Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is moving forward with plans to establish a UNESCO Global Geopark in the three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the district; Mourne, Ring of Gullion and Strangford & Lecale. If successful, the UNESCO Global Geopark brand will use the shared geological heritage of the three areas as a mechanism for sustainable tourism; generating economic benefits, providing recreational opportunities and increasing awareness of the natural capital of the entire area.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said, “UNESCO Global Geopark designation for the area will play a key role in differentiating the region and in giving it a much stronger and cohesive market identity. The UNESCO Global Geoparks will bring significant economic benefits and will also have an important role to play in empowering local communities, giving them the opportunities to develop cohesive partnerships with the common goal of promoting the area’s significant geological and other heritage”.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is seeking UNESCO Global Geopark Status for the Mournes, Slieve Gullion and Strangford areas. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ www.newry.ie
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is seeking UNESCO Global Geopark Status for the Mournes, Slieve Gullion and Strangford areas. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ www.newry.ie

UNESCO Global Geopark status is awarded to areas with internationally important geological heritage of which there is no shortage in the district’s three AONBs. From the dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Ring of Gullion, to the high granite peaks of the Mournes and the rolling drumlins of Strangford Lough, the region has long been prized for its landscape all of which has been formed and shaped by various earth processes over millions of years.

The UNESCO Global Geopark brand is not a statutory designation and therefore does not impose any restrictions on planning or development. Instead, it works in tandem with local landowners, businesses and communities to use the natural heritage as a tool for sustainable tourism. Only those sites with public access or with specific access arrangements will be actively promoted as part of the UNESCO Global Geopark to ensure that the area is sensitively managed with the interests of the local communities and landowners at its very core.

In addition to natural heritage, UNESCO Global Geoparks include areas with cultural heritage such as historical and archaeological sites, and also intangible heritage such as literature and art, all of which have been influenced by the geological heritage. All of these sites add to the overall attraction of the region ensuring that all visitors can enjoy a fully immersive tourism experience.

The proposed UNESCO Global Geopark in the Mourne, Gullion and Strangford areas will join 127 others across the world in 35 different countries, all of whom have been awarded this significant status on the basis of their internationally important rocks and landscape.

Pin It