Public roadshow looking at securing geopark status

Public roadshow looking at securing geopark status

11 April 2018

A SERIES of information meetings to outline plans to secure a world renowned tourism branding for an area stretching across a huge area from Strangford Lough to South Armagh begin next week.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is seeking prestigious UNESCO geopark status for an area taking in the Mournes, Ring of Gullion and the Strangford and Lecale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A steering committee has been established to spearhead the bid which is in its very early stages, with the formal application to secure geopark status not expected to be submitted until November next year.

Those behind the ambitious plan insist securing geopark status is primarily about environmental sustainability and, at the same time, trying to increase economic revenue in a part of the world already revered for its stunning beauty. 

The emphasis moving forward is on partnership and engaging with local communities, with the steering group keen to talk to as many people as 


Geoparks are based around significant areas of geology and are set up to support sustainable economic development of an area, primarily through geological and eco-tourism. But they are not just about geology and include sites that are of interest for their history, archaeology, biodiversity, folklore, cultural and local heritage.

Securing the prestigious designation is one of the key planks of the local authority’s tourism strategy, with preparatory work on the designation application starting 12 months ago.

The focus is now on firming up the boundaries of the proposed geopark with those involved in compiling the UNESCO designation confident it has the potential to deliver high quality tourism in the area, increasing the number of international visitors.

Over the next 18 months, the local council will be exploring the tourism potential associated with securing geopark status and a series of public information events are being this month across the district to provide an opportunity for people to find out more about the application.

Local meetings are being held in Newcastle, Castlewellan, Strangford and Downpatrick throughout April.

The Newcastle Centre hosts the first local session next Wednesday, April 18, between 10am and 2pm, while later in the day, The Lodge in Castlewellan is hosting a session between 4pm and 8pm.

Strangford’s Inverbrena Hall is the venue on Thursday, April 19, between 10am and 2pm, with the Downshire Civic Centre in Downpatrick the venue later in the day. This information session takes place between 4.30pm and 8pm.

Information sessions are also being held in the southern end of the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area including Warrenpoint, Kilkeel, Bessbrook, Crossmaglen and Hilltown.

The engagement programme is designed to present an opportunity for residents to meet representatives from the team involved in the geopark application process and to ask questions.

In addition to the information sessions throughout April, there will also be a series of other events throughout the year to ensure people fully understand the benefits of an association with the UNESCO brand. 

Planned events include a schools and public roadshow to mark ‘European Geoparks Week’ between May 25 and June 10.