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The Geopark Network

Global Geoparks around the world

Geoparks are set up and managed by a local community and there are more than 150 Geoparks worldwide. Every community is different and so every Geopark is different but we all share a common aim which is to tell the story of our landscape and make it accessible to visitors. This in turn helps to bring resources into sensitive rural areas, creating jobs and supporting small businesses. Global Geoparks are a UNESCO designation celebrating internationally significant geological heritage to encourage Sustainable Development through geotourism and cultural tourism.

What is a Geopark?

Many of Earth’s most spectacular and interesting landscapes contain small, remote communities who often have a very special connection with the land. Often these distinct landscapes are formed by underlying geology that is specific to the area and of major international importance. If you live in one of these remote areas jobs, housing and services can be hard to come by and so it can be difficult for families to put down roots.
In 1998 UNESCO launched an initiative which recognised these challenges but also the very great potential for communities to take pride in and promote their landscapes for tourism. They called this initiative ‘Geoparks’.
On 17 November 2015, the 195 Member States of UNESCO ratified the creation of a new label, the UNESCO Global Geoparks, during the 38th General Conference of the Organisation. This expresses governmental recognition of the importance of managing outstanding geological sites and landscapes in a holistic manner.  UNESCO Global Geoparks enjoy the same level of recognition as World Heritage Sites. Find out more here.

Listen to more here.

What do they do?

Geoparks are set up by a local community to manage geological sites and landscapes with the Geopark approach of protection, education and sustainable development. Through a partnership
with the local community, Geoparks share a common goal to tell the story of the landscape and make it accessible to visitors from primary school to research science and beyond.
Promotion of the unique geology gives local people an added sense of pride in their region and strengthens their identification with the area. By working with communities, Geoparks bring essential new ‘Geotourism’ to sensitive rural areas, stimulating local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses. This in turn protects the geological resources of the area with raised local and visitor awareness, and increased local economic value of ‘Geotourism’.

“The Grand Canyon couldn’t be a UNESCO Global Geopark, because there are no people living in it!” – David MacLeod, North West Highlands Geopark Community Director for Tongue

What is the North West Highlands Geopark?

The North West Highlands Geopark is a community company limited by guarantee and a charity in Scotland. The board comprises 6 community directors, one from each of the community councils within the Geopark who work alongside the other office bearers, directors and staff. You can contact us here.

The North West Highlands Global Geopark hosts a wide range of rock formations covering two thirds of the Earth’s history. Each rock type inspires its own distinctive landscape of world class quality and significance. Stunning mountain landscapes, sandy beaches, ancient settlements, and remote communities. These are some of the key characteristics of our vast landscape, which has defined the people who live here and creates a strong sense of place. These set us apart and influence how we live.