Footfall rises at many attractions in the county

Cragside was the third most visited paid-for attraction in the North-East in 2014, new VisitEngland figures reveal. Picture by Tony Bartholomew.
Cragside was the third most visited paid-for attraction in the North-East in 2014, new VisitEngland figures reveal. Picture by Tony Bartholomew.

Visitor numbers at a host of tourist attractions in Northumberland rose massively last year, according to recently-released figures.

And VisitEngland’s Annual Survey shows that many county tourist spots were some of the most visited in the North East during 2014.

The study compares the number of people who passed through the doors last year, compared to 2013. It makes happy reading for several Northumberland attractions.

Of the stand-out performers, Cragside, in Rothbury, was the third-most visited ‘paid-for’ venue in the region, with 216,099 visitors in 2014, compared to 202,617 the year before – representing a 6.7 per cent increase.

Bamburgh Castle – sixth highest on the paid-for list – saw growth of 15.3 per cent, with 137,426 visitors in 2014, up from 119,149 in 2013.

Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum had the largest rise in the top 20 paid-for North-East attractions. The venue was up 24.6 per cent, from 29,580 in 2013 to 36,846 last year. Meanwhile, the RNLI Grace Darling Museum, in Bamburgh, is ranked 15th in the 20 most-visited free attractions in the region. The venue welcomed 44,568 through its doors last year, up from 42,790 in 2013 – representing a 4.2 per cent rise.

The figures come as the North East experienced a seven per cent growth overall, while visitor numbers for the whole of England rose by four per cent in 2014.

Jude Leitch, director at Northumberland Tourism said: “We are pleased with the figures. Our attractions have worked really hard over the last few years and they provide great customer service to increase the number of visitors and we try to support them as much as we can.

“The county has had some great exposure and programmes like Tales from Northumberland do make a great difference.”

Other Northumberland tourist attractions to make the North East’s top 20 paid-for list included Lindisfarne Castle and Lindisfarne Priory. The castle was ranked ninth with 89,370 visitors in 2014 compared to 84,340 in 2013, while the Priory was 12th, having welcomed 53,310 people last year, increasing from 51,281 in 2013.

Warkworth Castle was 16th, with 46,462 visitors last year compared to 45,553 in 2013 and Dunstanburgh Castle was 18th, up from 36,942 in 2013 to 39,672 last year.

Wallington was fourth on the list, with numbers rising from 184,812 to 202,457. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens were 10th with 58,211 visitors in 2014. But, footfall was down by 10.2 per cent, falling from 64,810 in 2013.

Views from the industry

Chris Calvert, from Bamburgh Castle, said: “It is a very pleasing turn around for us. In the years previously since 2010, we had seen a slight decline year on year due to a variety of reasons. But in 2014, lots of things came together and we featured on a number of programmes, including Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland, which helped to raise people’s awareness.”

Di Spark, from Howick Hall Gardens and Arboretum, said: “We put it down to the Robson Green effect, because we were on the show in 2013, and also the good weather. Northumberland Tourism has also worked hard to promote the county.”