SCOTLAND is rightly proud of its long and vibrant history, and the special places that attract visitors from all over the world.

Someone has to look after this wealth of treasure, of course, and preserve it for future generations. The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has been doing this for the last nine decades, managing and conserving an incredible range of properties, gardens, and artefacts, Munros, nature reserves and historic sites up and down the land, ensuring both locals and tourists alike can explore and enjoy them.

But as leisure activities have changed, it has become harder to attract people to what some may view as rather old fashioned days out. This, in turn, makes it harder to raise the money needed to keep the sites going. And so the decline sets in.

As the NTS would admit, the last few years have been tough. Visitor numbers have declined considerably, even during a period where Scots attractions as a whole enjoyed a 45 per cent increase.

Those running the charity came up with a new investment and improvement strategy in the hope of turning things around, and if the latest figures are anything to go by, they’re on the right track.

Brodie Castle, near Forres, is a good example of how widening and modernising your offer, appealing to new audiences, can bring success. Following a substantial investment, Easter saw the opening of the new £3m Playful Garden at the once-dilapidated property, using relevant historical detail to enhance the experience for all the family.

Visitors are clearly loving the new amenities, with more than 24,000 people coming through the doors of the castle since April 30, compared to just under 11,000 for same period last year.

Newhailes, near Musselburgh, meanwhile, has also built a new play area and seen its visitor numbers soar.

An improved, more contemporary retail offering is also helping boost coffers at NTS. At Culloden, for example, new products in the gift shop have increased sales by a whopping 40 per cent.

For the NTS it’s not just about visitor numbers, of course. The organisation relies on an army of workers and volunteers to show visitors round and bring the properties and sites to life, to spread the love of history and heritage. And as the workforce ages, a new generation will be needed to replace them.

With Scotland’s tourism industry booming like never before, the NTS has the potential to prosper, despite a period in the doldrums. It’s heartening to see this old charity embrace new ideas and make the changes necessary to ensure a brighter future all round. Scotland’s national heritage depends upon its success.