Scotland's saints begged to perform miracles for tourism
With visitor numbers in decline as the recession keeps foreign tourists away, a plan has been put forward to capitalise on the country's holiest men and women. The Church of Scotland has suggested harnessing the religious significance and fascinating history of the Scottish saints to attract a new wave of tourists and pilgrims.
The move, mooted in the Kirk's magazine, would certainly answer the prayers of hoteliers, bed and breakfast owners and restaurateurs who have suffered in the recent downturn.
In an editorial of the August edition of Life and Work, Lynne McNeil writes: "I have often felt that the Church should engage more in the business of tourism.
"At the moment, it is piecemeal and depends very much on local congregations."
Mrs McNeil highlights the tourist popularity of lona, St Giles in Edinburgh and Glasgow Cathedral. She adds: "But what about the stories of faith that inspired the buildings and are important to local communities?
"Scotland has a rich tradition of saints and spirituality. However, much of that is rarely promoted outside Scotland.
"Tour parties from Scotland regularly visit the Holy Land on pilgrimages, but what about the rich seam of heritage and spirituality on our doorstep?
"Perhaps the answer lies in the Church developing its own informal tourism strategy.
"In these financially straitened times, in both the Church and secular society, every opportunity should be grasped."
Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "Our shared Christian heritage could help us through the recession. Most of our history is pre-Reformation, but I agree entirely with the Church of Scotland over a Christian tourism initiative.
"We had been thinking about writing to VisitScotland about producing a Christian Heritage Trail leaflet for tourists.
"After all, we have a Whisky Trail in Speyside, why not a Christian Heritage Trail?
"There is an enormous interest in Scotland's history of Christianity and there is an opportunity to better promote visiting sites that are pivotal to our Christian past. "There is also a potentially huge overseas market among the Scottish Diaspora."
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "Scotland is viewed as a very spiritual place to visit. It is not surprising that we have seen an increase in the number of people coming to this country to enjoy the splendour of its religious locations."
According to VisitScotland's Visitor Attraction Monitor, there were 1.5 million tourist visits to places of worship in 2009 - up 10 per cent on the previous year.
SCOTLAND'S FAMOUS SAINTS
SAINT ANDREW: The nation's patron saint and one of Jesus' first disciples, St Andrew's remains are said to have been brought to Scotland in the eighth century. The Saltire symbolises the X-shaped cross on which he was crucified.
SAINT COLUMBA: The Irish priest who founded his monastery on lona is said to have once faced down the Loch Ness Monster.
SAINT MUNGO: The patron saint of Glasgow, whose miracles include saving Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde from execution by finding a ring that inside a fish in the Clyde.
SAINT FILLAN: The patron saint of the mentally ill and skydivers, he was a monk believed to have lived in a cave in Pittenweem, Fife.
SAINT JOHN OGILVIE: The last saint martyred in Scotland, he was caught preaching Catholicism in Protestant Glasgow in 1615.
SAINT WILLIAM OF PERTH: The patron saint of adopted children, his remains were said to cure madness. He was murdered by his adopted son.
SAINT BLANE: Among the miracles attributed to the sixth-century saint was restoring a dead boy to life. His monastery later became Dunblane Cathedral.
SAINT DROSTAN: The founder of the monastery of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire, water from the nearby St Drostan's Well is in Aberlour malt whisky.