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On the global trail: Shetland Geopark part of World’s first UNESCO trail

Published: 15 October 2021

The world’s first ever UNESCO trail, bringing together some of Scotland’s most iconic, diverse and culturally significant sites, has been launched today (Friday, 15 October, 2021). 

Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark is one of the 13 place-based designations included in Scotland’s UNESCO Trail which covers World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities. The dedicated digital trail aims to take visitors on a cultural journey across the country experiencing everything from history to science, music, design and literature to nature and cityscapes.

Designed specifically to support ambitions to make Scotland a world-leading responsible tourism destination, Scotland’s UNESCO Trail encourages visitors to stay longer, visit all year round, make sustainable travel choices, explore more widely, and in turn, contribute to the sustainable quality of life of those communities surrounding the designated sites.

The digital trail – which is available at www.visitscotland.com/unesco-trail – showcases the breadth of culturally astounding UNESCO designations on offer across Scotland, providing information and inspiration to visitors across the world. It also celebrates and priorities businesses and communities that are committed to responsible tourism business practices and promotes sustainable travel options.

Scotland is the first nation in the world to create a UNESCO trail, which has been developed through a unique partnership between VisitScotland, the Scottish Government, the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Historic Environment Scotland, NatureScot, the National Trust for Scotland, as well as Scotland’s 13 UNESCO designations, which include biospheres, global geoparks, creative cities and world heritage sites. The project has received £360,000 funding from the Scottish Government to support the strategy for the sustainable recovery of Scottish tourism. 

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee officially launched the trail today in Dundee, the UNESCO City of Design, by unveiling a specially commissioned design by illustrator and printmaker, Jagoda Sadowska, a graduate of the city’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. The design will be incorporated into the city’s Open Close tour as a permanent legacy of the trail. 

Mr. McKee said: “Scotland has always been a pioneering nation and I’m pleased to see we’re leading the way with the world’s first UNESCO digital trail. Tourism is key to Scotland’s economy and as we begin to recover from the pandemic, this collaboration between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, NatureScot and UNESCO could not be more timely.

“Supported by £360,000 of Scottish Government funding, the UNESCO Trail will help to attract and welcome both domestic and international visitors again, by showcasing Scotland’s unique cultural heritage and many UNESCO sites. As we approach COP26, I’m pleased to see that the UNESCO trail has sustainability at its core and will help visitors make responsible and sustainable choices by highlighting green accredited businesses and promoting environmentally friendly travel.”

Dr Val Turner, Regional Archaeologist, Shetland Amenity Trust said: “Shetland has long been proud to be recognised by UNESCO as a Geopark. We are delighted that we are now linked in a new way with UNESCO’s best within Scotland. This trail is an exciting new opportunity to be linked to the other UNESCO sites in a way that celebrates, promotes and encourages people to visit them all. I hope that the trail will mean that new audiences will discover what an ancient and yet dynamic and pure environment Shetland has. We look forward to welcoming new visitors as a result.”

The full list of designations included in Scotland’s UNESCO Trail are the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere, Dundee UNESCO City of Design, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, Glasgow UNESCO City of Music, Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark, North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, the Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site, Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Antonine Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site, Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site, St Kilda World Heritage Site.