Beamish Museum Named Most Visited Attraction in the Region

March 18th 2024

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North has been named the most visited attraction in the region with another increase in visitors, in a new report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

The museum welcomed 801,756 visitors last year, an increase of four per cent on 2022, show the figures that were released today (18th March) to mark English Tourism Week.

Samantha Shotton, Beamish Museum’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are delighted to be named the most visited attraction in the North East in this year’s report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), following another increase in visitors to Beamish.

“Our fantastic team of staff and volunteers welcomed 801,756 visitors to Beamish last year, which is testament to our continued growth and development, with a real focus on the visitor offer and experience. Working with our regional partners to drive visitor footfall into the North East, we’re committed to continuing to deliver an exceptional experience across the region and here at Beamish.

“This is a very exciting time for Beamish – following the addition of our latest 1950s exhibits, there is even more to come, with the opening this year of our 1950s cinema, toy shop and electrical shop, along with our Georgian tavern, pottery and self-catering accommodation.

“We’ve also got a packed events programme lined up throughout the year, including Easter celebrations coming up very soon, so there is a lot to look forward to.

“The North East is an amazing region with a first-class tourism offer and we’re extremely proud to be a leading part of this.”

Beamish, which has around 450 staff and 400 volunteers, is a charity which relies on visitors for 95 per cent of its income. Every penny spent by visitors on tickets and in catering outlets and shops helps to maintain the museum, develop new and exciting exhibits and support Beamish’s work to preserve North East heritage for future generations, while supporting today’s communities, including through health and wellbeing and education work.

The ALVA report of its members’ visitor numbers showed that there were 146.6 million visits to ALVA sites in 2023, up 19 per cent on the previous year. Beamish was 42nd on the national list, including free and paid-for attractions, and top in the North East. The most visited attraction in the UK was the British Museum, with 5.8million visits, followed by the National History Museum (5.7million) and Windsor Great Park (5.5million). Nationally, visitor numbers were still 11% down on pre-Covid 2019 levels.

Bernard Donoghue OBE, Director of ALVA, commented: “Our members are not yet back to hosting the same number of visitors that they did in 2019, but they are really delighted that even in a challenging cost-of-living climate visitors are still prioritising spending special time with special people at special places.

“Whilst the extension of tax relief for museums, theatres and galleries was a very welcome announcement in the recent Budget, there was a missed opportunity to reintroduce tax free shopping for overseas visitors, which would have improved the UK’s international competitiveness, and reduce VAT for tourism and hospitality which would have helped businesses repair their balance sheets.”

The ALVA report comes at an exciting time for Beamish – this year will see the opening of a 1950s cinema, toy shop, electrical shop, record shop and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) learning space, along with a Georgian tavern, pottery and self-catering cottages. This follows the opening last year of 1950s council houses, police houses, bowling green and pavilion, and aged miners’ homes. The new exhibits are part of the Remaking Beamish project, the biggest development in the museum’s history. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016.

The Guardian recently named Beamish among its 12 of the Best Things to Do and See in the UK this year. The museum was shortlisted last week in the national Museums + Heritage Awards for the Visitor Welcome Award.

The museum has a packed programme of events lined up for this year, including Easter celebrations (29th March to 1st April), Beamish Steam Gala – Wheels of Industry (6th & 7th April), Horses in Harness (8th & 9th June), Fares Please (29th & 30th June), Summer activities (1st July to 3rd September), Beamish Tractor Show (27th & 28th July), Leek Show (7th & 8th September), Home Front, Home Farm (14th & 15th September), Harvest Celebrations (5th & 6th October) and Christmas at Beamish (23rd November to 24th December).

Daytime events are included in admission to Beamish and are free to Beamish Unlimited Pass holders and Friends of Beamish members.