Asier Hilario Orus and Yongmun Jeon touring the Geopark
Two weeks ago the North West Highlands Geopark hosted its UNESCO revalidation mission. Every four years UNESCO Global Geoparks are quality assessed by UNESCO and this year it was the North West Highland’s turn. All aspects of the management structure, strategic plans and activities were under scrutiny so Geopark volunteers and staff took on the very serious responsibility to ensure our region receives a green card from UNESCO.
The inspectors are drawn by UNESCO from a pool of experienced Geopark Coordinators from around the world and so this year we were pleased to welcomeAsier Hilario Orus from The Basque Coast Global Geopark in Spain andYongmun Jeon from Jeju Island Global Geopark in Korea.
The mission took place over five days and included meetings with 34 different stakeholder groups from communities in Lochbroom, Coigach, Assynt, Scourie, Kinlochbervie, Durness and Tongue community council areas.
The Visit Scotland visitor advisor team did a phenomenal job of promoting our Geopark and the region, even speaking Spanish and talking about the Spanish Geoparks.
In each community we met with development trusts, business owners and stakeholders such as the John Muir Trust and the Coigach Assynt Living Landscape Partnership. All of whom impressed the inspectors with the sheer volume of work which is being undertaken with such a low population.
The new Friends Of The Geopark scheme gives you the opportunity to help the Geopark achieve its aims and provide a service to you and the public at large.
With no core funding from central or local government your contribution can make all the difference. As well as the satisfaction of knowing that your contribution is supporting the work of the Geopark, you can also take advantage of the various benefits on offer to all Friends Of The Geopark.
Current Offers for Friends Of The Geopark
A 10% discount on tea, coffee and other hot drinks at the Rock Stop throughout the month of August.
Priority given to bookings for 2020 Geotours including an early bird discount.
Some Friends visiting the Rock Stop
Seventy new Friends Of The Geopark have already signed up since the launch of the campaign, so please consider joining them to show that support exists for our work.
The main season is now well underway with not only the Geoheritage Festival events but also a second season with the Geopark team leading groups from visiting Cruise Ships to Knockan Crag and the Bone Caves.
The number of ships calling at Ullapool has increased in recent years with one of the main attractions being our UNESCO Global Geopark designation.
The Viking Sun anchored in Loch Broom
Photo by Neil Borthwick
Visitor numbers at the Rock Stop Centre have also increased still further this season, with over 2000 in each of the last 2 months. The new team there are attracting positive comments from those visiting and the Friends discounts are being appreciated.
The final Geotour of 2019 will take place in September and has been fully booked for many months.
Due to the increase of tourism in the North West Highlands with new attractions like the NC500, the demands on accommodation have been great and as a result it is becoming harder to find rooms unless you book early. To address this we are happy to announce dates for two of the 2020 Geotours earlier than usual.
Wed 27th May – Tues 2nd June
Wed 16th – 22nd September
The cost of the Geotour is £260 and we are offering a 10% early bird discount. Friends of the Geopark will have priority booking throughout August when the tours will be advertised more widely.
We’ve been out and about at most of the main events in the Geopark this year with our stall and Geopark Quiz. The Quiz is just a bit of fun to help us listen to residents & visitors and get them thinking and talking about the Geopark.
So far we’re finding that the majority of residents are pretty clued up; at Coigach Gathering 90% of them said they knew that they live in a UNESCO Global Geopark and at the Tongue Fun Day a similar number were aware they live right next door to one. In Durness we spoke to a good mix of tourists and local people and found just over half were already aware of the UNESCO status of the area.
A fun day out in Tongue
We’ve been asking people why the Global Geopark matters to them; so far no one has been brave enough to say it doesn’t and the vast majority feel proud of it.
Many others think it gives our Natural Heritage an added level of protection and they recognise its importance in coordinating sustainable development efforts, providing extra earth science education and attracting visitors.
Interestingly there’s a perception that a Global Geopark is ‘like a national park, but for geology’; it isn’t, national parks are set up by an act of parliament and have statutory powers over planning etc.
Global Geoparks carry no legal restrictions or powers, instead they are tools for community empowerment and regional sustainable development. It really is our Geopark, an international recognition of one of our area’s biggest assets - its outstanding landscapes and geological heritage – for use by us to build a better future for ourselves.
How we do that is partly up to us; but the international recognition that comes with Global Geopark status can also act as a lever to get the attention of central government into one of the most sparsely populated places in Europe.
Geopark staff Joanne and Laura at the Coigach Gathering
We’re really enjoying listening to what folks have to say and we’ll next be at the Assynt games on the 9th of August. Hope to see you there!
NW Highlands Geoheritage Festival Events
The 2019 Geoheritage Festival continues with more events over the next few months. Here are some of the walks and talks for August and September.
7th August - Knockan Crag Walk : 10:30 - 12:30hrs
12th August - Guided Quinag Walk with the John Muir Trust
12th August - Book Launch of the New Edition of Hutton's Arse hosted by Pete Harrison, Geopark Geologist
14th August - Knockan Crag Walk : 10:30 - 12:30hrs
21st August - Knockan Crag Walk : 15:00 - 17:00hrs
27th August - Talk by Alastair Mitchell on Vintage Geological Maps
2nd September - Guided Quinag Walk with the John Muir Trust
17th September - Landscapes in Stone - Book Launch with Alan McKirdy
22nd September - Explore the watercourses and caves at Traligill Valley, Inchnadamph with Pete Harrison, Geopark Geologist
Full details of all Geoheritage Festival events for 2019 are available on the website.
We will shortly by changing the format of the current Geopark Newsletter with the aim of focusing both on the activities and the work of the North West Highlands Geopark.
To achieve this we will now be producing two publications - the Geopark Newsletter and the Geopark Bulletin. Both will be provided via email.
The Geopark Bulletin will be sent to everyone who wishes to be on the Geopark mailing list and will concentrate on all the activities & events being hosted around the Geopark. Its purpose is to provide you with the opportunity to get involved and learn more about the geology, wildlife and environment of the Geopark. The bulletins will normally be published during the season (Easter - October) as events are launched.
The Geopark Newsletter will be primarily aimed at the Friends Of The Geopark and will provide feedback on the work that is being carried out thanks to members donations. In addition it will offer various member benefits and discounts as well as other articles of interest. The Geopark Newsletter will be regularly published by email throughout the year.
If you would like to start receiving the Geopark Newsletter it is included within the Friends Of The Geopark Membership.