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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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