THE National Wallace Monument is celebrating its 150th anniversary today and the world's long-lasting love affair with the Scottish hero is being hailed by Scotland's tourism board.

William Wallace may have died over 700 years ago, but his legacy lives on with visitors flocking to the monument, built in his honour, year after year.

Statistics reveal that since the landmark opened its doors in 1869 it has welcomed an estimated nine-million visitors from countries across the globe.

While this anniversary certainly stands out in the monument's history, there is another event which had a profound effect – the release of Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart.

The hit movie, which depicted a fictitious telling of the freedom fighter, had such an impact on Scotland's tourism industry that it was voted the third greatest tourism moment over the last 50 years in a poll by VisitScotland.

Prior to the premiere of the Mel Gibson hit, annual visitor numbers to the monument were in the region of 80,000 per year and by 1998 they reached a record figure of 184,265.

For the 10-year period following the release, the average annual number of visitors to the Monument was 135,000, and it has remained above the 100,000 level over subsequent years.

In a survey conducted at the Monument in 2011, the film was identified by 38 per cent of all visitors as the principal motivation for making their visit.

Dr Murray Cook, Stirling Council's archaeologist, said: "Wallace, the man and the myth, is a universal, classic story that speaks to all cultures.

"We can see it in the basic plot of most Hollywood blockbusters: a common man, pushed to the point of breaking the law, rebelling for freedom against bigger bullies.

"He fights and succeeds but ultimately loses, refusing to compromise even at the point of torture and death, which sparks a bigger rebellion that achieves what he strove for – Scotland's freedom.

"The monument celebrates both this central truth, but also the legends that have built up around Wallace.

"He was a giant with a giant sword, capable of superhuman acts, and it's entirely fitting that Britain's biggest monument to an individual is to Scotland's biggest hero."

The National Wallace Monument reports that it welcomes visitors from 94 countries each year and staff at the landmark say they often receive visitors from different parts of the world who are diehard Wallace fans – including a German visitor who sported a tattoo of Wallace's face on the back of his leg.

There have also been celebrity visitors over the years including Ellie Goulding, Novak Djokovic and Sam Heughan.