The Guinness Storehouse remains Ireland’s most popular tourist destination, according to Fáilte Ireland’s annual survey of visitor attractions for 2018.

This year’s list differs from previous years in that the definition of attaction has been changed – eligible sites must have a primary purpose of sightseeing. As a result, businesses which were previously on the list have been reclassified as ‘amenities’, ‘activities’ etc. and have not been included.

The survey also collates visitor numbers on free-to-enter attractions with a new entry to the list, Kilkenny Castle Parklands, claiming top place with the National Gallery of Ireland closely following. Kilkenny Castle Parklands claimed the top spot because 2018 was the first full year of a new counter system being used.

The annual list complements Fáilte Ireland’s research on ‘What makes a Great Visitor Attraction’, which allows attractions to look to each other’s successes in order to find ways to improve their own visitor experience.

Overall, the top ten fee-charging attractions during 2018 were:

  1. Guinness Storehouse – 1,736,156 visitors
  2. Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience – 1,580,000
  3. Dublin Zoo – 1,230,145
  4. Book of Kells – 1,057,642
  5. Tayto Park – 700,000
  6. St Patrick’s Cathedral – 627,199
  7. Kylemore Abbey & Garden – 561,657
  8. Muckrose House – 550,649
  9. Powerscourt House Gardens and Waterfall – 472,523
  10. Blarney Castle & Gardens – 460,000

Ireland’s top ten ‘free to enter’ attractions for 2018 were:

  1. Kilkenny Castle Parklands2 – 799,032
  2. The National Gallery of Ireland3 – 775,491
  3. Glendalough Site – 732,824
  4. National Botanic Gardens – 655,609
  5. Castletown House Parklands – 642,278
  6. Irish Museum of Modern Art – 505,891
  7. Doneraile Park – 490,000
  8. National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, 466,038
  9. Farmleigh House Estate – 389,932
  10. Battle of the Boyne/Oldbridge Est – 355,608

Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Product Development, Orla Carroll, said: “While 2018 was a positive year for most of Ireland’s top attractions, there are many challenges ahead for the tourism industry. As the National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland’s role is to support the development of a ‘world-class’ tourism sector. Our work with attractions in helping them grow their visitor numbers through training and funding is a significant part of what we do across the country. Over the course of 2018 alone, Fáilte Ireland approved grant funding of more than €31m for 46 projects.

“In May this year, we announced funding of up to a total €150m through our new Platforms for Growth initiative. The first “Platform” is “Iconic Immersive Attractions” with individual grants available for large-scale visitor attractions of €2.5m upwards. This is Fáilte Ireland’s largest programme of investment yet and with continued investment like this, and through our work with partners across the country, we look forward to seeing new locations feature on the top attractions survey list.”

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