There’s a grain of truth to every legend. Whether they were born out of people’s need to explain and justify certain acts and phenomenons, or simply out of boredom or an innocent joke, they are nevertheless fascinating. They tell no lies, yet no truth either. They are somewhere in between, and nobody can say for sure how much of them is owed to facts, and how much to fantasy. Legends are described as fantastic stories with historical elements that have been passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. In other words, they are the fruits of folklore, one of the world’s greatest riches.
Mankind has always been fascinated with monsters and the inexplicable. In addition to city breaks and island getaways, tourists also prefer to visit mystical places, covered in legends that cash in millions each year. Tourism has much to gain from such legends, and there are obvious economic reasons for keeping these myths alive. Tourist trade has a great influence on the local economy. Some visitors may be day-trippers, but most tend to spend at least one night in a local hotel and pay a visit or two to the local restaurants and bars.
They have become well-known brands, and it’s impossible not to have heard of them, regardless of where you may be on the Globe. Nobody really cares whether these characters and apparitions really lived or exist at all. As a general rule, the more iconic they are, the least evidence there is of their existence. Historical facts and imaginary characters, mythical creatures and miraculous happenings have blended in people’s conscience over the centuries, making it hard to distinguish reality from fiction, thus giving birth to legends and famous characters that walk the thin line between truth and fantasy.
5. Stonehenge: $10 Million A Year
Is it a place of ritual sacrifice, of sun worship, or a giant calendar? No one really knows. Visited by over 1 million tourists each year, the 18 large standing stones at Salisbury are part of the most famous and recognizable megalithic complex in the world, with an estimated age of around 5,000 years, which makes it one of the oldest man-made structure on Earth.
Set in a cold, wet, barren field west of London, this keeper of Neolithic secrets was constructed sometime around 3000 BC. Many legends revolve around this place, and the monument is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Some stories say that wizard Merlin had a giant build it for him. Another popular belief is that the Druids built it. However, radiocarbon dating suggests it was built before the time of the Druids. With an average admission price of around $10 per person, Stonehenge cashes in an average $10 million a year, and is bound to gross close to $200 million on the long term, say 25 years, just in tickets. If a price tag were to be put on the majestic monument, it would exceed $180 million.
4. Loch Ness Monster: $50 Million A Year
The first records of the famed Loch Ness monster date from 565 AD, when the Viking Adamnan heard about the creature killing a man. Since then, no similar attacks were reported, but it seems that the monster is still there, if we are to believe the numerous sightings. In 1933 alone, five sightings were reported. In 1963, it was caught on tape, but the long distance does not make the footage very credible. In 1995, Lorna Taylor saw its head, neck, and body rising from the waters, but was too late with her camera. Last sightings were reported in 1999, 2002, and 2007. It’s about time it showed itself again.
The legend of Nessie is already a brand, just as popular as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Coca Cola. Scotland’s number one tourist attraction is found lurking in the waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, and is worth over $1 million to all those who gamble on its existence. Plus, Nessie tourism cashes in an average $50 million a year in money spent on hotels, food, boat trips, and monster-branded merchandise.
3. King Arthur and the Holy Grail: $120 Million a Year
It’s the United Kingdom again, this time Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and Glastonbury in Somerset, both covered in legends of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and the quest for the Holy Grail. Tintagel Castle is the mythical birthplace of King Arthur. Merlin’s cave lies in the cliff beneath the castle, overlooking a secluded beach cove with an impressing waterfall. The ruins of Tintagel Castle are a romantic place from which to start exploring one of the world’s greatest legends of heroes, wizards, knights, and chivalry. The castle alone cashes in over $2 million a year, but it brings even more millions to the local economy from hotels, food, and entertainment.
Mainly known for the Glastonbury Festival, Glastonbury in Somerset is believed to be the resting place of King Arthur and his beloved Guinevere. Glastonbury is also considered to be the site of the legendary Island of Avalon. Water levels in the area were indeed much higher in the time of King Arthur, and it’s quite possible that Glastonbury Tor was once an island. They say that young Jesus Christ once visited the site, which is not as far fetched considering that Joseph of Arimathea, a relation of Mary, was the owner of a mine in the area. Locals believe that the town’s Chalice Well might be hiding the Holy Grail. Glastonbury, a fascinating realm abounding in Celtic legends, cashes in over $120 million a year. A recently launched $6.7 million advertising campaign is set on drawing even more visitors to the area.
2. Count Dracula’s Legend: $140 Million
Everyone loves vampires. Just look at the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Interview with the Vampire, Twilight, and Vampire Diaries. They are now considered as hot and sexy. Overall, vampires are worth $10 billion to the economy, generated by movies, books, computer games, and many other entertainment revenues. There are many vampire characters, but the most famous of them all is Irish writer Bram Stoker’s Dracula, inspired by an actual historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of Transylvania in the 15th century. Ironically, Vlad the Impaler, who punished criminals by impaling them in public, is viewed as a hero in Romania, as he fought to protect the country against Ottoman invasions.
They say that Transylvania, Dracula’s home in central Romania, sits on a large and powerful magnetic field which can give birth to numerous unusual phenomenons. Bram Stoker placed his character’s home at the famous Bran Castle. Paradoxically, historical ruler Vlad Dracula never lived here. Yet, the Bran Castle alone is worth $140 million, and welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Count Dracula has become an industry in itself, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and is one of the main sources of tourism revenue in Transylvania.
1. Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest: $1.8 Billion
He took from the rich and gave to the poor. According to legend, he lived around 700 years ago and roamed the forests of Sherwood. However, like many legends out there, it’s very likely he never lived at all. Then again, who hasn’t had childhood dreams of joining Robin Hood’s band of outlaws? Millions of tourists visit the sites at Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire each year. The main attraction is Major Oak, the large oak tree where Robin Hood and his merry men, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, and his sweetheart Maid Marion used to hide.
Yorkshire too has many places associated with Robin Hood. There’s the Robin Hood Village, where the outlaw met up with his men to plan the next robbery. There’s also Barnsdale, which according to some stories, is a possible birthplace. There’s also Loxley, another possible birthplace. Dying Robin shot an arrow and asked his friend Little John to bury him where the arrow landed, the place where Kirklees Hall lies today, and where tourists can visit Robin Hood’s grave. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was empty, but as long as tourists are happy, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire are happy, too. After all, the legend does generate millions of dollars each year. Nottinghamshire’s tourist industry, all owed to the man in green, is worth more than $1.8 billion.