More than 60 per cent of the country's top tourist attractions reported an increase in visitors during 1996, according to the British Tourist Authority annual survey published today.
Legoland was a new frontrunner, the eighth most popular paid for attraction in the UK. Alton Towers tops the list of UK tourist attractions charging admission, with Blackpool Pleasure Beach pulling in the most visitors overall.
Visits to Tourist Attractions 1996 reveals a three per cent overall increase in visits last year, with industrial heritage sites reporting a particularly good year (workplaces +6% and steam railways +7%). Visits to farms (+5%), visitor centres (+4%) and wildlife attractions (+4%) rose at an above average rate, whilst gardens, historic properties and museums all achieved 3% growth.
Alton Towers remains the most popular attraction (for the fifth year running) charging admission with 2.7 million visits, followed by Madame Tussaud's, the Tower of London and Canterbury Cathedral. In its first season, Legoland attracted more than 1.4 million visitors, the highest figure achieved by any attraction in the last 20 years for its first year open to the public..
Blackpool Pleasure Beach attracted the most free admissions with an estimated 7.5 million visits; the British Museum remains the UK's most popular museum (6.2 million); Westminster Abbey retains its position as the most visited ecclesiastical building (2.5 million) and Hampton Court Gardens is the UK's favourite garden with an estimated 1.2 million visits.
British Tourist Authority chairman David Quarmby said: 'Whatever your taste, from high-rollers and historic houses to chocolate and countryside, UK attractions offer all our visitors an excellent day out.'
'New attractions this year, such as the London Aquarium and Thackray's Medical Museum in Leeds, together with increased investment in established venues, should encourage more days out in 1997,' said Mr Quarmby.
Cadbury World in Bournville, Birmingham, tops the new league table of visitor centres - a rapidly growing sector (19.3 million visits) with half of the 444 UK visitor centres having been opened since 1990. The venues attracting the most visits to events or exhibitions were Wembley Stadium (6.7 million), the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham (4.5 million) and London's Earls Court and Olympia Exhibition Centres (3 million).
Overall, free attractions had a 4% increase in visits last year compared with a 2% increase at attractions charging admission.
Visits to Tourist Attractions 1996 is available from the British Tourist Authority, Mail Order Sales, Thames Tower, Black's Road, London W6 9EL, price£19.50 including postage.