburgh. This figure is expected to double by 2020.

The new guide with a print run of 100,000 is an initiative of Landmark Press who are already heavily involved in Edinburgh tourism. They publish 1.5 million copies annually of an Edinburgh Guide with editions in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.Landmark Press general manager, Andrew Murphie said: ‘A recent survey showed that a translated guide is the 3rd most common request by Chinese hotel guests, behind free WiFi and a kettle!’

‘The Chinese edition of the Edinburgh Guide is a natural extension of the service we offer. We have been working in Edinburgh for over 30 years and have a very good distribution system with 600 attractive display stands in key locations across the City including Edinburgh Castle.’ ‘We are really proud’ he continued ‘that some of the largest and some of the smallest tourism businesses across Scotland are our customers. These include:

VisitScotland; the National Trust for Scotland; Historic Environment Scotland; the Scottish Parliament; and the Royal Botanic Gardens’.

The Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) have been heavily involved in the production of the new guide and have contributed a special four page ‘survival guide’ welcoming Chinese visitors to the City.

Rob Lang, Head of Marketing at Edinburgh Airport and Chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group’s China Ready Initiative said: “The continued growth of the Chinese visitor market to Edinburgh presents a great opportunity for the city’s tourism sector. The city’s first-ever Mandarin “Welcome to Edinburgh” Guide from Landmark Press is packed with information from businesses offering a warm welcome to Chinese visitors. The guide is another welcome addition to the range of media being provided to our Chinese guests as we strive to become a “must see, must visit” destination for this influential market.”

Landmark Press, managing director, Danny Fullerton said ‘It is our ongoing aim to provide an excellent national tourism information service. Our ‘Welcome’ bedroom folders are on display in 95% of the hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, and self-catering properties across Scotland.’

‘In addition to the Welcome to Edinburgh Guide we also publish and distribute a ‘Welcome to Scotland’ Guide, with 800,000
copies and editions in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.’

‘On the digital front our ‘Welcome to Scotland’ website is the country’s most comprehensive tourism gateway and the UK’s only national tourism site to be fully translated into French and German.’

‘We also operate the only national app for Scotland’s tourism industry’ he continued. ‘The app is fully translated into French and German. If the numbers of visitors from China continues to grow as expected, we may soon have to translate our website and app into Chinese a prospect we would welcome hugely!

To advertise in the Welcome to Edinburgh Guide, contact
Download file: click to download attached file
Culture Secretary Experiences A New Sense of Scotland at The Scotch Whisky ExperienceCulture Secretary Experiences A New Sense of Scotland at The Scotch Whisky Experience
Added: 03 May 2017
On Wednesday 3 May, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, launched the new Sense of Scotland tour at Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience.

The revamped tour takes visitors on a stunning 180° panorama bird’s eye tour of Scotland’s five whisky-making regions. The specially commissioned film sees Scotland’s landscape come to life as it is delivered to the heart of the capital as part of the new tourism offering.

The footage, which was captured throughout 2016, also demonstrates how the landscape and geography of the country contributes towards the final flavour of different Scotch whiskies. Visitors are then introduced to the art of blending in a recreated 19th century Blender’s Sample Room. In the beautifully styled surroundings, guests are taken back to 1870 and the birth of blending in Edinburgh, delving into both the history and alchemy of Scotland’s most famous export.

The new tour uses the latest in audio and visual technology, including unique “holo-drams” that bring the art of blending to life.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Food and drink remains a key component of the visitor experience and culinary tourism is increasingly being sought out by global travellers. We know visitors want to try authentic, local flavours and specialties and that is why attractions like The Scotch Whisky Experience are a huge draw for tourists and local people.”

Susan Morrison, director and general manager at The Scotch Whisky Experience, said: “Our rolling programme of development has seen us invest more than £8m in upgrading the visitor experience in recent years. Our latest changes to the tour use different sights and sounds to bring Scotch whisky to life, whilst also giving our visitors a sense of Scotland, the stunning locations in which different whiskies are made, and how this helps to make the drink so special.”

The Scotch Whisky Experience reported its busiest ever year last year, with a 9% increase in visitors to 326,000 and the number of people taking the tour rising 12% to 176,000.

For more information, log-on to or call 0131 220 0441.

Photo credit: Tony Marsh
New Easter Record for the Royal Yacht Britannia New Easter Record for the Royal Yacht Britannia
Added: 03 May 2017
• Record 37,355 visitors in April 2017, up 39 % on 2016
• Busiest April since first opening in October 1998
• Britannia’s Chief Executive Bob Downie said: “Commitment to exceeding customer expectations is at the heart of our continuing success.”

The Royal Yacht Britannia announced today its busiest April ever, with an increase of 39% (10,573 visitors) on 2016. A massive increase which beats all previous records for Easter, since the Royal Yacht opened its doors to the public in 1998.

Bob Downie, Britannia’s Chief Executive said: “Our great staff did a magnificent job in what was an incredibly busy Easter, with some days on par with a busy July, which is astonishing and augers well for the year ahead. At the heart of this success is our unrivalled commitment to deliver great value for time, through delivering exceptional visitor experiences, that in turn results in Britannia being the top attraction in Scotland on TripAdvisor”.

The positive trend in tourism is reflected across Edinburgh and the Lothians, with the majority of attractions recording excellent figures for Easter, due to the growing popularity of Edinburgh as a safe destination for a high quality and value for money break. This is also reinforced by the monthly growth in Edinburgh’s hotel occupancy levels, and airport passenger numbers, further helped by the pound’s poor exchange rate.

Visitors travel from across the world to visit Her Majesty the Queen’s former floating palace to follow in the footsteps of royalty and experience the highest standards of customer service. Britannia’s five decks are fully accessible and the complimentary audio tour is available in 30 languages, as well as British Sign Language.

Britannia has been officially Scotland’s Best Attraction for 11 years running, rated by VisitScotland, and is also now proud to be one of the country’s most accessible attractions.

Photo credit: Britannia by Marc Millar
Rare rockhopper penguin born at RZSS Edinburgh ZooRare rockhopper penguin born at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
Added: 03 May 2017
Penguin keepers at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo are delighted to announce the arrival of the Zoo’s first rockhopper penguin chick in eight years, which hatched in time for World Penguin Day on Tuesday 25 April.

It is hoped that the chick – which is the first northern rockhopper penguin to hatch in the UK this year – will go on to play an important role in bolstering the captive population of this threatened species, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Dawn Nicoll, Senior Penguin Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said:
“We are so pleased to welcome an endangered rockhopper penguin chick to our colony at Penguins Rock, the first rockhopper to be born at the Zoo for eight years. The chick couldn’t have hatched on a better date, as World Penguin Day is a great opportunity to highlight the plight of these amazing birds.

“Mum Brucetta and dad Al have been taking it in turns to feed and care for the chick and so far, they are doing a great job; however, the first 30 days are crucial for the newborn’s development so we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

The arrival of a rockhopper chick is the latest milestone in RZSS’s conservation efforts with the species. In addition to the colony at Penguins Rock, RZSS is playing a key role in tackling the species’ decline in the wild, particularly on the remote islands of the South Atlantic Ocean, where populations have declined by as much as 90%.

Project Pinnamin, funded by the Darwin Initiative, is led by RSPB in partnership with RZSS, the Tristan da Cunha Government, British Antarctic Survey and the Government of South Africa. The project aims to better understand the reasons behind this precipitous decline, increasing our understanding of the species and creating a conservation action plan which will identify key measures required to protect the species from extinction.

Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, the majority of northern rockhopper penguins are found on the Tristan da Cunha island group.

The rockhopper chick joins the colony at Penguins Rock, which is also home to 87 gentoo, 20 northern rockhopper and 9 king penguins. Penguin breeding season at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo typically lasts from March to August, with further births expected over the coming weeks.

Visitors can keep an eye on progress at the penguin nest site via our live webcam

Photo credit Stuart McGeachie RZSS
 “The Father of Blending” honoured in Edinburgh “The Father of Blending” honoured in Edinburgh
Added: 01 May 2017
From the start of May, The Scotch Whisky Experience will be playing host to a new display honouring “The Father of Blending” and one of Edinburgh’s most famous sons, Andrew Usher of Andrew Usher and Co.

Brought together as part of the upcoming Edinburgh 101 project, the new display will comprise examples of Usher’s OVG and Green Stripe whiskies – two of Usher’s most famous creations.

It will also feature samples of the brand’s retro advertising from the early 1900s and nineteenth century photography featuring the people behind the whisky’s production.

Andrew Usher and Co, the great Scotch whisky blending house of Edinburgh, was founded in 1813, and was one of the foremost whisky companies of its time. Andrew Usher (1785-1855) was a prominent Scottish brewer who experimented with blending whiskies in the 1840s, but it was his son Andrew Usher II who perfected this skill and became known as “The Father of Blending”.

Andrew Usher II went on to found North British Distillery and, just a few years prior to his death in 1898, he donated £100,000 to the city of Edinburgh to fund the construction of the Usher Hall, which today hosts orchestras, concerts and stage productions from all over the world.

Susan Morrison, director and general manager of The Scotch Whisky Experience, said: “Andrew Usher II was instrumental in bringing Scotch whisky to the world and putting Edinburgh on the map. Bringing together this unique set of artefacts will show our visitors the important part Usher and his blending house played in the development of the Scotch whisky industry in the latter half of the 19th century.

“Our upgraded Sense of Scotland tour has also seen us recreate a 19th century Blender’s Sample Room, which allows us to bring the art and history of blending to life for all our visitors.”

The collection has been brought together by Diageo head archivist, Christine McCafferty, with supporting materials coming from the Diageo Global Archive in Clackmannanshire. The bottles themselves form part of The Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection which has been on permanent display at The Scotch Whisky Experience since 2009.

It has been brought together at part of Edinburgh 101 – a year-long project which aims to tell the history of the city in one hundred and one individual objects.

The display can be viewed by all visitors taking any of the tour experiences at The Scotch Whisky Experience from 1 May 2017, for 12 month duration.

For more information, log-on to or call 0131 220 0441.

Photo credit - Neil Hanna
Cask is King at The Real Mary King’s CloseCask is King at The Real Mary King’s Close
Added: 18 Apr 2017
To celebrate Whisky month, The Real Mary King’s Close will be launching ‘Cask Is King’, an exciting new experience for the budding whisky connoisseur. Following the 2016 sell out ‘The Perfect Blend’ tour, every Thursday evening this May a limited number of guests will be guided through the dark streets of Mary King’s Close where they will enjoy a dram with a difference.

Combining Scotland’s best known exports of whisky and history, this specialist tour blends two must do experiences; whisky tasting and our capital’s fascinating history. Guests will travel back in time through the underground closes of Mary King’s Close as they uncover the incredible story of not only Edinburgh but also Scotland’s national drink.

From the humble beginnings of brewing ale to whisky and its many medicinal uses through to global appreciation, hosted by Mary King’s Close and partner Skene Whisky this bespoke tour tells the story of whisky. During their journey visitors will enjoy an authentic historical experience which goes beyond guide books and bus tours, including samples and stories from the experts, topping off the evening with a whisky cocktail which has been created especially for The Real Mary King’s Close.

The tour will also see the launch of The Real Mary King’s Close blend. Bottled at 40% ABV, this exclusive expression is mellow on the nose with a well-integrated aroma and a fruity top note. The taste is smooth with a citric note and a thread of smoke and butterscotch, with a spicy warming finish. Presented in a bespoke bottle which is decorated with The Real Mary King’s Close tartan, the malt is available in 50ml and 200ml, retailing at £5.95 and £18.50 respectively. The perfect souvenir for anyone visiting Edinburgh or a treat for a whisky fan.

Tours are taking place every Thursday in May at 9.15pm, advance booking is highly recommended. Tickets are priced at £35 per ticket and can be purchased online at, by phone on 0131 225 0672 or in person at The Real Mary King’s Close.
Scottish Seabird Centre unveils proposed plans for a National Marine Centre Scottish Seabird Centre unveils proposed plans for a National Marine Centre
Added: 06 Apr 2017
Conservation and education charity, the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, is sharing proposals to create a National Marine Centre for Scotland.

The project, which will cost in the region of £5.5million, focuses on delivering new and enhanced education and conservation programmes at the Centre and nationwide. It will transform the Seabird Centre to explore marine life above and below the waves, including seabirds. Working with partners throughout Scotland, it will provide a national hub to increase appreciation and understanding of Scotland’s amazing marine wildlife and communicate ground-breaking marine research taking place nationwide. The National Marine Centre is a working title.

Grace Martin, Project Director for the National Marine Centre, said: “The Scottish Seabird Centre currently offers visitors an opportunity to engage with nature in a sustainable way. As a conservation and education charity, we welcome 4,000 school children a year and lead projects such as SOS Puffin.

“But, as with all charities, we must move with the times to remain viable and to achieve our objectives of inspiring people to care for wildlife and the natural environment. We have more education requests that we can accommodate and visitor expectations are at an all-time-high. Our vision is to create a centre that is of national significance and one that the local community is proud of.”

The proposed plans will create a new education centre for visiting school groups as well as provide outreach and online educational resources. Within the new visitor attraction, a range of interactive exhibitions will take visitors on a fascinating journey, exploring the marine world that is often hidden and inaccessible. There will be a new welcome area as well as new retail and catering facilities, which provide valuable income to support the charity’s objectives. Plans also feature an observatory with 360° views which will allow visitors to view North Berwick’s stunning coastline.

The plans are being shared in North Berwick on 10, 13 and 19 April and people are invited to meet the project team and offer ideas and feedback. The plans will also be available online at and feedback can also be provided by emailing the Centre:

The Scottish Seabird Centre has been awarded development funding of £290,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to progress plans. HLF has also given its initial support for a £3.5million bid for the project. A further £2million must be secured through fundraising.

The new Centre is planned to open in 2020, timed for VisitScotland’s Year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters.
Scottish Rhododendron FestivalScottish Rhododendron Festival
Added: 06 Apr 2017
Sat 1 April - Wed 31 May

Enjoy wonderful displays of rhododendrons at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a centre for Rhododendron studies since the 19th century. Together, all four Gardens - Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan - have one of the world’s richest collections. All four are taking part in this year’s Scottish Rhododendron Festival which is being organised by Discover Scottish Gardens and supported by VisitScotland.

See exotic rhododendrons at Edinburgh

Visit the Edinburgh Garden and enjoy a spectacular display of rhododendrons that bloom outdoors and also explore the exotic rhododendrons in the Glasshouses.
Why not take a Spring Walk with a garden guide, daily at 11am and 2pm from the John Hope Gateway Visitor Centre? The cost is £6 per person.

Rhododendron paradise at Benmore

If you would like to see a magnificent display, then head to Benmore where its collection boasts more than 250 species, 100 subspecies and a further 300 hybrids.
Join a Rhododendron Spring Walk on Thursday, 20 April at 6.30pm. Sturdy footwear recommended.

Spectacular spring colour at Dawyck

Visit Dawyck in springtime and prepare to be amazed by the riot of seasonal colour provided by plants including rhododendrons and bluebells.
Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of the Garden and its plant collections every Sunday at 2.15pm (free with Garden admission).

Seasonal splendour at Logan

Enjoy a walk around Logan’s unusual and fragrant collection of rhododendrons. Many rare and tender species thrive at Scotland’s most exotic Garden.
Make sure you see the best of Logan by joining one of the many guided tours held throughout the season.

For more information on the Rhododenron collection click here
Frank Quitely: the Art of Comics @ KelvingroveFrank Quitely: the Art of Comics @ Kelvingrove
Added: 03 Apr 2017
Responding to the recent global fascination with the comic book and superhero genre, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will host Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics from 1st April to 1stOctober 2017.

The exhibition explores the work of Glasgow born artist Frank Quitely, who is one of the world’s top comic book artists, working on titles such as DC’s Superman, Batman and Marvel Comics X-Men. His book collaborations with Scottish writers Alan Grant, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison have sold millions. But like many of the superheroes he draws, he has a secret identity – his real name is Vincent Deighan. It will be the largest collection of his work ever displayed.

Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics will focus on Glaswegian and Scottish comic book industry heroes Frank Quitely, Mark Millar (of KickAss fame) and Grant Morrison (DC’s Batman and All Star Superman), revealing the amazing influence and contribution Scotland has had on the global industry of comics.

Bolstered by unique art work from titans of the genre, including Frank Miller and Neal Adams, the exhibition showcases an original Batman comic strip by the superhero’s creators Bob Kane with Bill Finger, alongside the comic strip that inspired Frank Quitely, featuring one of Scotland’s most legendary families, The Broons.

Visitors will see some of Quitely’s most visually stunning poster designs, including original artworks from major titles such as All Star Superman and Batman and Robin, including drawings from his first Batman Story, The Scottish Connection which was written by fellow Scot Alan Grant and is set in and around Edinburgh. This story imagines Batman / Bruce Wayne’s ancestors as Scottish and places him in Scottish landmarks such as Rosslyn Chapel, Glencoe, on the Forth Rail Bridge and at Edinburgh Castle. The public will get to see the intricate process from script through sketches to the meticulous final drawings then print and hear/ read interviews with Scottish giants of the comic book industry, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and Alan Grant. Comic book aficionados of all ages will revel in the digital interactives that allow visitors to design their own comic page. There is an opportunity to create your own super hero costume and pose for a special-effects snap of you soaring through the air.

Born in 1968 in Glasgow, Vin Deighan still lives and works in the city. This year he will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in recognition of his achievements.
National Museums Scotland Acquires Rare Renaissance JewelNational Museums Scotland Acquires Rare Renaissance Jewel
Added: 03 Apr 2017
National Museums Scotland has acquired an exceptionally rare Scottish Renaissance jewel – a 16th century enamelled gold pendant locket set with an almandine garnet and dating from c.1570-80. An exquisite work of art, the Fettercairn Jewel is also a key to the wider culture of the Scottish Renaissance.

The pendant was sold at auction alongside numerous works of art and artefacts from the private collection of the Forbes family whose ancestral home is Fettercairn House in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire. The Forbes of Pitsligo descend from Sir William Forbes, brother of Alexander Forbes, first Lord Forbes. Both branches were prominent, elite families in the 16th century. The first Lord Forbes married the granddaughter of King Robert II of Scotland and daughter of Douglas, earl of Angus.

The purchase has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Art Fund, The National Lottery and the National Museums Scotland Charitable Trust.

The Jewel is oval in form with a scroll fastening at the top to hold a gold ring. It would have been worn as a pendant on a chain and probably had a pearl or precious stone hanging beneath it. The image on the reverse centres on the figure of Mercury, wearing a winged helmet and striding from left to right. To the right of Mercury’s feet sits a white dog looking upwards, and to the left a vase containing a striking arrangement of vibrant flowers. An urban scene sits in the background, with an array of exotic and domestic birds and insects flying over clusters of buildings. The enormous rectangular almandine garnet on the front of the piece is set prominently amongst a decorative enamelled scheme to enhance its beauty.

During the Scottish Renaissance there was a practice of extensive court gift-giving of jewellery and a vast amount of jewellery was gifted each year by the royal family to Scotland’s elite families. National Museums Scotland will investigate potential links between the Jewel and the Scottish royal court. It will also investigate the potential of its links to the Darnley Jewel, now in the Royal Collection, commissioned at some time between 1564 and 1571 by Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, for her husband Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox and Regent of Scotland, and owned by both Horace Walpole and Queen Victoria. It is possible that the Fettercairn Jewel was made by the same jeweller in Edinburgh.

National Museums Scotland has the best collection of Scottish Renaissance material in the world. The bulk of surviving material tends to be items produced in larger quantities – arms and armour, tableware and architectural fragments. Personal and individual objects are much rarer due to their bespoke production and their low survival rates. Jewellery is very rare as, historically, materials were re-used as time passed by; objects like the Fettercairn Jewel are almost unique.
It’s Grisly! Mercat Tours launches first tours for childrenIt’s Grisly! Mercat Tours launches first tours for children
Added: 29 Mar 2017
Edinburgh’s five-star walking tour company, Mercat Tours, has launched its first experience for children: Ghosts, Gore and Grime.

The daytime tour, which is suitable for all the family, will include ghoulish stories from Edinburgh’s past and a visit to the city’s famous Blair Street Underground Vaults. Running at weekends from Saturday 1 April – and weekdays during school holidays – it will focus on what life was like for families during Edinburgh’s grimy past, especially kids, who were regularly put to work.

With tales of stinking streets, terrible tortures and ghostly goings-on, the tour will thrill young visitors with stories of bodysnatching, infamous witches, horrible murders and Edinburgh’s cry of “Gardyloo”.

Kat Brogan, Managing Director at Mercat Tours, comments: “We’ve collected all the horrible stories we know kids love to hear in our latest tour! Ghosts, Gore and Grime brings the grisly history of Edinburgh to the younger visitors, with children aged 5 and up all welcome. It brings the sights and smells of our city to life and gives them the chance to interact by handling real, historic objects and belongings, allowing them to experience what family life would have been like in the Blair Street Underground Vaults.”

The new tour will begin on 1 April and will take place every Saturday and Sunday, 10 – 11.15am. The tour will also run weekdays over school holiday periods.

Prices for the tour: Adult £13, Student & Seniors £11, Child £8, Family £34.

Picture credit - Tony Marsh
  Plans unveiled for new luxury floating hotel  in Edinburgh Plans unveiled for new luxury floating hotel in Edinburgh
Added: 22 Mar 2017
Plans for Scotland’s first luxury static floating hotel were lodged today with the City of Edinburgh Council. The former Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) tender, MV Fingal, will be converted into a 23 bedroom hotel, berthed permanently at the Prince of Wales Dock in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith.

The £3.5m investment by the Royal Yacht Britannia’s trading company, Royal Yacht Enterprises, will see this classically designed ship transformed to provide the ultimate in luxury, offering a wide range of bedroom suites, cabins with private balconies, duplex apartments, and a stunning Presidential Suite.

The ‘boatique’ hotel is expected to open in Easter 2018 and create at least 30 permanent new jobs in the hospitality industry, added to the 170 already employed directly at Britannia.

The hotel concept has been created by the Pedley Group and all the bedrooms will be named after Stevenson lighthouses nominated by the NLB. The interior design has been inspired by Fingal’s rich maritime history, blending the avant-garde expectations of discerning guests with the functional necessities of luxury retreats.

Developing Fingal represents natural organic growth for the award-winning team at Britannia and, as well as business synergies and operational efficiencies, the hotel will generate an income stream that is not reliant on visitors to the Royal Yacht but will nevertheless help secure its long term future.

The Royal Yacht Britannia, berthed at Ocean Terminal in Leith, attracted a record 350,000 visitors last year and is renowned for providing the very highest standards of customer experience: having been officially assessed as Scotland’s Best Attraction for the last 11 years running by national tourism agency, VisitScotland.

Britannia’s Chief Executive Bob Downie said, ‘Having excelled in the visitor attraction market for nearly 20 years, we are very much looking forward to the challenges of operating in the luxury hotel market and the benefits it will generate for Britannia over the years to come’.

One of the UK hospitality industry’s most eminent and respected figures, Peter Lederer, past UK Hotelier of the Year, and former Chairman of the Gleneagles Hotel said, “This new ‘boatique’ hotel has the potential to be the best hotel experience in Edinburgh and given the quality of the Britannia experience, I am really looking forward to seeing a new benchmark in Scotland.”
Website: http://
New Lanark reaching out with Autism Friendly Brick City SessionsNew Lanark reaching out with Autism Friendly Brick City Sessions
Added: 22 Mar 2017
New Autism Friendly Sessions will be available when New Lanark hosts Brick City, an exhibition of over 60 models made from an estimated half-a-million LEGO Bricks this summer from 28th June – 9th August.

On Thursday 13th July and Thursday 3rd August the exhibition will be open exclusively from 9am-11am for families of children with autism and additional support needs.
New Lanark decided to offer the Autism Friendly Sessions of the exhibition after undertaking public consultation on the exhibition’s public programmes through an online survey offered to their newsletter subscribers and Facebook fans in late 2016.

The Autism Friendly Sessions will have a much lower capacity than the standard exhibition viewing times, meaning they will be much quieter and less crowded. New Lanark staff will also be undergoing special training to prepare for the sessions and allow them to offer the best visitor experience.

The sessions are being run in association with REACH Lanarkshire, a local organisation founded in 2012 to provide support to families who have a young person with an Autism Spectrum Condition living within the authority of South Lanarkshire.

Brick City is a celebration of some of the world’s favourite buildings and urban icons, recreated solely using LEGO bricks. Brick City has previously been enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors across the UK and now fans of LEGO young and old will have the chance to catch this must-see exhibition at New Lanark during the summer of 2017.
Prices for the Autism Friendly Sessions are £6 for Adults, £5 for Concessions, £4 for Children (3-15) and free for Under 3s. Essential carers are also free.

For those with autism who wish to attend the exhibition at other times, it’s advised they visit at 10am any day of the week during 28th June – 9th August for a quieter experience.

2017 marks the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, making it the perfect time for visitors to enjoy a trip to New Lanark to see Brick City which includes a variety of historical icons like the Mona Lisa and landmarks including the Colosseum in Rome, Arc De Triomphe in Paris and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

For further information about Brick City and to book tickets for the Accessible Sessions visit:
Welcome to King Robert! Welcome to King Robert!
Added: 22 Mar 2017
Event: 11am Thursday 23 March 2017 at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

The people of the City and Royal Burgh of Stirling will be lined up to give a right royal welcome to a new sculptured head of King Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329), victor of Bannockburn. The work is a new forensic facial reconstruction, using a cast of the skull of Bruce from his resting place in Dunfermline Abbey, sculpted by Christian Corbet, and based on the research by Andrew Nelson, Professor of Anthropology. Working together, the sculptor and scientist, both based at the University of Western Ontario, have concluded that Bruce had never suffered from leprosy, a story which was concocted as a slur on the warrior king.

On Thursday 23 March, the welcome party will include Provost Mike Robbins of the City of Stirling and Stuart Campbell, Deacon Convenor of the Seven Incorporated Trades, in their historic regalia, the Trustees of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, who are the recipients of this magnificent gift from Canada to Scotland and Stirling and the Strathleven Artizans, who bring the achievements of King Robert to life for contemporary audiences.

The Strathleven Artizans have constructed a plinth for the new head using timber from the historic Bruce Oak tree from Loch Lomond National Park, together with timber from the estate of the Earl of Elgin at Broomhall, near Dunfermline. Construction assistance has been provided by Historic Environment Scotland.
As this is the most important artistic interpretation of King Robert since the Pilkington Jackson statue was unveiled at Bannockburn in 1964, the unveiling ceremony will be conducted by King Robert’s descendant, Lord Charles Bruce.

Welcoming the new work of art, Bruce Crawford, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Stirling said:
“I am delighted that the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum have been gifted this fabulous sculpture by Christian Corbet of the Western University, Ontario, Canada. I would like to encourage everyone to go along to see not only this sculpture but all the vast and varied works of art that the Gallery has on show.”
Scottish Showpeople at Riverside MuseumScottish Showpeople at Riverside Museum
Added: 14 Mar 2017
Scottish Showpeople have played a significant role in the cultural history of Scotland and its people. Their unique history is the focus of a new display, A Fair Life, at Riverside Museum, Glasgow.
For hundreds of years Showpeople have travelled the country, providing entertainment with their rides and attractions. While this group have had a tangible influence on Scottish culture, the majority of Scottish people know very little about them. A Fair Life, created in collaboration with a small group of Scottish Showpeople, charts the distinct traditions and histories of this tight-knit community and showcases the important part they have played in shaping elements of the Scottish landscape.
Natalie Cowie-Kayes, a Showperson from Glasgow who helped co-curate A Fair Life explains: “I’m very happy to see A Fair Life open at Riverside. It’s been a wonderful project to work on. I’m sure many visitors to the museum will feel an instant connection to the objects on display. The waltzer car and carousel horse are certain to bring back fond memories of family daytrips to the shows.

“I’m very proud to have been raised in our community. For generations my family has travelled from place to place, transforming the everyday spaces of communities across Scotland into bustling and exciting places filled with lights, new smells and screams of enjoyment and laughter.

“Riverside is Scotland’s museum of transport, travel and technology so it’s a perfect fit, and carries on nicely from our old connection with the museum of transport when it was located in Kelvin Hall. I hope visitors to Riverside will enjoy the display, learn a little about our role in Scotland’s past and see that Scottish Show families aren’t really very different from their own.”

Showpeople are distinct from other Travelling communities in that they operate rides, games and food stalls at funfairs and events throughout the country. Scotland has between 3,000 - 5,000 Showpeople, an estimated 80% of which are based in Glasgow, living in approximately 50 privately owned/leased ‘yards’ located across the city. This is the largest concentration of Showpeople in Europe.

A Fair Life considers how the travelling lifestyle of Showpeople has evolved with technology. In days gone by fairgrounds were the destination of choice, where people spent their holidays and free time. Today, the travelling fairs that have entertained generations of Scottish families are under increasing pressure, as legislation becomes more demanding and new technologies offer increasingly attractive diversions.

Along with the difficulties incurred by the march of technology, Showpeople have experienced hardship throughout the years due to misconceptions about their lifestyle and culture. A Fair Life also aims to shed some light on this group of often misunderstood people.

A Fair Life is now on display in Riverside’s North Window.
First born of 2017 at Edinburgh ZooFirst born of 2017 at Edinburgh Zoo
Added: 14 Mar 2017
Keepers at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have welcomed the first newborn of 2017: a red-bellied lemur born to parents Gizmo and Bart in January who is doing well.

The youngster spent the first few weeks being carried constantly by its mother, but now that it is getting a bit older it has become easier to spot as it jumps and swings around and plays with its older siblings, albeit never wandering far from mum.

Lorna Hughes, Primate Team Leader at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: "We’re delighted to welcome the first baby of the year at the Zoo. The youngster hasn’t been named yet but is doing very well and can be seen clinging to its mum’s back. The newborn is the fifth red-bellied lemur to be born at the Zoo and will play an important role in the conservation of this vulnerable species through the European Endangered Species Programme."

The baby red-bellied lemur will spend the first five weeks being carried on its parents’ backs before it becomes more independent and starts to explore its surroundings, whilst staying close to mum and dad. The red-bellied lemur family at the Zoo is a close knit one, comprising of mum Gizmo, dad Bart and their three previous offspring. Visitors can spot the youngster in the Monkey House at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.

Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, the red-bellied lemur is threatened as a result of habitat loss in their native Madagascar. Large areas of forest have been cleared out for logging and agricultural purposes, destroying the homes of the native lemur families. Hunting also poses a significant threat to this species.

Image: RZSS/Fiona Mcintyre
Added: 02 Mar 2017

The Royal Yacht Britannia, in Edinburgh, reached a landmark today, clocking up an incredible 10,000 ‘Excellent’ reviews on travel website TripAdvisor.

The Queen’s former floating palace, now a jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism, prides itself in providing the highest standards of customer service annually to its 350,000 visitors from across the world. The news today means that, of the 13,856 reviews posted on TripAdvisor, to date, by visitors, 72.1% are ‘Excellent’. This is the highest ‘Excellent’ percentage rating of any large attraction in Scotland, and 2nd only in the UK to the British Museum in London 72.5%, ahead of iconic attractions such as Houses of Parliament (71.7%), Big Ben (69%), Westminster Abbey (66.8%) and the Tower of London (65.6%).

This milestone follows on from Britannia reporting 2016 as its most successful year since opening 18 years ago and being rated by national tourism agency, VisitScotland, as Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction for the 11th successive year.

Justifiably proud of this achievement, Britannia’s Chief Executive, Bob Downie, said: “Reaching 10,000 Excellent reviews, is an outstanding achievement and a real testament to our wonderful staff who consistently provide the great customer experiences that result in such positive feedback from 72.1% of our Tripadvisor reviewers. There is a huge difference in the quality standards required to gain a 5 Star Excellent review from your customers as opposed to a Very Good 4 Star review, with the former critical in convincing new customers to invest their time in visiting your attraction.”
Note: Please use a mobile device to access Tripadvisor’s most exact statistics. For some unknown reason the desktop version of their website does not accurately record the breakdown totals of the reviews.

Scottish visitor attractions record another successful year in 2016Scottish visitor attractions record another successful year in 2016
Added: 28 Feb 2017
ASVA has announced that visits to its member sites rose notably for the third year running in 2016.

Analysis of statistics submitted by 249 of the organisation’s member sites for its annual ’Visitor Trends Report’ confirms that almost 30 million visits were made to those sites in Scotland in 2016, a rise of 6% over 2015 figures. The increase comes on top of a 3.4% rise in 2015, which itself followed a 6.1% rise in 2014, confirming that visitor attractions in Scotland are currently enjoying a period of sustained growth.

Sectors which fared particularly well in 2016 include castles and heritage sites (+12%), sports and activities centres (+28.7%) and museums and galleries (+5.7%).

Edinburgh continued to dominate the marketplace, with 11 of the top 20 attractions located in the city, compared with 9 in 2015. The National Museum of Scotland welcomed the most visitors over this period, following the opening of ten new galleries in July, overtaking Edinburgh Castle as the most visited attraction in Scotland.

A new addition to the 2016 top 20 list was The Royal Yacht Britannia. Overall, some 54% of all visits were made to attractions that featured in the top 20 list.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland said: “I am delighted that the latest ASVA visitor figures have confirmed the National Museum of Scotland’s place as the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland. In addition we recorded the highest ever visitor numbers across all our sites with nearly 2.7 million visits. Last year, in celebration of the National Museum’s 150th anniversary, we opened ten new inspirational and engaging galleries of applied art, fashion and design and science and technology and the visitor response to them has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It has been a busy year for the Museum with the hugely popular exhibitions, Celts and Fossil Hunters and a packed programme of summer activities including the sell-out Fringe showcase, Museum After Hours, a new partnership with the Gilded Balloon and award-winning contemporary dance.

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

Another area of Scotland which fared well in 2016 was the Highlands. Attractions in the vicinity of Loch Ness, including the medieval fortress of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness by Jacobite, which offers scenic cruises on the loch, recorded significant increases in visitor numbers of 14% and 15% respectively. Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie reported a 10% rise in numbers, while Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre continued to benefit from media coverage generated by the ‘Outlander’ TV series, recording a 21% increase.

Commenting on a successful year for Loch Ness by Jacobite, Managing Director Freda Newton said: “The popularity of the local area shows no signs of slowing down, with visitor numbers growing year-on-year. In 2016, we welcomed 200,000 visitors on board our Loch Ness by Jacobite cruises – a new record. We’re expecting to welcome even more tourists on board this year and have had a great start to 2017 with a popular winter season.”

In Perthshire, The Black Watch Castle & Museum recorded a spectacular 1,248% rise in visitors, largely on the back of ‘Weeping Window’, a sculpture featuring thousands of handmade ceramic poppies commemorating those who died in World War One. The Museum was the first location in mainland Scotland to host the sculpture, which was installed as part of the UK-wide tour of the poppies by 14-18 NOW, the arts programme for the World War One centenary.
Welcoming the figures in ASVA’s 2016 Visitor Trends Report, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “It is fantastic that Scottish visitor attractions recorded another successful year in 2016 with almost 30 million visits to some of Scotland’s most popular and iconic tourist sites.
“The tourism sector is of vital importance to Scotland, as it stimulates economic growth and enhances the importance of our cultural heritage. I commend the sterling work of ASVA in creating quality visitor experiences and building Scotland’s reputation as a top tourist destination for visitors from around the world.”

Douglas Walker, Chair of ASVA said: “These figures demonstrate that the visitor attractions sector in Scotland is in robust health. Attractions that have invested in their visitor offer by developing innovative new products and services and launching inspiring events and exhibitions programmes, supported by creative and effective marketing campaigns, are not only reaching new visitor markets but are actively encouraging their existing visitors to return time and again”.

For ASVA’s Top 20 Visitor Attractions in 2016, please click on the link below:
Download file: click to download attached file
Leading Borders craftsmen to exhibit work at DawyckLeading Borders craftsmen to exhibit work at Dawyck
Added: 02 Feb 2017
Furniture made by two of Scotland’s finest craftsmen, David Lightly and Ross Purves, went on show at Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo, near Peebles on Wednesday (1 February). The exhibition, Fruits of the Forest, will be seen by around 34,000 people who visit the leading visitor attraction each year.
David and Ross, who work under the name “The Wood Neuk’’, take pride in handcrafting unique pieces of sculptural furniture inspired by timbers irregularities and imperfections. From tree to the finished piece, David and Ross are involved in every process.
The Wood Neuk grew out of Tim Stead Furniture and latterly The Workshop of Tim Stead where David and Ross have 38 years of experience between them creating fine sculptural furniture, guided by the designs of the renowned late sculptor and artist Tim Stead. The business is fully licensed to continue Stead’s classic designs alongside many exciting new designs of their own at Tim’s former premises.
David commented: “The exhibition is showcasing furniture made from native elm. At The Wood Neuk we’re involved in every process from tree to finished piece. We only buy trees that have been felled for a legitimate reason and take great care of the timber from the start right through to the finished work. One table that will be shown at Dawyck is made from an elm tree that was over 100 years old. It is made from one single plank of burr elm. This plank tells the story of the trees life. Through the patterns and grain it tells us of harsh winters and fruitful summers.’’
He added: “Through our work a tree lives on for many more hundreds of years. No timber is wasted because each hole, split or fault is repaired to show the material as it grew. Ross and I are very pleased to be showing our work in such a beautiful location. Hopefully after seeing the exhibition, people will walk round the Garden and will look at the trees in a different way. A tree is a beautiful thing to look at but what lies within contains a beauty of its own.’’
Dawyck is one of 50 gardens taking part in this year’s Scottish Snowdrop Festival which runs from 1 February to 12 March. It is co-ordinated by Discover Scottish Gardens and supported by VisitScotland.
While the Garden was closed for the winter season between 30 November and 1 February, staff undertook a varied programme of work which includes the removal of several moribund trees to provide longer term planting space for new wild-collected species. American skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) has also been removed following its recognition nationally as an invasive non-native species of significant concern. The plants at Dawyck were popular for their spring flowers and grew well for many years. However, unfortunately in other gardens if left untended, particularly near watercourses, they can become invasive. Dawyck has taken the lead on the removal of this plant and will look forward to replanting new species in the areas once occupied by the skunk cabbage.

Although the winter weather has been relatively kind, Dawyck is always susceptible to some storm damage. The prevailing westerly wind can be harsh at times and some of the older trees in the collection can be vulnerable. Three trees were removed in the lower car park. A large oak tree damaged another as it toppled and third tree had died. However, on a positive note the timber can be used for a number of other garden projects.

To improve access for visitors a new path and track have been created to link the upper Cryptogamic Wood with the lower Beech Walk.

The Garden’s hydro-electric scheme, which opened in 2014, is consistently generating in excess of 9KWh of energy per hour. The scheme, which was awarded a £30,000 grant from EDF Energy’s Green Fund, provides enough electricity to power both the Garden’s Visitor Centre and maintenance building. Heating for the Visitor Centre, which was built in 2008, is already provided by a sustainable biomass boiler. Surplus electricity is sold back to the national grid at times of low demand through the feed in tariff, creating a welcome income source for Dawyck. In a 24 hour period the hydro produces enough power to supply up to 17 average family homes.

Garden Curator, Graham Stewart said: “During the two months that the Garden was closed to visitors, we have successfully completed a programme of works, many of which will enhance the visitor experience. The winter weather has been relatively good so we have been able to complete the work on time. The Fruits of the Forest exhibition and participation in Scottish Snowdrop Festival will hopefully get our 2017 season off to a good start by encouraging people to come and visit the Garden in February.’’

Dawyck is home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees. The 65-acre Garden offers woodland and burnside walks and is renowned for its seasonal displays of snowdrops, bluebells, rhododendrons, azaleas, Himalayan poppies and autumn colour.

Fruits of the Forest will run from 1 February until 30 November. Admission to The Studio at Dawyck is free. Garden admission is £6.50 or £5.50 concession. Under 16s go free.
Connect with ASVA
Connect with us on LinkedIn Connect with us on
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Twitter
Home | About ASVA | Join ASVA | Press Information | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | Cookies
Copyright 2017 ASVA | login

ASVA is a Company Limited by Guarantee
Registered in Scotland No: SC153812