Observations of ion-scale density turbulence of relative amplitude are available on the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST) using a 2D (8 radial × 4 poloidal channel) imaging Beam Emission Spectroscopy (BES) diagnostic. Spatial and temporal characteristics of this turbulence, i.e., amplitudes, correlation times, radial and perpendicular correlation lengths and apparent phase velocities of the density contours, are determined by means of correlation analysis. For a low-density, L-mode discharge with strong equilibrium flow shear exhibiting an internal transport barrier (ITB) in the ion channel, the observed turbulence characteristics are compared with synthetic density turbulence data generated from global, non-linear, gyro-kinetic simulations using the particle-in-cell (PIC) code NEMORB. This validation exercise highlights the need to include increasingly sophisticated physics, e.g., kinetic treatment of trapped electrons, equilibrium flow shear and collisions, to reproduce most of the characteristics of the observed turbulence. Even so, significant discrepancies remain: an underprediction by the simulations of the turbulence amplituide and heat flux at plasma periphery and the finding that the correlation times of the numerically simulated turbulence are typically two orders of magnitude longer than those measured in MAST. Comparison of these correlation times with various linear timescales suggests that, while the measured turbulence is strong and ‘critically balanced’, the simulated turbulence is weak.