NW Highland Geopark

Extract from Report of Geopark Steering Group, September 2011:

"The positive recommendations of the very able consultants, Phillips Aitchison, funded by SNH and LEADER, are being taken forward as the GeoCentre Working Group, chaired by myself and the Community Council Representatives from Durness, Kinlochbervie, Scourie, Assynt and Coigach.  It is important that we commence funding progress for this £5m project as early as possible."

The Geopark then issued this press release:

"The five Community Council Representatives of the North West Highlands Geopark have unanimously announced that they intend to progress the recommendations from a feasibility study for a GeoCentre to be located at the hub of the Geopark in North West Sutherland and Wester Ross.

 A site in Scourie in West Sutherland has been chosen for a centre of geological excellence and geotourism focusing on the Earth Sciences.  From there it is anticipated that tourists, students and geoscientists, amateur and professional, will explore, research and enjoy the many features of world-renown within the Geopark.  From Smoo Cave in the north to Stac Pollaidh in the south, the North West Highlands Geopark is internationally celebrated as the "cradle of geology" where the discovery of structures called "thrusts" by pioneering Victorian Geologists during the late 1800s, in which older rocks are pushed over younger rocks, transformed our understanding of the way the World has evolved in the geological past.

 The GeoCentre is expected to house internationally important geological exhibitions and information for the promotion of tourism in the Geopark.  The GeoCentre Working Group intends to work with public agencies to deliver this unique project for the communities in the Geopark.  North West Highlands Geopark is a member of the European Geoparks and the Global Geoparks Network and was Scotland's first Geopark, created in 2004.

 The Steering Group of the North West Highlands Geopark had previously agreed to discuss progress resulting from the publication of a GeoCentre Feasibility Study by consultants, Phillips Aitchison, based in Golspie.  Vice-Convener George Farlow, Councillor for North West and Central Sutherland also welcomed Phillips Aitchison’s study report and agreed that it was now time to move the initiative forward and re-constitute the committee as a social enterprise so that everybody within the 5 communities can feel more involved and have the opportunity to become members.”

 Councillor Farlow continued: “For some time the Steering Group has been looking for a focus within the Geopark and at last we have found on an area for the development of a centre for excellence in geology and education where the landscape, the land management and the geodiversity of our five communities may be shown to the many thousands who annually visit this home of geological discovery here in Sutherland.  The feasibility study funded by SNH, LEADER and Sutherland Partnership also suggests that the GeoCentre operates as a social enterprise under the banner of the Geopark and the GeoCentre Working Group welcomes that.”

Peter Harrison from Coigach, Durrant Macleod from Assynt, Donald Fisher from Scourie, Stuart McHugh from Kinlochbervie and Kevin Crowe from Durness make up the GeoCentre Working Group, chaired by Councillor Farlow.  Members of the Group look forward to the day when the GeoCentre provides much needed employment in the area and a reason for all to stay that wee bit longer and, who knows, perhaps settle down in the region.  It has been suggested that this would be a community for the 21stCentury."