Momentum builds behind Flow Country world heritage site bid

Image of Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland by Andy Hay RSPB
Flow Country, Caithness and Sutherland by Andy Hay RSPB

The Flow Country peatlands, stretching across the historic counties of Caithness and Sutherland, are rightly a source of local and national pride; but soon this remarkable place could gain international attention if it is listed alongside The Grand Canyon and The Great Barrier Reef as a natural world heritage site.

After successfully passing the Technical Evaluation stage in early 2020, The Flow Country is now the UK’s official candidate site for world heritage site inscription. The next step is to put together a full nomination to UNESCO, who will make the final decision.

If The Flow Country is accepted by UNESCO as a world heritage site, it will be Scotland’s first natural world heritage site (St Kilda is a mixed site, with both natural and cultural elements) and the world’s first peatland world heritage site.

The nomination is being put together by The Flow Country Partnership, which includes Highland Council, (formerly The Peatlands Partnership) and spearheaded by newly appointed Project Coordinator, Steven Andrews.

Mr Andrews said: "Having grown up in Sutherland, it’s a great pleasure to be able work on a project that will help bring global recognition to the very special Flow Country landscape."

He added: "For some wonderful footage of The Flow Country and to hear from some of those involved in the bid, you can watch Episode Two of BBC’s Landward on BBC iPlayer.”

In addition to recognising the quality and value of The Flow Country, world heritage site status could bring significant social, cultural and economic benefits to Caithness and Sutherland.

World heritage sites attract eco and heritage tourists from all over the world, bringing valuable income for new and existing businesses. The attention that world heritage site status would bring to The Flow Country could also act as a catalyst for further research into the peatland habitat and the unique cultural history of The Flow Country.

The Flow Country is widely considered the best example blanket bog in the world. Its peatlands are seen as internationally important from a habitat perspective, but also in recognition of the remarkable amount of carbon stored in the peat.

With COP26 being held in Glasgow this year, there has never been a better time to celebrate the valuable natural carbon stores we have here in The Highlands.

This important conference also offers an important opportunity to make the case for The Flow Country becoming the world’s first peatland world heritage site to an influential international community.

With this in mind, The Flow Country Partnership has bid for a presentation slot at COP26 to showcase both The Flow Country World Heritage Site Project and the Landscapes as Carbon Sinks Project, which also operates in the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland.

A peatland world heritage site in the far north of Scotland would recognise not only Scotland’s vast resources of high-quality peatland, but also the world-leading land management and public appreciation for this often-overlooked habitat.

As the second stage of this project moves ahead, The Flow Country Partnership will be reaching out to local communities to hear their thoughts and opinions on the project and the proposed site boundary.

The Partnerships hopes to hold in-person consultation events in the future, but in the meantime you can stay up to date with the latest developments by visiting the website or following the social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

26 Apr 2021