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What We Did on Our Holiday in The Highlands

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Visitor Survey results explore regional experiences.

Hillwalking, hiking and rambling, visiting a castle or a nature reserve were the top activities undertaken by visitors to the Highlands, according to the latest regional research from VisitScotland.  

The Scotland Visitor Survey 2023: Highlands published by the national tourism organisation found that almost half (47%) of visitors to the region were domestic visitors, with almost two-thirds (63%) repeat visitors to Scotland.

Highland visitors stayed on average 11.2 nights in Scotland and 4.1 nights in the Highlands.

In line with Scotland-wide survey results, scenery and landscape (85%), and history and culture (59%), were the top two motivations for visitors who travelled to the Highlands.

Separate results for Inverness found a higher-than-average number of first-time visitors to Scotland (50% compared with the national average of 25%) visited the city, with 92% of visitors to the city also touring around Scotland, staying in two or more places.

For the Highlands, hillwalking, mountaineering, hiking or rambling (56%) was the most popular activity, followed by visiting a castle or fort (50%), a nature reserve (38%), a visitor or heritage centre (32%) and shopping (31%).

Most (43%) visited a castle or fort or went shopping (36%) in the city.

The Scotland Visitor Survey usually takes place every three or four years but was delayed due to the pandemic and was conducted in 2023.   

It aims to help understand why visitors take a holiday or short break in Scotland and how they rate their experiences when here.  

Visitors were surveyed in-person between March and October last year, and then responded to an online survey when they returned home.  

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Destination Development Director, said: 

“The Scotland Visitor Survey provides valuable insight for everyone involved in tourism and events.

“Understanding the motivations and experiences of visitors is essential in developing the Highlands as a world-class visitor destination.

“It comes as no surprise that the most popular activity by Highland visitors sampled was walking, hiking and mountaineering.

“The region boasts dozens of challenging Munros, including Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis; but also hundreds of gentler walks winding their way through our stunning scenery for visitors to enjoy.

“And we have a fantastic tourism industry with expert guides, tour companies, trips and attractions who can help our visitors to get the best experience in our stunning environment.

“The results of this survey are testament to the excellent service and experience that tourism businesses create for visitors to the Highlands.

“It’s great to hear that half of the Highland visitors and almost as many city visitors who took part in the survey visited a castle or fort when they were here.

“We are spoilt in this respect, with castles including Urquhart, Dunrobin, Cawdor all popular with visitors.

“Inverness Castle also opening in 2025, will only expand our range of brilliant visitor experiences.  

“This visitor survey will help inform and drive our activities, targeting our visitors with the information they want, when they want it, while helping to encourage visitors to explore year round and to explore further, discovering all parts of the region and spreading the benefits that tourism brings.

“It helps build a picture of what the visitor experience in the region actually looks like.  

“We will continue to work with businesses and partners to ensure the Highlands is a sustainable tourism destination that benefits all.”  

Scotland Visitor Survey 2023 Highlands/Inverness can be found by clicking HERE  

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