Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark awarded UNESCO status

Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark has been awarded UNESCO status

Published: 18th November 2015

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, which is home to some of the world’s most spectacular and geologically significant landscapes, has been awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status.

The decision, announced by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) General Conference in Paris yesterday, sees the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark become Northern Ireland’s second only UNESCO supported location alongside the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site and puts it on a par with other UNESCO sites in Ireland such as the prehistoric monuments at Newgrange.

UNESCO Global Geopark status is awarded to areas with internationally important geological heritage that also have a sustainable tourism strategy so that they benefit the local and regional economy.

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, which straddles counties Fermanagh and Cavan, became the world’s first cross border Geopark in 2008. It is jointly managed by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council.

Commenting on the UNESCO announcement, Councillor Alex Baird, Chairman of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark Joint Operational Management Committee, said:

“Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council are absolutely delighted that UNESCO has recognised the importance of Global Geoparks in such a significant manner. UNESCO leads the way in safeguarding the World’s special places so the news that they have granted official programme status to Global Geoparks is hugely important. This level of support is rarely awarded as the last time that UNESCO created a similar programme was back in 1972 when the very successful World Heritage programme was established. This means that our own Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, here in Fermanagh and Cavan, is now rightly ranked alongside some of the most stunning places in the World.

Since its establishment in 2001, the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark has managed and developed its beautiful landscapes with great care and environmental sensitivity, while building a global tourism product that benefits local communities through trade, employment and improving access to the local environment.

The UNESCO announcement firmly establishes our Global Geopark as a must see attraction on a par with other world famous UNESCO sites.  We very much look forward to promoting this highly respected and desirable status to locals and tourists alike and harnessing its potential to benefit our local economy.”

Speaking about the announcement, Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Thomas O’Reilly, said:

“The UNESCO announcement will add significantly to the unrivalled reputation which the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark already enjoys worldwide and I am confident that increased tourism footfall will reap an increase in economic benefits for the area.”

Chairman of Cavan County Council Councillor Paddy Smith has welcomed the announcement:

“I see it as an endorsement of the work which local authorities have done in recent years. The Geopark has acquired funding for the Cavan Burren site which attracted over 24,000 visitors last year and this announcement will assist in gaining more funding for both counties in the future”.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said:

“Here in Northern Ireland we are fortunate to have some of the most diverse rocks and landscapes on Earth. It is these foundations that have given rise to our most iconic tourist attractions such as the Giants Causeway and of course the Marble Arch Caves. I welcome the historic announcement of the establishment of UNESCO Global Geoparks, their first new programme for over 40 years. The awarding of UNESCO status for the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark can only serve to increase people’s awareness, both at home and abroad, to our wonderful natural landscapes.  I am sure this announcement will help to further highlight the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark to potential visitors supporting the local tourist economy and providing significant benefit to the wider local economy. Tourism is currently on an exciting journey here in Northern Ireland. Large-scale investment in our infrastructure and an outstanding programme of major events has helped transform our tourism landscape and now with 2 UNESCO sites our unique tourism offering is extended further.”

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is established across almost 20,000 hectares of public land in counties Fermanagh and Cavan.  The Geopark is home to a fascinating variety of geology, natural landscapes and historic relics.  Major lakes, gently rolling drumlins and winding rivers are set against the dramatic backdrop of spectacular cliffs, rugged outcrops, hidden caves and a fabulous array of natural habitats and species.  The UNESCO Global Geopark also contains prehistoric tombs, Iron Age forts, early Christian monasteries and Plantation Castles – all of which have good public access all year round. Marble Arch Caves is one of the finest showcaves in Europe where visitors are guided through a mesmerising natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers.   Cuilcagh Mountain, the highest point in counties Fermanagh and Cavan, is deservedly popular with hill walkers while Cavan Burren Park allows people to explore amazing prehistoric tombs.

Following yesterday’s announcement, the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is now one of 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks across the world.  The UNESCO Global Geoparks programme is the first to be created by UNESCO since its introduction of World Heritage sites in 1972.  The initiative puts every Global Geopark on a World stage as sustainable tourism destinations and will encourage national governments to work with local people to promote their Global Geopark.

Further information on the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is available by visiting www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com or by telephoning the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark on 028 6634 8855.

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