Welcome to Scotland’s first Geopark
At 3,000 million years old, the rocks at the seashore are even older than the hills – and what hills they are! Where else can you experience a skyline that compares to the ridges of Foinaven and Arkle, or classic hills like Suilven or Stac Pollaidh? In places like this it’s not just the eagles or the peregrines that soar. This is the most sparsely populated corner of Europe. Set yourself free in a place with space to spare.
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 7 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.
Our vision is for the region to be a thriving and sustainable rural economy capitalising on the assets and people of the Geopark in partnership with local government, relevant agencies and local businesses.
Our mission is to celebrate, conserve and promote our unique, internationally recognised geological heritage in a manner consistent with our status as a Scottish Registered Charity and UNESCO accreditation. We are visibly embedded in our communities, both local and international, and work alongside trusted partners who share our values and aspirations. In so doing, we aspire to use this heritage to help maintain economically sustainable communities, being ever mindful of climate change and wider social issues.
The strategic objectives we have set for ourselves between 2020 and 2030 are to:
Promote Promote the Geopark, in particular to partners, the local community, visitors and those seeking knowledge of the area’s geology
Conserve Conserve and enhance our geological heritage and promote and engage in the discussion of broader environmental issues
Engage Encourage awareness of, and educate about, the geodiversity, historical, cultural and economic importance of the area, and encourage further geological and related research
Develop Work closely with businesses, educational groups, voluntary and statutory agencies to generate further employment and environmentally responsible and sustainable economic activity within the Geopark
Manage Develop such systems, management structures and methodologies as are required to implement these strategic objectives
Finance Secure and maintain a pipeline of future funding
There are two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Scotland and we work closely together to achieve these aims.
Geopark Shetland (UNESCO Global Geopark)
The North West Highlands Geopark is special for a number of reasons:
- Unimaginable age – Lewisian Gneiss in the area is 3,000 million years old, which means that the rocks you see along the coastline are among the oldest rocks in Britain.
- Incredible complexity – the impacts of the Moine Thrust have created a very complicated geological legacy which puzzled and fascinated geologists for decades!
- World class scenery – this complex geology has created stunning landscapes where each rock type produces its own unique and evocative habitats.
- Important scientific discoveries – since the 19th century the area designated by the Geopark has been a key site for geological research.
Every Geopark has a management plan designed to foster sustainable socio-economic development and must show that it is working to conserve and enhance the local geological heritage at the same time as providing learning opportunities based around geoscientific disciplines and broader environmental issues.
One of the functions of a UNESCO or European Geopark is to demonstrate and share best practice strategies with other Geopark areas on the issue of Earth heritage conservation and how it relates to sustainable development opportunities for local communities.
If you are hunting for fossils or seeking out rocks be sure to follow the Scottish Fossil Code and the Geology Fieldwork Code