- The country is usually associated with spectacular mountains,
tumbling rivers and deep-fried Mars bars. But Scotland has a proud new
boast: it has become the landing strip of choice for flying saucers and
other mysterious, metallic, hovering craft.
- More odd incoming craft have been tracked over the hills
and glens than anywhere else on Earth, and UFO enthusiasts are flocking
north to experience close encounters of the Caledonian kind.
- A survey published tomorrow will reveal that 300 UFOs
are seen in Scotland each year - four times as many as in France and Italy,
which appear to be aliens' next favourite destinations. Even New Mexico,
home of the Roswell air base and Area 51, where UFO believers insist that
alien corpses were kept and studied by the American government, has seen
less activity over the past decade.
- Graham Birdsall, editor of UFO magazine, has tried to
explain the phenomenon. 'UFOs tend to be attracted to regions that are
fairly remote,' he said. 'Plus, if you have a remote area, look out for
air bases; Scotland is littered with air bases. In 90 per cent of reports,
a bit of diligent research will produce a simple explanation.'
- But that leaves 10 per cent unexplained. 'When you think
of the number of sightings in Scotland compared to the size of its population,
it is phenomenal,' said Ron Halliday, who has written two books on the
appearance of UFOs in Scotland.
- Yet it is not remote Highland or Borders areas that play
host to the visitors. The Nineties saw a sudden surge of sightings in the
central Scottish areas of West Lothian and Stirlingshire, particularly
around the small town of Bonnybridge, near Falkirk.
- 'The area has become known as the Falkirk triangle,'
said Halliday. 'There have been various suggestions as to why it is such
a magnet for UFOs.
- 'One theory is that the area near Bonnybridge is a window
into another dimension. That would explain why certain people see a UFO
and others don't - because a UFO is some kind of paranormal phenomenon,
rather than a nuts-and-bolts spaceship.'
- Halliday added that the sightings went beyond strange
lights in the sky. Some people had encountered shimmering discs just yards
away from their bodies, while others said they had been attacked by UFOs.
- The most famous such incident occurred in 1979, when
forestry worker Bob Taylor claimed a gang of large shimmering spheres,
with spikes protruding from them like naval mines, set upon him. He lived
to tell the tale and thousands of reported encounters and UFO spotters
- Craig Malcolm has sought a slice of real-life X-Files
action by taking video footage for six years outside the Forge restaurant
in Bonnybridge. While three airports and a gas-flaring oil terminal all
lie within a 30-mile radius and offer some explanation for what he shot,
footage of a ball of light dog- legging back and forth across a clear sky
is nevertheless eerie.
- Malcolm spends hours in favourite spotting sites such
as the one next to electrical pylons, where a circular ball of light is
said to have bounced along the tree tops, and a field where a plane- like
object with no wings sent 'black reek belching out the back of it as it
- Bonnybridge's status as a UFO capital prompted one councillor
to call for it to be twinned with Roswell and ambitious plans have been
mooted to build a multi-million-pound UFO theme park. But it is not alone.
'There have also been a substantial number of sightings in the Glasgow
area,' added Halliday.
- VisitScotland, the tourist board that commissioned the
latest survey, sees it as a growth market. 'Our survey confirms that Scotland
is the nearest thing there is to the Costa del Sol for aliens,' said Karen
Gray of VisitScotland. Whatever the truth about UFOs, the Falkirk triangle
has already attracted hundreds of visitors from the United States, Japan
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited