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I don't believe it!

Press Release   •   Mar 31, 2017 14:24 BST

It a national day for practical jokes and elaborate fibs, but this April Fool’s Day (Saturday 1st April), VisitScotland is celebrating the weird and wonderful facts about Scotland that are entirely true!

Known as’ Hunt the Gowk’ Day in Scotland - gowk being the Scottish word for a foolish person - the 1st of April tradition used to see people sent on a foolish errand to deliver a sealed message reading ‘ Dinna laugh, dinna smile, hunt the gowk another mile.

Today, it continues to be a time to fool friends with fictional tales but from tales about Elvis Presley to waterfalls higher than Niagara Falls, the following Scottish stories – believe it or not - are no April Fools:

  • Scotland has approximately 790 islands but only a quarter are inhabited.
  • There are more red heads in Scotland than anywhere else in the world
  • The village of Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, has been dubbed the UFO capital of the world, with more than 300 reports of unidentified flying objects recorded every year.
  • Located at the geographical heart of Scotland in Fortingall churchyard lies what is believed to be the oldest tree in Europe. Estimated to be 3,000-5,000 years old the Fortingall Yew has a trunk diameter of 52 feet.
  • Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire is considered the only place in Britain that Elvis Presley ever visited.In 1960 the ‘King’ was finishing his army national service and stopped over for 2 hours.
  • Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have an organised municipal fire brigade. The Edinburgh Fire Engine Establishment was formed in 1824, led byJames Braidwood who went on to be first director of what was to become the London Fire Brigade. A statue to James Braidwood can be found in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square.
  • It was a Scot from Renfrewshire who laid the foundation stone for the Statue of Liberty. William A Brodie was a stonemason and moved with his family to the US in 1843 when he was two years old. He was born in the village of Kilbarchan.
  • Cairns were rallying points before battles and fights. Each man would place a stone on the ground upon arrival and remove it again after the fight. Then the number of stones left would count to the lost number of the Clan.
  • Following a storm in 2008, cup and rings marks were revealed in Achnabreac Forest near Lochgilphead believed to be around 5,000 years old.
  • The very first recorded appearance of the elusive Loch Ness Monster occurred in 565 AD, when a "water beast " attacked one of St. Columba's followers in the loch

And from fools to impressive feats - do you know that Scotland is also the holder of an impressive number of world records, many of you can visit?

  • Ebenezer Place in Wick, Caithness has the record for the shortest street in the world, measuring just 2.05m.
  • Operated by Loganair, the world’s shortest commercial flight takes place between the two Orkney Islands, Westray and Papa Westray. It covers a distance of 1.7 miles (2.7 km) and if the weather conditions are favorable, it can be completed in just 47 seconds.
  • The Dumfriesshire village of Sanquhar is home to the oldest working post office in the world. It’s been operating continuously since 1712.
  • At 127m tall, The Glasgow Tower at the Glasgow Science Centre is officially the tallest tower in the world which can rotate fully through 360 degrees.
  • The world’s tallest and longest hedge can be found in Perthshire; Planted in 1746, the Meikleour beech hedgeis 540m long and at its highest point is 36m tall.
  • As the Home of Golf it is no surprise that Scotland is also home to the oldest golf course in the world, The Old Course at St Andrews Links in Fife. Archbishop Hamilton's Charter in 1552 is the earliest documentary evidence that allowed the people of St Andrews to play golf on the Links
  • Founded in 1786, Strathisla Distillery in Keith has been recognised as the oldest operating Scotch whisky distillery.
  • If you pay a visit to Smith Museum in Stirling, you’ll find the world’s oldest football. Discovered during an excavation project in the mid-1970s, tested have confirmed the grey, leather ball is 436 years old.
  • The new Queensferry Crossing over the River Forth Estuary will enter the record books as the longest pair of free-standing balanced cantilevers measuring 643.9m. It is due to open in summer 2017.

For more inspiration on factual, fictional and foolish things to do in Scotland visit www.visitscotland.com

Notes to Editors

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit www.gov.scot or follow @scotgovESIF
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    2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
  • 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • For more information visit visitscotland.com/HHA2017 or join the conversation at #HHA2017