Global Network of National Geoparks

European Geopark conference begins in North-West Highlands Geopark

Source : Published :September 14, 2007

SOME 150 people from across the world were making their way to Ullapool this week for the 7th European Geopark Network Open Conference being hosted by the North West Highlands Geopark.

They include representatives from 31 Geoparks across Europe, many rural communities in Europe hoping one day to gain Geopark status, and a special delegation from Australia talking about their own cultural landscapes. The conference will be opened today (Friday) by Scottish Environment Minister Michael Russell.

The North West Highlands Geopark covers 2000 square kilometres including the communities of Durness, Kinlochbervie, Scourie, Assynt and Coigach. The five-day conference will examine the links between geology, culture and land use.

A range of events has been arranged across the Geopark for conference delegates, local people and visitors to enjoy. Highlights include astronomy events provided by the Royal Observatory, the Geopark Market Place where you can buy local crafts and artisan products, viewing of a film by Gavin Lockhart of the Summer in the Straths journey made as part of Year of Culture with Essie Stewart, and music from Kenny John Matheson and friends, Blueridge, Carol-Anne Mackay of Dòchas and friends, Mystic Shoes and Babelfish.

In this centenary year of Peach and Horne's famous mapping, a collaborative art project called Mapping Mountains led by Dr Clare Bond of Glasgow University includes art work by local children, most recently exhibited at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. The week we also see the launch of a new Geopark arts project - Geoprint - introducing primary schools to artistic understandings of geodiversity.

Geopark officer Issie MacPhail said: "The financial support of Scottish Natural Heritage has made the conference and the Mapping Mountains project possible. We have recently developed a whole new set of leaflets and other interpretation about things to do and see in the Geopark, all of which helps us move forward in our development of geotourism."


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Scotland hosts international geoparks conference

Minister for Environment Michael Russell opened a major international natural heritage conference in Ullapool On September 14.

The conference on 'Landscapes and People: Earth Heritage, Culture and Economy' will focus on the role of geoparks in Scotland and across Europe and aims to encourage businesses, communities and young people to get involved in geopark activities and developments.

"Scotland's geology is unparalleled internationally in terms of its quality and access. Our involvement since 2004 in the European Geopark Network and UNESCO is already showing benefits in terms of promoting Scotland, its environment and its culture," said Russell.

"Scotland has two geoparks in Lochaber and North West Highlands and achieving this status is an accolade to both the quality of geology and the drive and determination of our communities to achieve sustainable development.

"I hope the new and sustained economic activity brought by geoparks will bring improvements for local rural communities through better access to services, social, cultural and youth development, sustainable tourism and employment opportunities."

International attendees at the conference travelled from as far afield as Hungary and Australia.

The North West Highland Geopark was the first to be designated in Scotland, in November 2004, and includes mountains in Assynt such as Ben More, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh.

Lochaber, an area of Scotland with an ancient and unique rock record, became Europe's newest Geopark in June 2007. It was awarded European Geopark status after the influential European Geoparks Network judged the region to have an important geological history and a sustainable development strategy.