Mourne-Gullion-Strangford awarded‌ ‌UNESCO‌ Global‌ ‌Geopark‌ ‌status‌
Mourne-Gullion-Strangford awarded‌ ‌UNESCO‌ Global‌ ‌Geopark‌ ‌status‌

The country’s newest Geopark tells the tale of two oceans as full UNESCO Geopark status is granted

Office: UKNC    –    May 25, 2023

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At the UNESCO Executive Board Meeting in Paris this month, Newry Mourne and Down’s bid for full UNESCO Global Geopark status for Mourne-Gullion-Strangford was granted, recognising this area’s unique landscape and geology. This landscape is varied and beautiful, shaped over aeons by the collision of continents, the appearance and disappearance of oceans, through tumultuous volcanic events, and the rough treatment of ice ages. It has shaped a rich biodiversity and a vibrant cultural life, which the new Geopark will celebrate.

Mourne Gullion Strangford granted UNESCO status

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The status of Geopark is hard won. Since 2012 the Geopark project team at Newry Mourne and Down District Council, in partnership with the Geological Survey Northern Ireland, has worked on an intense engagement programme with residents and stakeholders. As a result, the everyone involved is delighted that UNESCO has awarded Mourne Gullion Strangford the UNESCO Global Geopark (UGG) status in recognition of this work and the extraordinary landscape it praises.

A Geopark is a single unified geographical area, in this case, stretching from the waters of Strangford across the Mourne Mountains to the Ring of Gullion and beyond. A Geopark is a landscape that is managed holistically for the protection of its geology, the education of its people and visitors, and the sustainable development of its businesses. The Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark is about working together to make the most of our beautiful landscape through sustainable tourism, biodiversity improvements, geological education and outdoor recreation.

Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark is one of only nine outstanding landscapes worldwide awarded full Geopark status this year. The award recognises the area’s internationally significant geological heritage, particularly the spectacular landscape of the District’s three AONBs, the dramatic ancient volcanic landscapes of the Ring of Gullion, the high granite peaks of the Mournes and the rolling drumlins of Strangford.

The designation is an international standard, and a Geopark enjoys the same level of recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, as the title has no legal status, there are no additional restrictions on planning, development or farming practices. Instead, the principal focus is on using the area’s heritage to support its sustainable economic development – primarily through sustainable tourism.

Over 181,000 people live within the limits of the new Geopark, which follow the administrative boundary of Newry Mourne and Down District Council and extend out into the sea to encompass the Marine Protected Areas of Strangford Lough, Murlough Bay, and Carlingford Lough. Many of these people make their living from tourism or tourism-related activities; So becoming a Geopark was identified in the Council’s 2017 – 2021 Tourism Strategy as a catalyst to support tourism growth sustainably. To meet this aim, the Council has involved the local community, tourism providers, government, education and environment sectors in promoting the benefits of Geopark status.

Mourne Gullion Strangford is unique amongst UNESCO Global Geoparks as it tells a tale of two oceans across over 400 million years of geological history. The geology of the area charts the closure of the ancient Iapetus Ocean, which brought together the island of Ireland’s two parts. It follows the island drifting with the continents through tropical latitudes and then welcomes the birth of the modern North Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the last glaciation carved this ancient landscape into the fantastic place we see today. No other UNESCO Global Geoparks has such a range of geological characteristics.


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