In this month's newsletter find out about recent developments at the Rock Stop, the new Rock Route road signage, what's going on in the Geoheritage Festival, recent Geotours and the forthcoming UNESCO revalidation visit.
But firstly we would like to say thank you to all the new Friends of the Geopark who signed up in June. The number continues to grow and we now have 70 Friends showing their generous support for the Geopark which includes helping to facilitate the production of this newsletter.
The Rock Stop is the Geopark's exhibition centre, cafe and shop. The exhibition features explanations and examples of the rocks to be found in the Geopark, as well as an augmented reality sandbox and a virtual reality time machine. The shop stocks a wide selection of geology and general interest books as well as Geopark merchandise and local craft work.
Our new enthusiastic young team of Alison, Frieda, Dominic, Jenny and Ben serve light lunches, soup, sandwiches and toasties as well as tea, coffee and cakes. Why not pop in and enjoy our delicious food delivered from our refurbished kitchen whilst enjoying one of the most scenic views you will find in any cafe anywhere in the world. There is even an interpretation of the geology and landscape form the exhibition room window.
It is open 7 days a week 10am – 4.30pm and with your Friends card you can pick up your a free Pebble Route booklet (now offering a further 25% discount on subsequent Pebble Route purchases).
Special July Offer - Friends of the Geopark are being offered a 10% discount on tea, coffee and other hot drinks throughout the month of July.
Do you shop with Amazon? If so, why not choose Amazon Smile and nominate North West Highlands Geopark as your preferred charity? The choices and prices are the same but with every purchase a percentage is donated to the Geopark by Amazon.
Geopark Opens New Tourist Trail Signage
An existing tourist route has just had a makeover with new road signs installed through the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark to guide visitors along the interpretative trail known as the ‘Rock Route’. A number of ‘GeoPods’ have also been put up to give local tourist information.
Using the distinctive Geopark logo of a Celtic knot, the long-established Rock Route is now clearly marked throughout the Geopark. The new signs have been made possible with funding through the Highland LEADER programme, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish and Southern Electricity’s Sustainable Development Fund, Highland Council Ward Discretionary Fund and the Geoparks own funds.
The Rock Route is a series of 14 panels to guide visitors between Ullapool and Loch Eriboll, giving a flavour of the unique landscape and geology to be seen. As visitors have increased to the Geopark, most recently through the popularity of the North Coast 500 tourist trail, the Rock Route aims to slow down travellers, encouraging them to stop enjoy and learn more about the astonishing landscape. The GeoPods along the Rock Route provide additional information for the tourists at Strathcanaird and Rhiconnich.
Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, north of Ullapool, which is on the Rock Route, is owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. In 2018, this remarkable site saw the highest number of visitors in 15 years.
Reserve Manager, Sue Agnew, commented “Whilst we welcome this increase in visitors to our National Nature Reserve we really want to encourage them to stop a while and explore the surrounding countryside. The North West Highlands Geopark is a unique landscape that everyone can see around them. SNH established the Rock Route through the Geopark in 2001, and upgraded and extended it in 2013. However, some of the stops were actually quite difficult to find! Working with the Geopark on this project the sites are now more clearly sign posted making them much more accessible for all to stop and enjoy”.
Peter Harrison who led the project on behalf of the Geopark added “We hope everyone will appreciate this newly signposted route. It takes in some of the best viewpoints in the Geopark, including Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve and the Rock Stop Geocentre at Unapool near Kylesku which is the home of the Geopark. You can learn more about the landscape in the area here, whilst having a cup of tea! We have also sign-posted our GeoPods which give more local information on where to visit in the Geopark, and how the landscape has developed to what we see today.”
Sean's Scotland Visits Knockan Crag
The STV Weather man, Sean Batty, has just been filming in the geopark, including an interview with Pete Harrison at Knockan Crag, followed by a quick visit to the Rock Stop at Unapool. He and the crew were really interested to find out about what is happening in the Geopark. The programme containing this section will be broadcast in Monday 8th July at 8pm on STV and will be available later on the STV Player.
This July we will undergo our four yearly assessment by UNESCO to determine whether our work is up to the high standards expected of their designations. The revalidation team has been chosen from a highly experienced pool of evaluators who all work in other Global Geoparks around the world.
This time we will be hosting Asier Orus from Basque Country, Spain and Yongmun Jeon from Jeju Island, South Korea. We will be travelling all over the Geopark (dates below) meeting with partners & communities to show them our work as well as holding sit down meetings to allow them to scrutinise our plans for the next four years.
16th July - Ullapool & Coigach
17th July - Assynt & Scourie
18th July - Kinlochbervie & Durness.
It's not all about assessing us though. Revalidators can offer recommendations, best practice and helpful ideas so we can ask them as many awkward questions as they ask us! Results will be announced early in 2020 and we can anticipate a red, yellow or green card.
Pictured here are some of our previous revalidators. All are volunteers and work in a Geopark.
Geotours continue to be a popular attraction to the Geopark with over fifty participants joining the tours over the last year.
We have been informed that there have been some difficulties in obtaining accommodation due to the increase in tourism, particularly since the launch of the North Coast 500, and so with this in mind we will publicise the Geotour earlier for 2020 to give everyone plenty of time to arrange accommodation.
Friends of the Geopark will have a protected two-week period at the start of booking before the places go on general distribution.
As well as learning about the geological history of the area and how to identify the various rock types, you also get to visit some remote corners of the north west highlands and see some spectacular scenery. Here are some images from previous Geotours.
Geopark Newsletters & Bulletins
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 for attending events in the Geopark. 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.