cairn in biosphere

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere named on National Geographic ‘Cool List’ for 2024

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere, has been named the only Scottish destination in the prestigious global National Geographic Cool List for 2024.

The 'editors’ selection of global destinations set to make the news over the next 12 months' identifies the top places around world 'where tourism benefits communities and the environment as much as the visitors and locals themselves'. 

Why was the Biosphere included?

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere’s listing celebrates the reserve’s natural heritage, its UNESCO designation and its recently extended boundary, which recognises the site’s cultural significance.

It was revealed earlier this year that the site has now almost doubled in size, incorporating Alloway, the Rhins of Galloway and the marine environment out to 12 nautical miles offshore.

The National Geographic Traveller listing also reflects the key role the Biosphere played in the development of the world’s first UNESCO trail, a gamechanger for Scottish tourism.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Partnership Board Chair Melanie Allen, said:

“We are thrilled that this year’s National Geographic Traveller (UK) Cool List recognises the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere for developing tourism as a force for good.

"This is fantastic recognition of southwest Scotland as an outstanding visitor destination and highlights the importance of the Biosphere’s collaborative approach - working with Biosphere Certified Businesses, strategic leaders and partners - to build a secure and greener economic future for Scotland and the UK."

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Director, Ed Forrest said: 

"UNESCO Biospheres provide a blueprint for living in cultures all around the world, and the proof of their value is already being realised, as people begin to realise that sustainability in living, learning and leisure has to become our societal norm.

So it is brilliant to see National Geographic Traveller has included the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere among the top places around the world where visitors can do this.

“Participation is at the very heart of the UNESCO Biosphere model and our success to date is absolutely testament to the incredible support our team has had from residents, community groups, business leaders, land managers, schools, local authorities, South of Scotland Enterprise, Dumfries and Galloway Council, South and East Ayrshire Councils, VisitScotland, the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, the Ayrshire and Arran Destination Alliance and more.”

VisitScotland Destination Development Director Gordon Smith said: 

“The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is an area of outstanding significance for its geological and scientific interest, as well as its stunning scenery.

"Part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, the Biosphere has a key role in contributing to make Scotland a world-leading responsible tourism destination and it is fantastic to see the Biosphere included in National Geographic’s Cool List for 2024."

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, added:

“This is tremendously exciting news for the Biosphere, and indeed for the whole of the South of Scotland.

"Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire is a world class environment connecting people with the natural world. 

“The Biosphere’s international recognition by this fantastic list of exciting global destinations is another huge confidence boost for the region, following on from the South of Scotland being the only Scottish destination under the spotlight in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel guide for 2023. Many congratulations to the whole Biosphere team and community.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of SOSE, which has supported the project with five years of funding worth £1.9 million, said: 

“In 2020 South of Scotland Enterprise committed to supporting the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere with one of our most significant funding awards to date, because we could see that the organisation was bold, collaborative, fully embedded in the communities of the south of Scotland and offered great potential for further sustainable development in the region.

We are delighted to see that The National Geographic Traveller Cool List agree. This is excellent recognition for the South of Scotland.”