The village of Kirkcolm has become a Biosphere Community, the ninth to be designated within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and the first to be announced since the UNESCO region was expanded in 2023.
The Biosphere Communities scheme invites local people to explore the aspects of heritage and cultural identity that most inspire community pride. Through a Sense of Place workshop residents share their favourite places, leisure activities and scenic spots, and create a destination page for the Biosphere’s website. Collectively the community signs up to the Biosphere’s Proud Supporter Charter, reflecting local commitment to taking positive action to help the planet and build community wellbeing.
The Biosphere organisation is a non-profit supported by funders including Dumfries and Galloway Council and works across southwest Scotland through a team of twelve permanent staff and innovative partnerships with the public, private and third sectors. Businesses in and around Kirkcolm will benefit from their new connection with Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, a visitor journey across Scotland’s UNESCO sites that promotes slow, sustainable tourism. Biosphere Communities are promoted on the trail as places where international visitors can enjoy nature-based experiences and a taste of ‘Biosphere life’. The UNESCO region has attracted multiple accolades and awards for its exceptional visitor offering in recent months, including being named on National Geographic Traveller’s Cool List for 2024, and on Rough Guides’ Best Destination list.
As the relationship between village and Biosphere continues to grow, residents of Kirkcolm will be able to call on the officer team to assist with community initiatives and special events, and to facilitate destination marketing that supports local accommodation providers, leisure and hospitality. As explored through Sense of Place, residents are especially keen to share Kirkcolm’s fascinating heritage which stretches from the holy wells of St Columba’s time to the World War II fortifications along the coast. With its location on the shore of Loch Ryan, Kirkcolm’s historic connection with Ireland is especially strong, and includes fascinating stories of the 19th century ‘Tattie Howkers’ – migrant workers who crossed the Irish Channel to help harvest potatoes on the Rhins.
Commenting on Kirkcolm’s new status as an official Biosphere Community, Ian Morral, Chair of the Kirkcolm Community Trust, said, “Kirkcolm is the northernmost village in the Rhins of Galloway, it’s a great place to live with some great flora and fauna, walks, and opportunities for bird and red squirrel spotting and fishing. Our dark sky with little light pollution also makes it a great place for searching the heavens. We also have our unique history to explore in that Kirkcolm accommodated RAF Wig Bay during World War II. This was the only RAF base without a runway in the UK because it was a seaplane base.
“The connection to UNESCO and the GSA Biosphere will benefit the area by bringing in more visitors to enjoy these various attractions, this in turn will help to preserve and create employment. The Kirkcolm Community Trust, a registered Scottish charity, provides many events for locals, which are also open to any visitors we may have.”
Jenna Cains, Community & Education Lead Officer, said, “We’re so pleased to start 2024 by welcoming Kirkcolm to the Biosphere Communities scheme. Local people are rightfully proud of the connectivity within the village and the wealth of discoveries that can be made in one small place. I and the Biosphere team are delighted that we’ll be supporting Kirkcolm in the years ahead in a range of important, sustainable, community-led projects that will make the area an even better place to live, work, visit, and connect with our great outdoors.”
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire became Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere in 2012. It is one of a worldwide network with a remit to promote conservation, education, sustainable development, and action on climate change. The Rhins of Galloway were brought into the designated region in 2023 following the Biosphere’s ten-year Periodic Review and a public consultation that showed overwhelming support for the boundary expansion, which has seen the UNESCO region grow to cover more than 9,700km².
More information about the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is available at www.gsabiosphere.org.uk. For any enquiries about the Biosphere Communities scheme, please email [email protected].