The Highland Council is part of an innovative new tourism initiative linking sites in Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Highland, and the Isle of Man. The Thing Sites GeoTour, which launched this week, the first outside the American Continent and has been developed as part of the EU Northern Periphery Programme funded THING Project. The Geo Tour was developed by the project partners and the assistance of the experienced team at Geocaching.com.
The THING Project has hidden geocaches at a number of thing site locations throughout the North Atlantic. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game played using a GPS or an app on a smartphone. Players seek hidden items by downloading coordinates from www.geocaching.com
Things, from the Old Norse þing, are the early assembly sites found throughout Northern Europe as a result of our shared Norse heritage. When the Vikings and early Norse settlers arrived in a new place they brought with them their customs and legal systems. Thing sites were places where people came together to deliver justice and to trade. They are often described as the Viking cradle of democracy, and their legacy can still be seen throughout Scandinavia and beyond.
Lauren Doughton, Place Names Assistant for the Shetland Amenity Trust says ‘We’re really pleased to be launching this exciting new GeoTour. Geocaching is a fantastic way of encouraging people to get outside explore their local area. For our Norse ancestors the thing sites would have been a central location within their landscape. Today the only indication we have that many of them existed is through place names. The GeoTour is a great way of bringing the historic links between these places to life, and making them accessible to people again.’
Geotourism is a growing movement worldwide, and GeoTours have been successfully developed by a number of organisations including the Jim Henson Company in the United States. The Thing Sites GeoTour is the first official tour to be set up ‘across the pond.’
“The Thing Sites GeoTour harnesses the power of geocaching to bring these significant locations to life.” Jenn Seva of Geocaching.com says, “Geocaching has always been a global phenomenon. The first Northern European GeoTour pays homage to the roots of our activity and lets us be modern-day explorers ourselves. It’s an unparalleled adventure for geocachers and history lovers.”
Dingwall and Seaforth Highland Councillors are most enthusiastic and welcome Geo Tours and said: "One of the key features of the Geo Tour is that it highlights the links between the different partner locations and how we are interconnected in ways that many of us never realised. Our landscape is important to us all and the Geo Tour helps us appreciate it in a completely different way, a way that does not require the setting up of expensive on-site interpretation, or intrusive signs. Anyone can take part in the tour as long as they have access to the internet, and many people’s phones come with GPS applications today."
Players can start their Thing Sites geocaching adventure by visiting http://www.geocaching.com/adventures/geotours/thingsites. From there you can view a list of all available caches and download the coordinates onto your GPS device or mobile phone.