Geopark assessors visit Lochaber
LOCHABER could get UNESCO geopark status following a visit by two assessors at the weekend.
Professor Zhang Jianping from Beijing University and Dr Babbis Fassoulas from the Natural History Museum in Heraklion, Crete, were evaluating Lochaber Geopark’s suitability to become a member of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network on Saturday June 18 and Sunday June 19.
A geopark is an area which contains a large number of geological sites of particular importance in terms of their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal and/or educational value, which brings benefits to communities and businesses through tourism and educational initiatives.
Becoming part of the UNESCO brand would be a huge accolade for Lochaber. Geopark status would enhance the area’s reputation as a high quality destination to visitors from around the globe, not only for its geology but also its cultural heritage.
The weekend began on Friday June 17 when the visitors were welcomed at a reception in the newly refurbished geopark visitor centre. On Sunday Jim Blair, chairman of the Lochaber geopark, unveiled the geopark’s newest interpretation panel and viewpoint in Kentallen.
Lochaber has a rich geological heritage going back to Charles Darwin visiting the Parallel Roads in Glen Roy in 1838, so the group headed off to Roy Bridge on Sunday to show their guests the area and visit the Darwin’s Rest Coffee Shop.
Later, the visitors were taken on a boat trip from Fort William to Glencoe. Mr Blair told The Oban
Times: ‘Councillor Thomas MacLennan waved us off on our boat trip and the visitors were lucky enough to be some of the first people to use the new pontoons in town.
‘The boat was very fast, and I have never seen anyone smile as much as they did when we were travelling to Glencoe.’
Professor Jianping and Dr Fassoulas also saw some of Lochaber’s wildlife, stopping off at the Black Rock, on the way to Glencoe, to see seals.
Mr Blair said: ‘We did as well as we could have hoped. Now we just have to hope we get the accolade. We won’t find out if we have received the status until April next year.’
If successful, Lochaber Geopark will join two other Scottish UNESCO geoparks – North West Highland Geopark and Shetland Geopark.
The new interpretation and viewpoint at Kentallen is unveiled by geopark chairman Jim Blair, centre, with UNESCO assessors, Dr Babbis Fassoulas from the Natural History Museum, Heraklion Crete, left, and Professor Zhang Jianping from Beijing University, China.
Left to right: Councillor Thomas MacLennan, Professor Zhang Jianping, Dr Babbis Fassoulas and Lochaber Geopark chairman Jim Blair at the geopark shop in Fort William High Street.