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28th February 2024

Sanquhar becomes a designated Biosphere Community

The town of Sanquhar has become a Biosphere Community, the tenth to be designated within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire since the region was awarded UNESCO status in 2012.

The Biosphere Communities scheme invites local people to explore the aspects of heritage and cultural identity that most inspire community pride, and take part in a Sense of Place workshop to share their favourite places, leisure activities and scenic spots. The output is collated into a destination page for the Biosphere’s website, and features on Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, which promotes slow, sustainable tourism between the country’s world class visitor attractions. Collectively the community signs up to the Biosphere’s Proud Supporter Charter, reflecting local commitment to taking positive action to help people and planet through a ‘Think Global, Act Local’ approach.

Businesses in and around Sanquhar will benefit from their new connection through destination marketing that promotes Biosphere Communities as places where visitors from near and far can enjoy outdoor, nature-based experiences, and a taste of ‘Biosphere life’.  The UNESCO region has attracted multiple tourism accolades for its unique offering in recent months, having been featured in Rough Guides, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic Traveller magazines. The UNESCO connection can benefit Sanquhar through the Biosphere’s partnerships with VisitScotland and the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, which promote the region as a place for slow, sustainable tourism and a ‘live local’ ethos that centres community-led initiatives and activities.

Sanquhar’s local heritage includes the ruins of the Crichton family’s historic seat, and the world’s oldest working Post Office. Crawick Multiverse, the ‘cosmic artland’ created by Charles Jencks at the invitation of the Duke of Buccleuch, is a public amenity and increasingly well known for its programme of music and arts.  The town attracts walkers and cyclists all year round with its position on the Southern Upland Way, amid the incredible landscapes of Upper Nithsdale which sit in the northern area of the UNESCO Biosphere.

Commenting on Sanquhar’s new role as an official Biosphere Community, Iain Baker, local resident and member of the Royal Burgh of Sanquhar and District Community Council, said, “This is a welcoming, friendly community in a healthy environment, where people look out for each other with many clubs, groups and societies for socialising. The history of the area includes Robert Burns who often stayed here on his travels, the Covenanters, Sanquhar Castle and the Tolbooth Museum, not forgetting the world famous Sanquhar knitting. Every year the Riding of the Marches takes place in the month of August attracting many people from the community, from southern Scotland, and old Sanquharians come back to meet friends, family and to enjoy the festivities. Those of us living here are happy to share our knowledge of the area.”

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership is a charitable organisation supported by funders including South of Scotland Enterprise and Dumfries & Galloway Council. It works across southwest Scotland with a team of twelve permanent staff and through partnerships in the public, private and third sectors. As the relationship between town and Biosphere continues to grow, residents of Sanquhar will be able to call on the officer team to assist with community initiatives and learning events that support nature restoration and sustainable, low carbon living. Jenna Cains, the Biosphere’s Community & Education Lead Officer, said, “We’re delighted with the engagement and enthusiasm shown by Sanquhar residents for our Sense of Place programme and the Biosphere Communities scheme. It really focuses on collaboration and sharing the pride we feel in where we live, work, and spend our leisure time, and represents a joint commitment to helping our rural communities thrive, so that they are places of wellbeing now and into the future. It’s especially exciting to have our first Nithsdale Biosphere Community and to now have ten villages and towns that have chosen to become signatories to the scheme.”

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is one of more than 750 such designations worldwide, all of which support and facilitate conservation, education, sustainable development and action on climate change.  The region was expanded in 2023 following a ten-year Periodic Review, and now covers more than 9,700km² including both terrestrial and marine environments. Read more about the town of Sanquhar on their Biosphere Community page, and for details on how to get involved with the scheme, please email

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