North Ayrshire Council’s Community Investment Fund is helping the Isle of Arran on its way to gaining UNESCO Global Geopark status.

With an ambitious two-year plan, Arran Geopark has appointed a Project Director to help develop and implement the Geopark’s development plan.

This was made possible when the bid for £79,583 from the Community Investment Fund had been put forward by Arran Locality Partnership and was subsequently approved at a recent Cabinet meeting.

Since then, Arran Geopark has secured SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation) status as a charity and with the help of new Project Director Malcolm Wilkinson, submitted its comprehensive application dossier to the UNESCO review panel.

Aligned to the Isle of Arran’s wider Local Island Plan, the project was first envisioned at the international Cold Water Island Conference, which was held on Arran in 2015 and 2016.

The bid for Global Geopark statuswas then initiated by a group of like-minded organisations including Arran Access Trust, Arran Heritage Museum, Lochranza Centre, and the National Trust for Scotland.

Project Director Malcolm Wilkinson said: “With the help of the Arran Locality Partnership, we have been able to apply for and be successful for this significant funding boost following the Full Council meeting back in September 2023, and lots has been happening behind the scenes since then.

“With the support from North Ayrshire Council and the Arran Locality Partnership, we have strengthened our board of Trustees. Our network of island organisations are right behind us, and we look forward to working together to further develop our bid for Global Geopark status over the next year – as the UNESCO review is currently under way.”

The charity’s Trustees are passionate about continuing the charity’s efforts to promote the remarkable landscape and heritage on the Isle of Arran and encourage visitors to deepen their experience and understanding of the island.

Sheila Gilmore, CEO of VisitArran, said: “UNESCO Geopark status will be a great accolade for the individual communities, and of course, the Isle of Arran as a whole. With UNESCO status, Arran can be promoted to those who will really appreciate and want to understand more about Arran and all it offers: Arranology if you like!”

From Gaelic landscape walks over the Clauchland Hills and expeditions to Lochranza’s Fairy Dell, to coastal walks alongside the striking North Sannox coastline and expeditions inside Arran’s famed King’s Caves, there are many ways for visitors and locals to get to know Arran Geopark.

The Geopark Rangers have also been busy cleaning up plastic waste from around the coastline, liaising with visitors, and maintaining the island’s extensive path network.

Malcolm Wilkinson added: “It really would be incredible for us to achieve the UNESCO status.

“Scotland currently has two UNESCO Global Geoparks, these are North West Highlands Geopark and Shetland Geopark.

“Geoparks are a relatively new award of UNESCO, with 195 Geoparks in 48 countries around the world, and are of the same importance as the better-known World Heritage Site status. Geoparks require internationally significant geological heritage – but they are about much more than rocks!

“If our application is successful, we will be part of a network of world-renowned destinations such as Granada (Spain), Katla (Iceland), and Ngorongoro (Tanzania). We would also be part of an even more select group of Island Geoparks – including Azores (Portugal), Langkawi (Malaysia), Lanzarote (Spain), and Shetland (UK).

Councillor Alan Hill, Cabinet Member for Communities and Islands, said: “We are delighted to support the recent CIF funding proposal for the appointment of a Director.

“The theme of connecting communities and visitors to North Ayrshire is a key strand of the Community Investment Fund.

“Our heritage is so important as it is the legacy that leads where and how we live today. It is what we have to pass on to future generations, so we have to take it seriously and do all that we can to look after it and protect it.

“Arran Geopark are doing just that, as if successful the Arran Geopark UNESCO Global Geopark status will ensure that Arran’s irreplaceable cultural and natural heritage is recognised, protected and respected for generations to come.

“The project is also a key strand of the Arran Islands Plan – a ten year plan to deliver community, economic and environmental priorities identified by the people of Arran. I look forward to seeing how the Arran Geopark application develops in 2024.”

Find out more about how to apply for Community Investment Funding in North Ayrshire at:

Keep up to date with Arran Geopark by visiting their website: Arran Geopark (