Highlands & Islands

Lochaber loses Unesco geopark status

Talk in Glen Roy
Image caption A guided walk at Lochaber Geopark

Unesco has withdrawn geopark status from an area of the Highlands that inspired work by scientist Charles Darwin in the 1800s.

Volunteers running Lochaber Geopark could not raise the funds needed to employ a full-time project officer, a requirement of the designation.

The status, which aims to protect and promote landscapes, was awarded by Unesco in 2007.

Scotland's other parks are North West in Sutherland and Geopark Shetland.

The status is revalidated every four years.

In a statement, the voluntary group behind Lochaber Geopark expressed disappointment at losing the Unesco recognition.

A spokesman said: "Lochaber Geopark was set up to promote understanding and appreciation of how the local scenery was created.

"It intends to maintain as many as possible of its current activities, but in the current financial climate it will be difficult to regain Unesco recognition."

To launch the park, Scottish Natural Heritage provided £75,000, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Lochaber gave £56,500, £45,900 was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, £15,000 was given by Highland Council and £10,000 from the European Leader programme.

Darwin spent five days in the Glen Roy in 1838 and said the experience surpassed an earlier expedition to Chile.

The scientist studied the glen's Parallel Roads, the shorelines of ancient lochs.

Darwin wrote of his trip: "I wandered over the mountains in all directions and examined that most extraordinary district.

"I think without any exception, not even the first volcanic island, the first elevated beach, or the passage of the Cordillera, was so interesting to me, as this week.

"It is far the most remarkable area I ever examined."

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