UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites of international geological heritage are holistically managed for protection, education and sustainable development. These model spaces involve the whole community, developing local cultural identities which protect and celebrate the land, using science as a foundation for progress. For more information download the latest UNESCO Global Geopark publication 4.2 MB pdf.

At present there are 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 33 countries around the world, including 69 in Europe, all of which are members of the Global Geoparks Network (GGN). The GGN is a dynamic network where members work together to share examples of good practice and join together in common projects.

The UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks is responsible for coordinating Geoparks at a national level and the submission of UK candidates for UNESCO Global Geoparks designation. At present there are seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK. Together with representatives from the UK National Commission for UNESCO, the BGS, the Geological Society of London, Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural Resources Wales, Natural England and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, all make up the UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks.

How to become a UNESCO Global Geopark in the UK

Before considering an application to become a UNESCO Global Geopark all candidates should ensure that they meet the relevant criteria as set out in the Operational Guidelines for UNESCO Global Geoparks 80 KB pdf. Candidates should also have been functioning as a de facto UNESCO Global Geopark for at least one year. All candidates should demonstrate that they have discussed and exchanged knowledge with other UNESCO Global Geoparks, as well as with the UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks. It is also important to seek advice at this stage, participate in international and regional UNESCO Global Geopark meetings, conferences and short courses.

Prior to submission, any aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark must submit a formal expression of interest through the UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is then followed by the submission of a comprehensive application dossier, again to the UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks, who will verify that it meets the relevant criteria before forwarding it on to UNESCO with a letter of support.

Go to the UNESCO website for more information about the UNESCO Global Geopark application process, including the requirement of the UNESCO Global Geopark application dossier and the relevant timelines.

UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK

English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark

Situated within the stunning, rolling hills of South Devon, the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark can be found in Torbay, and includes the resort towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixton. Torbay's geology has created a beautiful coastline, linking the rich diversity of the landscape with its wildlife, people and culture.

The Geopark's outstanding historical contribution, both in terms of the development of geological and archaeological sciences is astounding: from the Huttonian Theory, to the naming of the Devonian Period by Sedgwick and Murchison, and even Pengelly's discoveries informing worldwide public opinion as to the antiquity of man.

Fforest Fawr Geopark UNESCO Global Geopark

Fforest Fawr

Fforest Fawr, or ‘great forest’ in English, is a swathe of upland country that comprises the western half of the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.

The rocks and landscapes of Fforest Fawr Geopark record significant events in the Earth’s history and help us to understand the geological evolution of Wales, the rest of the UK and Europe.

The BGS works closely with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and other partners including Cardiff University to maintain UNESCO Global Geopark status for Fforest Fawr.

To support Fforest Fawr's Geopark status, the BGS has also worked with partners to produce several geological maps, memoirs and Geotrail leaflets of the area.

GeoMôn UNESCO Global Geopark

Anglesey image gallery. Click to enlarge.

GeoMôn gets its name from Ynys Môn, Welsh for the isle of Anglesey, the largest of the Welsh islands, and located off the north west coast of Wales. The entire island is part of the Geopark with its spectacular geological history that spans four eras, 12 geological time periods and 1800 million years.

GeoMôn tells of the opening and closing of ancient oceans, the growth and eventual death of volcanoes, the blossoming of life in shallow tropical seas, through to the formation of huge ice sheets that grew and then eventually melted away in response to recent changes in our climate.

The BGS has produced an interactive map of Anglesey that shows the landforms and sediments, and provides summaries of how the main glacial features (striae, drumlins, meltwater channels) were formed — more about the Anglesey iMap.

Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark

Young people in the Marble Arch Caves

Straddling the border between Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Co. Cavan in the Republic of Ireland, the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark was the first area in the UK to be recognised as a Geopark in 2001, and became the first transnational Geopark in the world in 2008.

Centred on the iconic Cuilcagh Mountain, there is a vast geological history stretching as far back as the Precambrian period, but dominated by Carboniferous limestone, shale and sandstone. One of the main tourist locations in the Geopark is the Marble Arch Caves in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, that attracts over 60 000 visitors every year and is a key site for geoscience education in Northern Ireland.

The GSNI and GSI have worked with the Geopark since the late 1990s to produce educational resources, provide geological input into all activities and to represent the Geopark at various European and International meetings and conferences.

North Pennines AONB UNESCO Global Geopark

North Pennines

Located in the uplands in the north of England, the North Pennines AONB UNESCO Global Geopark stretches across the counties of Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria.

The landscape reflects nearly 500 million years of geological heritage. However, it is most famous for its mineral veins where over the centuries lead ore and other minerals have been mined leaving behind a rich industrial and cultural heritage.

In 2003 the North Pennines AONB Partnership commissioned the BGS to prepare a comprehensive Geodiversity Audit of those geological features present within the AONB.

Based upon this audit, and in close collaboration with BGS staff, the North Pennines AONB Staff Unit prepared a detailed Local Geodiversity Action Plan (LGAP) to guide their work in furthering the interests of geodiversity within the AONB.

North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark

North West Highlands

Seen by many as the cradle of modern geology, the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the far north west of Scotland and encompasses some of the finest mountains and coastal landscapes in the UK. It extends from the north coast at Durness to Achmelvich in the south.

The Geopark includes some of the oldest rocks in Europe (the Lewisian gneisses), and is dominated by the internationally important Moine Thrust Zone, the first thrust belt ever to be scientifically documented.

The BGS works closely with the Geopark and has produced various publications on the geology of the area including a Walkers' guide of Assynt, a revised Assynt Special Sheet geological map and a 3D Geological Model of the Assynt area.

UNESCO Global Geopark Shetland

Geopark Shetland

The most northerly of the UK UNESCO Global Geoparks, and taking in all of the islands that make up the Shetland archipelago, the UNESCO Global Geopark Shetland contains rocks from every geological period from the Precambrian to the Carboniferous.

Its rocks tell an amazing story of how the world has formed and changed, with oceans closing and opening, as well as mountains forming and eroding. Its northerly location also means that it is a haven for wildlife, especially birds, as well as having a strong Norse heritage all of which are intricately linked with the landscape.

The BGS has been working with the Geopark on the Drifting Apart project (that also includes North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark and Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark) to 3D scan a number of sites for interpretation.

Aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks

There are currently three aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK:


Contact Kirstin Lemon for more information