Scotland has been a Halloween haven for centuries with its wide range of haunted houses, spine-chilling stories and hair-raising locations, and now figures reveal that visits to spooky sights have grown by over 76 per cent in the last 20 years.
As VisitScotland marks its 50th anniversary this year, it has watched Halloween’s popularity rise with visitor numbers to reportedly haunted attractions leaping by around 1.7 million.
The national tourism organisation launched its first Ghost Trail last year and has examined how many people have been visiting the ghostly graveyards, bloody battlefields and creepy castles featured.
It found that in 1999 there were 2.2 million visits to 10 attractions featured on the VisitScotland trail and by 2018 that had jumped to 3.9 million visits.
The figures, which were provided by The Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, Glasgow Caledonian University, also revealed that there was a rise of 110 per cent between visits in November 1999 and November 2018 plus a 69 per cent boost for October 2018 versus October 1999.
Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh has seen the biggest surge in visitor numbers, going from just over 13,000 in 1999 to more than 51,000 last year – a rise of 292.7 per cent.
The term Halloween or Hallowe’en is thought to have been first used in 1745. Forty years later, the poet Robert Burns explained Halloween ‘to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands.
The holiday’s roots are arguably even deeper within Scotland as it is said to originate from ancient Gaelic celebrations and is based on the pagan ‘Feast of Samhain’. The eve became known as All Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’ Eve, or Hallowe’en.
While VisitScotland’s own beginnings don’t go quite so far back, the organisation is celebrating 50 years since the Development of Tourism Act was established in 1969, creating the first official Scottish Tourist Board – later re-named VisitScotland.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: ‘Halloween brings huge tourism potential and these figures prove how Scotland’s bloody history, looming landscape, and spooky superstitions are a huge draw for visitors.
‘As it is VisitScotland’s 50th anniversary, it’s encouraging to see that attractions featured within our Ghost Trail have seen great growth over the years and while this is VisitScotland’s own milestone, it’s very much an anniversary to be shared with our industry colleagues and partners.
‘With more and more attractions introducing eerie events, Halloween shows no signs of stopping but ghosts are said to haunt these locations year-round, so there are plenty of opportunities to extend these festivities beyond October and November and capitalise on the public’s fascination with the supernatural.’
Cormac Grogan, manager of Skaill House, said: ‘Visitor numbers at Skaill House have been making a steady rise for the past couple of decades and with Halloween being the last day of our season, our ghosts have been a continuous draw for locals and tourists alike, giving us a final busy day to look forward to.
‘Halloween is always welcomed here at Skaill. The house has 400 years of history, so unsurprisingly, there are quite a few ghost stories that come with it.’
Find VisitScotland’s Ghost Trail HERE.