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 European and Global Geopark

As well as being an AONB, the North Pennines is also a European and Global Geopark.   

UNESCO Global Geopark

In November 2015 UNESCO – the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture – announced a new programme, which created UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is the first new UNESCO programme to be established in over 40 years and puts the Global Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of Global Geoparks is formally recognised under the new programme.

One of only seven in the UK

This new designation was conferred on the existing UK Geoparks, including the North Pennines. The UK is home to six other Global Geoparks, stretching from the English Riviera in the South to Geopark Shetland in the North, and including two Global Geoparks in Wales and a cross-border Global Geopark shared by Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK sites are part of a growing international network of Global Geoparks – areas of outstanding geological interest which use their unique geology to drive local development. 

Internationally significant

All of the UK’s Global Geoparks have internationally significant geology. But what sets Global Geoparks apart from other designations is that it comes without any restrictions on development and the primary focus is on using Earth heritage to support sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and responsible tourism. In the North Pennines, this has included holding geology festivals and events, developing geological trails across the landscape, creating displays in local museums and visitor centres, producing educational resources, working in local schools and more.

Britain's first!

Back in 2003 the North Pennines AONB was the first area in Britain to be awarded the UNESCO-endorsed status of European Geopark. Geoparks are places with outstanding geology where special effort is made to make the most of Earth heritage through interpretation, education, conservation and nature-based tourism. There are now seven other Geoparks in the UK and a growing number around Europe and the rest of the world. In Europe the North Pennines is part of a family of special places, from Ireland to Romania and from Finland to Italy.

Founding member of the Global Network

Then in 2004 the North Pennines AONB became a founding member of the Global Geoparks Network. There are currently more than 100 members of the Global Geoparks Network, including all the European Geoparks and Geoparks in China, Malaysia, Brazil, Iran, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Canada and Australia. Many other areas around the world are working towards Geopark status.

More information

Find out more about the UNESCO Global Geopark status for the North Pennines by contacting Chris Woodley-Stewart (Director, AONB Partnership) on 01388 528801 (

A family visits Killhope, the North of England Lead Mining Museum in Weardale
Pausing on a guided walk to discuss the landscape
Walkers enjoying a break at High Cup Nick on the Eastern Fellside
Walkers enjoy a guided walk in the South Tyne Valley