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Viking sites lead the way in global treasure hunt

Geocaching boxes are tracked using GPS Geocaching boxes are tracked using GPS Zoom Shetland is part of an innovative new tourism initiative linking sites in Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Highland Scotland, and the Isle of Man. The Thing Sites GeoTour, which launched this week, has been developed as part of the EU Northern Periphery Programme funded THING Project and was created with the assistance of the team at Geocaching.com.

The THING Project has hidden geocaches at a number of thing site locations throughout the North Atlantic. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game played using a GPS or an app on a smartphone. Players seek hidden items by downloading coordinates from www.geocaching.com

Things, from the Old Norse þing, are the early assemblies found throughout Northern Europe as a result of our shared Norse heritage. When the Vikings and early Norse settlers arrived in a new place they brought with them their customs and legal systems. Thing sites were places where people came together to deliver justice and to trade. They are often described as the Viking cradle of democracy, and their legacy can still be seen throughout Scandinavia and beyond.

Lauren Doughton, Place Names Assistant for the Shetland Amenity Trust said 'We're really pleased to be launching this exciting new GeoTour. Geocaching is a fantastic way of encouraging people to get outside and explore their local area. For our Norse ancestors the thing sites would have been a central location within their landscape. Today the only indication we have that many of them existed is through place names. The GeoTour is a great way of bringing the historic links between these places to life, and making them accessible to people again.'

Geotourism is a growing movement worldwide, and GeoTours have been successfully developed by a number of organisations including the Jim Henson Company in the United States. The Thing Sites GeoTour is the first official tour to be set up 'across the pond,' and is leading the way in creating a model for sustainable heritage tourism and interpretation.

"The Thing Sites GeoTour harnesses the power of geocaching to bring these significant locations to life." Jenn Seva of Geocaching.com says, "Geocaching has always been a global phenomenon. The first Northern European GeoTour pays homage to the roots of our activity and lets us be modern-day explorers ourselves. It's an unparalleled adventure for geocachers and history lovers."

The Renwick family of Cuckron enjoy geocaching. The Renwick family of Cuckron enjoy geocaching. Zoom Lauren continued 'We wanted to create a resource that would show the links between all of these different places, and would really let people think about the landscape and how people may have experienced it in the past. Geocaching provided us with the ideal opportunity to do this. There was no need to set up expensive on-site interpretation, or intrusive signs. Anyone can take part so long as they have access to the internet, and most people's phones come with GPS applications today. The caches are at a range of locations, and there's something suitable for all ages and abilities.'

Players can start their Thing Sites geocaching adventure by visiting http://www.geocaching.com/adventures/geotours/thingsites. From there you can view a list of all available caches and download the coordinates onto your GPS device or mobile phone.

For more information about thing sites in general, visit the thing project website.