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Visitor Service Advisors at VisitScotland’s Ullapool iCentre are promoting the area’s unique geo-tourism credentials to visitors thanks to a partnership with the North West Highlands (NWH) UNESCO Global Geopark.
The NWH Geopark – Scotland’s first - is recognised by UNESCO as one of the most outstanding landscapes on the planet. At three billion years old, the rocks at the seashore are even older than the hills.
Located in the far north of the Highlands, the Geopark comprises 100 miles of the North Coast 500 driving route and takes in around 2,000sq km of mountain, peatland, beach, forest and rugged coastlines with a population of just 2,000 people.
NWH Geopark staff have made familiarisation visits to the iCentre and engaged with visitor services advisors from both Ullapool and Inverness iCentres, to enable them to knowledgeably chat to visitors and promote the area’s strong geological credentials. They also provide hard copies of maps and itineraries for visitors via the iCentre, in addition to the information being available online.John Keith, Visitor Services Advisor (VSA) at Ullapool iCentre, said
“What the Geopark staff provide, in terms of a different kind of information about the area, gives visitors a much deeper understanding of the origins of the landscape and how it interacts with the people who lived here in the past and who live here today.
“It’s all about the richness of the experience for the visitor - way beyond just a scientific approach. For example, one of the key Geopark attractions is Knockan Crag, where the geological information is beautifully highlighted by a range of stunning sculptures commissioned for the site.”
VSAs provide feedback to Geopark staff about visitors’ current interests, comments they have made about the Geopark as well as highlighting any new publications, events or businesses that may be of interest.John said:
“The relationship is important to us for a number of reasons. As a community-based organisation, they can provide a community focus and their commitment to published information meets the needs of our many visitors who want maps and information in their hands and not on their phones.
“This partnership with the Geopark helps us to encourage people to stay longer and explore the hidden gems, as well as advising visitors about the importance of responsible tourism.
“Their leaflets, like the ‘Rock Routes’ and ‘Pebble Routes’, help by offering visitors a structured way to explore the area. Pebble Routes are self-guided trails allowing visitors to explore the lesser-travelled byroads of the NWH Geopark. These driving and cycling routes through some of the nation’s best roads, take in small communities and hidden treasures.”Dr Laura Hamlet, North West Highlands Geopark Manager, said
“The personal connection at the iCentre is invaluable. The VisitScotland staff give excellent advice and use the tools we provide, like maps, guides, and web information together with their personal knowledge to help visitors make responsible choices.”
Like the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Geoparks have to undergo a rigorous revalidation. In 2019, assessors met with iCentre staff in Ullapool to assess the impact and role of the NWH Geopark.John said:
“We have continued to work closely with the NWH Geopark as part of the COVID-19 recovery process by promoting their new touring leaflet and interactive touring map, which aims to help visitors find places to visit and track down essential services like toilets and facilities for motorhomes. Their community base also helps to keep us up to date with what is happening in the wider area and alerting us to any issues of overuse by visitors.”
For more information about Ullapool iCentre visit: www.visitscotland.com
For more information about the North West Highlands Geopark, visit https://www.nwhgeopark.com
Ullapool iCentre partners with NWH Geopark