More than 1.5 million people visited Scotland's distilleries last year, in a bumper 12 months for whisky tourism

Scotland’s whisky distilleries have attracted more visitors than ever before, according to new figures.

A survey by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) revealed that more than 1.5 million people visited the country’s 54 distilleries, which were open to the public last year – an increase of nearly six per cent on 2014’s figure, and up 15 per cent on 2013.

The statistics suggest that visitors from across the world spent close to £50 million on distillery tours and in shops and cafes, nearly doubling 2010’s total spend.

Whisky plays a significant role in Scotland’s exports, but distilleries are a big part of the country’s tourism.

The largest number of visitors had travelled from within Scotland, with other visitors from the rest of the UK, Germany, France and the United States.

The SWA said that the range of visitors reflected some of Scotch whisky’s largest markets.

The US is by far the biggest market by value for Scotch, with France a close second. Germany is ranked at number five.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association deputy chief executive, said: “During Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and particularly during the Whisky month of May, our survey shows just how many people want to visit distilleries to see how Scotch Whisky is made, try a dram and buy a bottle to take home to family and friends.

“Every year, distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and all parts of the globe.

“Scotch Whisky producers are investing in their centres and shops to give visitors the best possible experience.

“As well as providing another source of income for producers, the increasing number of visitors is good for the wider Scottish economy.

“Visitors are spending more at distilleries and are likely to being doing the same with other businesses, including hotels and restaurants.

“It also helps put Scotland on the map.”

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, added: “There is clearly a growing appetite amongst visitors to sample the secrets behind Scotland’s national drink and with the greatest concentration of whisky distilleries in the world right here on our doorstep there is certainly plenty to enjoy.

“Research shows time and time again how popular distilleries are with visitors and with five distinct whisky regions, each producing their own unique characteristics and flavours, every visit offers a different taste of the county’s important whisky tourism industry.”

Scott Fraser, visitor centre manager at Tomatin Distillery said that visitor numbers were increasing along with spend.

He added: “We’ve completely revived our tour offering and the feedback has been brilliant, both from private tourists and an increasing number of coach tour business.

“The brand has been performing well in the UK and in our export markets and this has had a direct impact on our visitor numbers.

“We’re delighted that tourists are now not only choosing to visit Tomatin because of its convenient location, but also because they now know and love the brand.”

According to the new figures, Scotland’s distilleries are among some of the best-known UK attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery and Stonehenge.

About The Author

Patrick McPartlin

Having sampled beers from Vietnam to Boston, Patrick felt it was time to turn his attention to the growing Scottish craft beer scene. Despite what some would call a Rebus-esque attachment to Deuchars IPA, he has turned his attention to smoked porters, hoppy pilsners and roasty stouts and hasn't looked back since.

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