What is a Geopark?

Geoparks are places where landscapes with outstanding geological heritage are used to support sustainable development; this is achieved through conservation, education, interpretation and nature-based tourism

The UNESCO Global Geoparks designation is the international standard recognising outstanding geology and landscapes. UNESCO Global Geoparks enjoy the same level of recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 160 around the globe, seven in the UK, and only two in Scotland. What sets it apart from other designations is that it comes without any restrictions on development as it has no legal status. The principal focus is on using heritage to support sustainable economic development of the area – primarily through responsible tourism.

Arran Geopark is a ‘UNESCO Aspiring Global Geopark’ and is currently working towards becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark.

There is a useful short PDF guide to accompany the video that can be downloaded from UNESCO.

Are Geoparks only about Geology?

While a Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, this alone is not enough to be a Geopark. Their purpose is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between its geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritages. It is about reconnecting human society to the planet and to celebrate how our Earth, and its 4,600-million-year long history, has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies. 

“A Geopark is NOT a geological park” – Guy Martini, President, Global Geoparks Council of UNESCO.

The meaning of the ‘geo’ in Geopark is derived from its original Ancient Greek meaning: the earth; the land; mother earth (‘gaia’); native land; or country.

The following provides an overview of the typical components of a Geopark:

Components of a Geopark (adapted from Fauzi & Misni, 2016)

Where can I find out more?

Information on Geoparks throughout the world can be found here:

Arran Geopark is part of a network of Scottish Geoparks:

Scotland’s Geoparks are all individually managed and financed; they are however represented by a charity who champion Scotland’s geological heritage – the Scottish Geology Trust.


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