Galloway and Southern Ayrshire ‘Biosphere Experiences’ initiative
The South West of Scotland has often been overlooked as a tourism destination, with many visitors heading to the more widely marketed and promoted ‘Highlands and Islands’ of Scotland. However, the South West of Scotland which was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere in 2012, has a rich natural and cultural heritage in its own right. Being less well known its roads, its hills, its beaches are all quieter but the quality of authentic experiences that can be enjoyed are all there if only people knew where to go and what to see. The Biosphere Experiences initiative intends to celebrate and promote what’s distinctly special about our region, and to build on the UNESCO Biosphere designation to support the development of new eco-tourism opportunities that will make the region more accessible to visitors.
Our initiative is focused on the Glentrool and Cree Valley area of the Biosphere. Glentrool is the only village located in the buffer of our UNESCO Biosphere and located in the Galloway Forest Park which is a gold standard International Dark Skies Association designated Dark Sky Park. The area has a history of hill farming and over time land use has changed to forestry. Glentrool village was purpose built to provide homes for forest workers but due to less labour-intensive forestry methods the original forest workers and their families no longer remain. The remaining community in the village of Glentrool either work in outside the area, in home businesses or are retired. They are looking to create a new future and story for their village with a desire to increase tourism and visitors to the village and surrounding area through the work of its Development Trust.
We are looking to develop opportunities for the visitor and tourist to sustainably experience the ‘Biosphere’. Some guiding experiences are currently taking place, but the opportunity exists to further develop this around nature-based tourism and building on the heritage and culture and the story of the changing land-use over time. Our initiative will be exploring Nature Based Tourism and experiential opportunities for wildlife watching; the opportunities to develop stories and experiences connected to the land ‘Our Home – Our Heritage and Biosphere Experiences in the Dark Sky Park to include star gazing, night walks, picnics, night cycling, swimming and dark story telling.
Our intention is to add value to existing opportunities such as partnering and packaging up local guides with accommodation providers and local food opportunities as well as developing new experiences through either expanding the remit of existing guides and training new people to take on the guiding role and develop understanding on how to build a business on the outdoors
What is Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere?
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is in South West Scotland and covers 5,268 square kilometres and is home to 95,000 people. Our UNESCO Biosphere boundary embraces a diverse countryside of lowland and upland farms and forests. Centred on the Galloway Hills, the rivers radiating out provide water as a common theme connecting the cultural identity and natural environment with everyone living and working in the area. The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere has been recognised for its special natural qualities but also acknowledges the challenges rural communities now face.
Managed by a Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership which was established following the designation of the Biosphere by UNESCO in 2012. The Biosphere status does not affect other existing designations but creates a forum for cooperation, discussion and innovation. Comprising of representation from the public, private, community and third sector, the Partnership aims to promote a more sustainable and balanced use of natural, cultural and social assets for the benefit of local communities and businesses.
Our simple, yet powerful, vision for South West Scotland is to make life in the Biosphere better for people and nature. Cherishing our landscapes, nature and heritage through improved stewardship creates a sure foundation for long term sustainable development, improved prosperity, wellbeing and pride. http://www.gsabiosphere.org.uk/