Wester Ross has joined an exalted company of natural landmarks around the world after being awarded biosphere reserve status by the United Nation’s cultural body UNESCO.
The newly-designated area extends from the tip of Knoydart northwards to Achiltibuie and the Summer Isles, and inland eastwards to Garve, including population centres in Kyle of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, Gairloch and Ullapool.
Wester Ross now joins a network of 669 other such reserves across more than 120 countries.
It was among 20 new sites added by UNESCO during a meeting in Lima, Peru, on Saturday.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire is the only other biosphere reserve in Scotland.
The new designation replaces an earlier biosphere reserve designation for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve in 1976.
However, this related to a smaller area managed solely for nature conservation, research and education. UNESCO criteria was changed in the 1990s to provide greater focus on people’s relationship with the environment, so another application was sent to cover a bigger population area.
Dr Audrey Sinclair, Highland Council’s chairwoman of Planning, Development and Infrastructure, said: “This accolade is great news for Wester Ross as it recognises the close relationship between our communities, our fantastic natural environment and our economy.”
Drew McFarlane-Slack, Highland regional manager of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We welcome this announcement and will work with Wester Ross Biosphere to showcase the potential for traditional estates to contribute to building a modern rural economy.”
Brian Easter, chairman of the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust, said: “I am pleased that our area has been awarded this status and look forward to working with other community groups in projects of common interest.”
Aileen Macleod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said she was delighted to hear of the approval, adding: “This international recognition is well-deserved and I congratulate the Biosphere community and all those involved in producing the application.