SCOTLAND'S historic attractions have hit a record milestone by attracting more than five million people in a single year, heritage bosses say.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which manages more than 300 Historic Scotland attractions, celebrated a 17 per cent increase in footfall from 2016/17 numbers.

Heritage chiefs say the organisation recorded 5,041,297 visitors throughout the 2017/18 financial year.

The surge in numbers is attributed to growth in UK, European and overseas visitors, with a "significant uplift" in Scots visiting sites.

The ongoing "Outlander effect" has seen North American visitor figures to historic sites increase by 27 per cent and French visitors increase by 19 per cent.

The locations which feature in the US-British television series continue to see a rise in visitor numbers. Doune Castle has attracted a 227 per cent increase in numbers and Blackness Castle increased by 182 per cent since 2013.

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism at HES, said: "Our record-breaking visitor figures, including across all of our top ten sites, are a tremendous achievement for Scotland's heritage tourism sector, reflecting the continued interest shown by tourists and home-grown visitors to learn more about our rich Scottish heritage.

"Over five million visitors have flocked to our wealth of historic sites across the length and breadth of the country, ranging from iconic attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, to landmarks such as Skara Brae in Orkney and Iona Abbey, as well as castles in Scotland's historic towns such as St Andrews Castle."

Individual castles, palaces and other historic sites also achieved record figures.

The top 10 most-visited HES attractions all celebrated record-breaking years, with more than two million people visiting Edinburgh Castle, an increase of nearly 300,000 visitors compared to the previous year.

Glasgow Cathedral also saw an increase of 27 per cent to 400,324 visits while St Andrews Castle welcomed 90,253 visitors, an increase of 16 per cent.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: "These figures are very encouraging and suggest that 2018 is set to be another excellent, record-breaking year for our world-class attractions and Historic Scotland sites.

"From Orkney to the Borders, Scotland's diverse landscapes and iconic sites are of great importance to communities throughout the country, stimulating economic growth and further promoting our cultural heritage both in Scotland and internationally."