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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
First Scottish Geopark launched
Clashmore
The area is deemed to be of great geological significance
Scotland's first Geopark has been launched in the north west Highlands.

The park is centred around Knockan Crag Nature Reserve which has helped geologists to understand rock formations around the world.

It contains the ancient sea stack, the Old Man of Stoer, as well as the Smoo Cave and is the first area in Scotland to win the European accolade.

It also features limestone bone caves where the ancient remains of reindeer, polar bears and wolves were found.

Geopark status is recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

The new park, launched by TV geologist and retired Edinburgh University Professor Aubrey Manning, is north of Ullapool reaching into the far north west, as far as Cape Wrath and Loch Eriboll.

Scotland was the cradle of modern geology and this part of the world was involved in some of the first findings of how our planet works
Professor Aubrey Manning

Its existing geological visitor facilities helped win the designation.

The mystery of how older rock formations could be found above younger strata was first explained at the Knockan Crag reserve in the 19th century.

Prof Manning said: "This is a most historic, remarkable part of the globe. Scotland was the cradle of modern geology and this part of the world was involved in some of the first findings of how our planet works.

"I think this is a most spectacularly beautiful part of the British Isles and I think that beauty, and the love we have for it, will get even stronger if we understand what the rocks mean.

"Some of the oldest rocks in the Earth are here."

First Minister Jack McConnell paid tribute to all those involved in securing Geopark status.

He said: "This remarkable achievement is a fitting reward for the considerable efforts by national organisations and community groups, co-ordinated by Highland Council.

"This is not only an achievement for Wester Ross and north west Sutherland, but for Scotland as a whole."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Iain Macdonald reports on the launch of the new Geopark



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