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The Flow Country set to become Scotland's latest UNESCO World Heritage Site

Updated: Feb 28

This week it was announced that the campaign to secure World Heritage Site status for Scotland’s Flow Country had entered a new phase with the formal submission of the formal nomination dossier to UNESCO.

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The Flow Country is a large area of peatland located in the northern part of the country in Caithness and Sutherland, covering around 4,000 square miles. It is considered to be one of the largest and most intact areas of blanket bog in the world, and is of great ecological importance for several reasons:

- Biodiversity: The Flow Country is home to a rich array of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

- Carbon Sequestration: Peatlands like the Flow Country are important carbon sinks, helping to mitigate climate change by storing large amounts of carbon dioxide.

- Hydrology: The Flow Country acts as a sponge, absorbing and storing water, and regulating water flow in the region.

- Cultural significance: The Flow Country has been shaped by human activities, including agriculture and peat cutting, for thousands of years, and is an important cultural landscape with a rich cultural heritage.

If the bid is successful then Scotland would welcome a 7th World Heritage site, five of which are inscribed under UNESCO's cultural criteria, while St Kilda is inscribed under both natural and cultural criteria.

St Kilda - Inscribed as World Heritage Site in 1986

St Kilda (Gealic: Hiort) is a remote archipelago located off the coast of Scotland that was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. It is comprised of four main islands: Hirta, Soay, Boreray, and Dun.

St Kilda is significant for its unique natural and cultural heritage. The islands are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including seabirds such as puffins and gannets, and are considered some of the most important bird breeding sites in the world. The rugged cliffs and landscapes also provide a habitat for rare plant species.

In addition to its natural beauty, St Kilda is also important for its cultural heritage. The islands were home to a small and isolated human population for thousands of years up until 1930 when the last remaining inhabitants left, and the ruins of their homes, fields, and tombs can still be seen on the islands today. The isolation of the islands, and the difficulty of life there, have made St Kilda a symbol of resilience and the human spirit.

Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Old and New Towns were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for their exceptional architectural and cultural significance.


The Old Town of Edinburgh, with its medieval tenements and cobbled streets, is home to famous landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle and St Giles' Cathedral. It is considered a prime example of a medieval city, showcasing Scotland's rich cultural heritage and history.

Edinburgh - David Hume Statue
Edinburgh - David Hume Statue

The New Town, in contrast, was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries and is a unique example of Georgian urban planning and architecture. It features grand neoclassical buildings and wide, tree-lined streets, showcasing the Enlightenment era's focus on order, symmetry, and rationality.

Together, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh demonstrate the city's development over several centuries, reflecting its social, cultural, and architectural history.

Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Heart of Neolithic Orkney is located in the Orkney Islands, and was inscribed in 1999. It comprises a group of monuments and structures dating back to the Neolithic period (around 3500 to 2500 BCE), including Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Ring of Brodgar - Author: Erika Valkovicova
Ring of Brodgar - Author: Erika Valkovicova

These monuments are considered some of the best examples of Neolithic architecture and engineering, showcasing the technical and social achievements of early human civilizations. The structures and settlements provide important insight into prehistoric society, including their religious practices, daily life, and settlement patterns.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney also demonstrates the cultural links between the peoples of the British Isles, mainland Europe, and the Mediterranean during the Neolithic period, showcasing the exchange of ideas and technologies.

New Lanark

New Lanark is a former cotton mill village situated on the Clyde river and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. The village was founded in the late 18th century by Scottish social reformer Robert Owen and became a model for workers' housing and community life.

New Lanark is significant for its innovative approach to industrialization, combining the latest textile machinery with decent working and living conditions for its employees. The village includes well-preserved mill buildings, worker housing, a school, a public hall, and a commercial center, all arranged around the spectacular river gorge.

The village demonstrates a unique approach to industrialization and the relationship between industry and society, reflecting the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment and the early stages of the social and labor reforms of the 19th century and is a testimony to the impact of the industrial revolution on society.

Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall was inscribed in 2008. It is a historic frontier barrier that marked the northern limit of the Roman Empire in Britain. The wall was built in the early 2nd century AD and stretches over 60 km (37 miles) from Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde.

Antonine permanent forts 2nd century AD © Crown Copyright Historic Scotland
Antonine permanent forts 2nd century AD © Crown Copyright Historic Scotland

The Antonine Wall is considered a remarkable feat of Roman engineering and military organization, and is one of the best-preserved frontier systems in the world. The wall was built to defend the Roman Empire from raiders and invaders from the north and also served as a customs barrier to regulate trade and movement.

In addition to its military significance, the Antonine Wall is also important for its cultural heritage. It reflects the Roman Empire's far-reaching influence, its architectural and engineering skills, and the cultural exchange between the Roman Empire and the local communities in Britain.

Forth Bridge

The Forth Railway Bridge was inscribed in 2015. It is a cantilever Iron bridge that spans the Firth of Forth, and connects Edinburgh to Fife and the Highlands beyond. The bridge was completed in 1890 and is considered one of the engineering marvels of the 19th century.

The Forth Bridge is significant for its unique design, which combines innovative engineering and construction techniques to create a strong, durable, and functional structure. The bridge's cantilever design allowed for a clear span of over 500 meters (1640 feet), making it one of the longest bridges of its kind in the world at the time of its construction.

In addition to its technical significance, the Forth Bridge also has cultural and historical importance. It is a symbol of the industrial and technological achievements of the late 19th century, and played a critical role in the economic and social development of Scotland by connecting the capital city of Edinburgh to the surrounding regions.

For anyone visiting Scotland these UNESCO designated sites should be a key part of you trip. The 4 sites across the central belt are easily accessible, however whilst a trip to Orkney is quite easy a trip to the St Kilda archipelago requires significant planning and time due to its extremally remote location.

You can download this short guide to Scotland's World Heritage sites:

World Heritage in Scotland - A Short Guide
World Heritage in Scotland - A Short Guide
Download PDF • 3.67MB

Further reading from our Bookshop:

Further Reading & Related Links:

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

The Flow Country | The Flow Country

Historic Environment Scotland | Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba

St Kilda - Outer Hebrides (

Antonine Wall | Frontiers of the Roman Empire | This is Orkney

The Official Guide to Edinburgh - Forever Edinburgh

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