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Shetland Geopark gains UNESCO recognition

Interpretive picnic table at Braewick, one of 17 such facilities across Shetland - Photos: Billy Fox for Shetland Amenity Trust

GEOPARK Shetland has been named as one of seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK.

The project – run by Shetland Amenity Trust for the last eight years – promotes the geology of the isles, which dates back over the last three billion years, as well as sustainable development.

On Tuesday the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) agreed for all 120 geoparks globally to become formally part of its worldwide network.

Amenity trust general manager Jimmy Moncrieff said the UNESCO status highlights the “world class geology” found in the isles.

“It is a prestigious accolade which everyone in Shetland should be proud of,” he said.

“I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has worked so very hard to bring this to fruition,” he said.

Visitor exploring Back Sand at Ollaberry, an extension of the Great Glen fault. Billy Fox

Shetland Geopark has so far attracted around £500,000 in outside funding to hold educational projects and promotional activities.

Dr Beth Taylor of the UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Natural Sciences described the UK’s seven UNESCO Global Geoparks as national treasures.

“They are a great illustration of local communities working very effectively in some of the most remote and beautiful areas of the UK.

“I appreciate that they are also a bit of a national secret, not widely recognised by visitors or even by many of those who live within their boundaries.

“I hope that the UNESCO brand will give our global geoparks the same recognition factor as world heritage sites – a visible guarantee of their international significance and an assurance that they are great places to visit and explore,” she said.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott was one of the first to congratulate Shetland Amenity trust for the achievement.

“I congratulate all those involved with Geopark Shetland on being awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status,” he said.

“Geopark Shetland encompasses some of the UK’s most extraordinary natural sites which both visitors and residents enjoy, such as the Keen of Hamar in Unst, the cliffs of Eshaness and the St Ninian’s tombolo, which have now received the international recognition they deserve.”

The UK’s other six global geoparks are:

  • North West Highlands
  • English Riviera
  • North Pennines
  • Florest Fawr
  • GeoMon Anglesey
  • Marble Arch Cave