UNESCO in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is home to the first-cross border UNESCO Global Geopark in the world at the Marble Arch Caves.

The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark contains some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Northern Ireland. Ranging from rugged uplands, lakes and forests through to gently rolling drumlins, the landscape of the Geopark represents a complicated Earth history dating back as far as 650 million years ago.

With two new aspiring UNESCO Global Geoparks in Northern Ireland (Mourne Gullion & Strangford and the Causeway Coast) potentially joining the network in the next few years, we have launched a new video and resource demonstrating how local communities work with the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark to support eco-tourism, provide educational resources, and celebrate the area’s geological heritage.

Power of UNESCO

Dr Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:

“UNESCO Global Geoparks are not just about geology. While they must have geology of international significance, what makes them special is the enthusiasm and dedication of the local communities who work so hard to maintain them and to make the most of the educational and economic opportunities they offer.

“Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark is an outstanding example of how UNESCO and the geopark concept can bring communities together, develop eco-tourism, and educate both local and international visitors about the importance of living in harmony with their unique natural environment.”

Dr Kirstin Lemon, Geological Survey of Northern Ireland/Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, said:

“The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark is a perfect example of how people and place connect. Geology does not recognise borders and so the same principle is applied with UNESCO Global Geoparks, using the amazing patchwork of rocks and landscape to bring people together to explore their shared heritage.”

“As the first cross-border UNESCO Global Geopark in the world, Marble Arch Caves is seen as an example of best practice in developing shared opportunities for the benefit of local communities. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use the expertise gained from our experience and share it with others across the world and provide advice and guidance on UNESCO Global Geopark management and development in countries such as Iran, Brazil, Japan and South Korea.”

Vincent Landers, Chairperson, Irish National Commission for UNESCO, said:

“The three Geoparks on the island of Ireland are great examples of how communities have come together to promote their heritage for the benefit of the entire area. The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark, the Copper Coast Geopark, and the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark all celebrate not just their geology but also their archaeology, history, biodiversity, and folklore, all of which are plentiful across the entire country. By using this amazing heritage, they encourage sustainable tourism, provide educational opportunities and help to protect these important areas for future generations.”

Jim Nolan, Community Archaeologist at the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, said:

“The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Geopark is a wonderful example of cross-border and cross-community co-operation. Its two primary sites seem to reflect just how opposites can complement and complete one another – the wonderful subterranean world of the Marble Arch Caves being perfectly balanced by the primal, pristine relict landscape of the Cavan Burren.”

The video and resource were launched as UNESCO sites across Northern Ireland gathered in Belfast on 31st January 2018 to celebrate the vital association between UNESCO and Northern Ireland.