Launch of new Certification Mark for Businesses

Organisations and business from across South West Scotland gathered at Culzean Castle in South Ayrshire for the launch of a new Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere certification mark.

The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Tourism, Fiona Hyslop officially launched the certification which will be awarded to businesses that can demonstrate high standards in delivering environmental and sustainable development benefits.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has been recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature. The Biosphere offers a fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities for communities, businesses and visitors.

The launch of the certification mark was an opportunity to highlight the global value of the UNESCO designations and the potential of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere to support sustainability, economic development and tourism in South West Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said:

“This certification award from Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is a significant development which aligns with our priority to further promote the south of Scotland and Ayrshire as a tourism destination. As the first area in Scotland to receive UNESCO Biosphere status and with its wide variety of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and wildlife, the Biosphere has much to offer to local and international visitors. I am confident the new award will bring many opportunities to both businesses and communities in the area, ensuring our unique biosphere is preserved and promoted as a place of international significance for locals and tourists alike.”

Dr Beth Taylor Chair, UK National Commission for UNESCO said: “UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves are the world’s only globally recognised designation for demonstrating excellence in sustainable development. Biospheres bring value to their communities by leveraging the powerful UNESCO brand and collaborating with the global UNESCO network. Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is leading the way in developing a quality mark linked to sustainability for businesses in the region.  Congratulations on a great achievement!”

Over recent months a successful pilot scheme has taken place with 3 local businesses from the Accommodation, Food and Drink, and Outdoor Activity Sectors. Balkissock Lodge Bed and Breakfast, Adventure Centre for Education and Salad Brew which is a hydroponic salad and vegetable grower. Businesses using the certification mark hope to attract a premium value or more discerning customers.

Ed Forrest, Co-ordinator of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere said. “We believe our Biosphere can provide a catalyst for new thinking; new economic opportunities, environmentally sustainable development, nature conservation and education. One of only 669 Biosphere’s worldwide and one of only two in Scotland, it offers a unique opportunity for the region through association with the globally recognised UNESCO Biosphere brand and its respected quality assurance.”

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has been acknowledged by Scottish Government through its inclusion in the “A Nation with Ambition: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18”.

Fleet Reflections – The Concert 25th March

The natural beauty of the Fleet Valley in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere has been the inspiration for the song writing project ‘Fleet Reflections’ . GSA Biosphere are proud to have supported this project from which around 15 new songs about the landscape and its people have been crafted – on topics ranging from seashells found at Mossyard, to the viaduct at Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve – and everything in between! Final recordings of the songs will be publically available and a small booklet about the project including all the song lyrics.The songs will be performed at a special ‘Mill Session’ on the 24th March 5pm at the Mill on the Fleet in Gatehouse

PLACE (People Landscape Art Culture Environment) in the Biosphere

The Southern Uplands Partnership has received a confirmed grant of £150k from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the “PLACE (People Land Art Culture Environment) in the Biosphere” project, it was announced today. This is one of the first awards to be made in Scotland through The National Lottery’s ground breaking Great Place scheme. The funding will help develop projects and collaborations centred on the place’s unique culture and heritage to address issues such as poverty, employment, health and education.

PLACE in the Biosphere will be run across three contrasting landscapes within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere: the Borgue Peninsula; the Wigtownshire Moors; and the Stinchar Valley. They cover two local authority areas and were selected due to their distinctive landscape character and the desire of local communities to engage more with their local natural and cultural heritage.
Through working with artists, writers, geologist, historian, wildlife guides etc. the Biosphere team hope the project will uncover some of the hidden gems of the Biosphere and their intrinsic links with the landscape that make our region so special.

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere covers 5268 sq/km of SW Scotland. It was designated in July 2012 when it was recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature. The designation is recognition of the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that SW Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience and celebrate in a sustainable way.

Biosphere Coordinator Ed Forrest said “PLACE in the Biosphere offers us a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a group of communities located in the Biosphere to identify the stories, the places, the people, the experiences that make these individual communities so special. Through PLACE we hope communities will feel more empowered to both protect their unique heritage and to create new initiatives that celebrate it.” These sentiments were echoed by Laura Moodie from the Borgue Peninsula who said “Borgue Community Council is delighted to be involved in the PLACE project and is looking forward to working with neighbouring communities in Wigtownshire and the Stinchar Valley to celebrate the people, environment and culture of these unique places.” Heather O’Hare from the Stinchar Valley was equally pleased stating “Our Colmonell Exhibition heritage event last year showed not only what a huge interest there is in local history, but also what a wealth of knowledge and artefacts people are more than willing to share. We look forward to being a part of PLACE in the Biosphere”

Commenting on the announcement, Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The incredible natural landscape of the Biosphere gives the place a unique identity and makes it special for the people that live there. It’s the roots if you like. This scheme will show how building on those roots can have a hugely positive impact on the local economy in terms of health, employment and education, as well as well as instilling community cohesion and pride.
“Thanks to players of The National Lottery, we are enabling a step-change in thinking, encouraging local leaders to come together and recognise that heritage is a driving force for change for Galloway and South Ayrshire.”


Whithorn becomes latest Biosphere Community

Congratulations to Whithorn! Now proudly displaying its Biosphere Community signs and joining Glentrool and Gatehouse of Fleet as places in the Biosphere where local residents and businesses have committed to being Proud Supporters of the Biosphere. Supporting our Biosphere Charter principles of
Helping to conserve the natural resources of the Biosphere
Supporting the economy to benefit local people and nature
Promoting cultural heritage and local products
Contributing to the health and well-being of the community
Developing knowledge, understanding and promoting research
Raising awareness of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere
They are destinations in the Biosphere where you can be assured of a warm welcome and an opportunity to experience some of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere’s hidden gems. For more information click on Biosphere Communities

GSA Biosphere Local Learning Partnership launched

We are pleased to share the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere have a new Learning Partnership in collaboration with Ayrshire College. The Partnership is an opportunity for students to work on live briefs for their studies that will utilise the unique international UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme designation that we have here in South West Scotland.
The designation is recognition of the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that SW Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience and celebrate in a sustainable way.
With all Biospheres across the globe signed up to the same core principles, the students of all disciplines that are studying through Ayrshire College will have the opportunity to research and demonstrate how their studies can create new sustainable entrepreneurial opportunities in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire as they strive to become the business leaders of tomorrow. So a student studying hospitality may be tasked with creating a menu made up of local produce sourced from within the Biosphere that can be sold through local cafes. Or a tourism student could be asked to design a new guided tour that takes in some of the Biosphere’s key natural and cultural heritage attractions.
Joan Mitchell Chair of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere said “a key challenge we face in South West Scotland is the outward migration of young people from our towns and villages. We hope that this new Learning Partnership will help young people to recognise the opportunities that the UNESCO Biosphere designation offers to develop new business ideas which stand out from the crowd in a modern and sustainable way.”
Elaine Hutton Director Ayrshire College said “Ayrshire College is committed to giving our young people the best start in life in an ever changing world. The Learning Partnership with the Biosphere offers an opportunity for students to engage with real life examples that will help prepare them for the work place of tomorrow.”

‘It’s More than Just Light’ Dark Sky Places Conference – Program speakers now confirmed

A great line up of national and international speakers has now been confirmed for the September conference covering a variety of themes from:

  • Lighting constraints and design with architectural insights of the built environment we need to light. What is good lighting design and challenges in its application?
  • Light and​​ ​its ecological impact and ​it’s effect on human​s.​
  • Darkness and its cultural​ ​role and significance to humanity. The role of ‘community’ in dark sky places
  • Dark skies and its effects​ ​and relationship to health and well-being.
  • The technical aspects of the planning regulations and safety codes, how you measure the dark environment. Why are the regulations set and how do we change them?
  • Transformational effects of Dark Skies and opportunities for economic development through eco-tourism.

We do hope you can join us at this special 3 day event. Day ticket now available for Thursday 21st September

For more information and a detailed program visit:


Wild Film Festival – Scotland 24th – 26th March 17

Join leading naturalists, broadcasters and filmmakers for a weekend-long celebration of the natural world with film, photography, topical talks and special guests.

In Dumfries from 24-26 March 2017 enjoy some of the world’s best wildlife films, plus celebrity speakers plus two photographic exhibitions, art, music, literature and a Wild Film Fayre.

Naturalists and broadcasters Simon King (Big Cat Diary) and Iolo Williams (Springwatch) will be among the 20 speakers along with Sacha Dench “the human swan” who flew a motorised paraglider 4,500 miles from the Arctic to the UK with migrating Bewick’s swans.

WFFS central themes will be Amazing Journeys, Wild Places and Rewilding. Some 30 films are being screened, many of them winners of coveted Wildscreen Panda Awards (the wildlife Oscars). A strong Scottish strand will run through every aspect of the festival.

To check out the programme go to

Restoring Peat Bogs in East Ayrshire

The East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative (CEI) have carried out ditch blocking at two raised peat bogs in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere , creating wetland habitat and supporting peat formation.

Raised bogs are rare and threatened wetland habitats containing peat soils. In the UK, we have lost around 94% of our raised bog habitat through agricultural drainage, peat extraction for horticulture and afforestation. Low Moss and Dalmellington Moss are two of the best examples of this habitat remaining in East Ayrshire.

Low Moss and Dalmellington Moss have been drained and burned in the past to dry out the bog for grazing. Over time this has degraded the habitat, resulting in fewer peatland plants in favour of grasses and scrub. CEI staff have been working with site owners’ Hargreaves (Low Moss) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (Dalmellington Moss) to come up with restoration plans and to carry out the work needed to improve the bog habitat. We will continue to work together in the future to ensure the sites are appropriately managed. In early 2017 specialist contractors, Openspace (Cumbria) Ltd, used low-ground pressure excavators to install 3,150 peat dams and 11 plastic piling dams, and 2,575 metres of bund to block up drainage ditches and slow water loss across 50 hectares of bog.

Retaining water on the site can result in less flooding downstream and prevent peat erosion, which releases stored carbon into the atmosphere. Wetter bogs can support a spongy carpet of specialist plants including colourful Sphagnum mosses, which accumulate over time to form peat. As peat forms, it traps carbon from the atmosphere, helping to tackle climate change. Bogs are also home to amazing wildlife such as hen harriers, curlew, adders and many species of invertebrate.

Find out more about East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative here.

Biosphere to host 2017 European Dark Sky Conference

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, is to be the location for the first ever Dark Sky Park conference to be held in Europe. The conference is being organised by Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, the International Dark Sky Association and Forest Enterprise Scotland, which manages the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

The event, being held 20th to 22 Sept 2017, will bring together some of the world’s top dark sky experts with the aim of promoting rural development, tourism and tackling light pollution issues.

The conference is to be held at the Cally Palace Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet and is timed to run just before the Wigtown Book Festival and other activities are planned to encourage delegates to stay for longer in the region.

Forming the heart of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere,  the Galloway Forest Park is equal in size to about 75,000 football pitches and was designated Dark Sky Status back in November 2009.

Joan Mitchell, Chair of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere said:

“The Dark Sky Park is an integral part of the Biosphere, between them they  offer a 24/7 attraction in south west Scotland, offering the opportunity to celebrate and explore the regions landscapes and wildlife during the day and the dark skies at night.

“Hosting Europe’s first ever Dark Sky Park conference is fantastic opportunity to help put this often over looked corner of Scotland on the map.”

Keith Muir, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Visitor Services Manager for the area said:

“Galloway Forest Park was the first area in Europe to achieve Dark Sky Park status and we are keen to share our experience and learn from others by being the first in Europe to host such a major conference. This is really good news for putting the south west of Scotland on the map as an international stargazing destination.

“All the partners involved will be working together to ensure the conference is a success and showcases Galloway as a great place to live, work and play. We’re very excited about this major event and the potential spin offs it should create for the local economy.”

John Barentine Program Director for the International Dark Sky Association based in Arizona added:

“It is a testament to the momentum behind the global effort to recognize and protect dark skies worldwide that this international conference is to be held. Further, it is especially fitting that the event will be held near Galloway Forest, where it can be said the movement scored its first major victory for dark skies preservation in Europe. The International Dark-Sky Association is proud to have a seat at the table for this important gathering.”

For more information on the conference log on to or contact

Habitat Management and SRDP Workshops – 22nd Feb & 1st March

Are you a farmer within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere?

It is widely anticipated that the future of farming support will be environmentally based. This means farmers will need to know:

  • Which wildlife habitats they have on their holding;
  • How to manage them and
  • How to demonstrate the positive management being carried out.

Our Biosphere Workshops  will help you identify and manage wildlife habitats on your farm and consider the wider benefits of doing so as part of a thriving farm business.

The workshop will give practical advice on:

  • Habitat management to help farm sustainably and retain the rich diversity present within our Biosphere.
  • What’s needed for a high quality SRDP AECS application – providing guidance and help in unravelling the mysteries of the SRDP Agri-environment and Climate Scheme (AECS) 

We will be providing handouts on key habitats and AECS requirements

When and Where (places are limited so booking is required):

  • Time: 10.30am to 3pm
  • Ayrshire Workshop: Wednesday 22nd February, Carrick Centre, Maybole
  • Galloway Workshop: Wednesday 1st March, Kirroughtree Courtyard, Stronord, Newton Stewart.

If you wish to book a place on one of the workshops please email indicating your area of interest: eg. Moorland, inbye, AECS, any habitats you know you have and any dietary requirements.