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UNESCO Designations

UNESCO Designations: World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves and Geoparks


UNESCO exists to promote collaboration among nations through education, science and culture. Within Scotland, there are three UNESCO mechanisms to designate areas for management towards this end - World Heritage Site (WHS), Biosphere Reserve, and Geopark.

World Heritage Sites

St KildaSt Kilda is the only "natural" World Heritage Site in Scotland at present.  It's one of only two-dozen global locations to be awarded World Heritage Site Status for both natural and cultural significance.

Biosphere Reserves

UNESCO has also established a network of Biosphere Reserves as representatives of natural habitats characteristic of the world's natural regions.  There are currently two designated Biosphere Reserves in Scotland - Galloway and Southern Ayrshire, and Wester Ross.


The key functions of a Geopark are to protect the geological heritage, promote geology to the public, and to use geology and other aspects of the natural and cultural heritage to promote sustainable economic development, normally through tourism.

In 2015, UNESCO announced a new designation which created a network of "UNESCO Global Geoparks".  Two of Scotland's Geoparks, North West Highlands Geopark and Geopark Shetland, received the designation.  Lochaber Geopark is currently applying.