Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba

A world first!

Scotland is home to 13 UNESCO designated sites. These are recognised for their internationally-significant cultural or natural heritage value.

UNESCO sites include awe-inspiring natural landscapes, historic sites, vibrant cities, and stunning architecture.

Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, launched in October 2021, is the world’s first ever national UNESCO trail. It brings together the country’s full range of UNESCO place-based designations.

These include World Heritage Sites, Global Geoparks, Biospheres and Creative Cities. The digital trail also promotes responsible tourism.

This digital toolkit will give you more information about the Trail and how your business can get involved.

1. What is Scotland’s UNESCO Trail?

Scotland’s UNESCO Trail is a digital trail. It connects 13 place-based UNESCO designations across Scotland.

It has won three awards for excellence in sustainable tourism:

  • Wanderlust Sustainability Award ​(UK)
  • Fondazione Santagata Award 2022 for sustainable development projects ​(Italy)
  • Tour Mag Responsible Travel Award “Césars du Voyage Responsable” (France)

The interactive trail map on our microsite details each UNESCO designated site. It also has suggested itineraries to help visitors plan their trip.

Browse our UNESCO Trail microsite.


The creation of the trail comes through a unique and global-first partnership, bringing together:

  • designation representatives of the 13 UNESCO Sites
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • NatureScot
  • National Trust for Scotland
  • Scottish Government
  • UK National Commission for UNESCO
  • VisitScotland

View our promotional video for the trail

Browse our in-depth look at the UNESCO sites

2. UNESCO designated sites in Scotland

The creation of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail allows us to tell the story of Scotland in a new way. It is innovative, exciting and most importantly responsible.

The trail aligns with UNESCO’s values of peace, education, and sustainability, as well as Scotland’s focus on responsible tourism.

It presents Scotland in a unique way to new audiences by celebrating the past, present and future through the 13 designations.

The UNESCO "badge" is globally-recognised as shorthand for high-quality. It demonstrates that a place, item, or location is unique and of global significance and interest.


Biospheres improve the relationship between people and their local environment, globally. They are sites created by UNESCO that find creative ways for people and nature to thrive together.

They are testing grounds for innovative approaches to sustainably managing ecosystems.


  • Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

    Renowned for its stunning landscape, Galloway & Southern Ayrshire is a natural playground.

    It is ripe with outdoor adventure and geological interest. It also teems with rare wildlife.

    Here, you can experience a rich cultural life and creative scene unique to this corner of south Scotland.

    Read more about Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.


  • Wester Ross Biosphere

    Wester Ross is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. It is home to a collection of rare and unspoiled habitats where wildlife, fauna and Highland communities co-exist.

    This creates an environment of unique natural beauty, history and culture.

    Read more about the Wester Ross Biosphere.

Global geoparks

UNESCO global geoparks are single, unified geographical areas of geological significance. They're managed through a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.

Both of Scotland’s Geoparks have internationally-significant geology. They are community-led partnerships that promote an appreciation of natural and cultural heritage.

They also support local sustainable economic development through geological and eco-tourism.

  • Geopark Shetland

    The geology of Shetland spans three billion years. It is home to one of the most breathtaking and diverse landscapes in Europe.

    This includes three of Northern Europe’s most important examples of prehistoric architecture.

    Read more about Geopark Shetland.

  • North West Highlands Geopark

    The North West Highlands Geopark is a prehistoric landscape of outstanding natural beauty. Its geological heritage is among the most precious in the world.  

    Read more about the North West Highlands Geopark.

World heritage sites

These sites tell the unique story of Scotland’s contribution to the world. They show the development of human history through art, architecture, religion, industry and more.

These sites belong to everyone, and it is everyone’s duty to protect them for future generations.

  • Antonine Wall

    The Antonine Wall marked the final frontier of the Roman Empire in the north. Emperor Antoninus Pius built this mighty fortification in 142 AD. 

    Read more about the Antonine Wall.

  • Forth Bridge

    Spanning the Firth of Forth, the iconic Forth Bridge stands as a seminal moment in the history of engineering. It remains one of the world’s longest-ever cantilever bridges. 

    Read more about the Forth Bridge.

  • Heart of Neolithic Orkney

    The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a collection of the best-preserved New Stone Age sites found in western Europe. 

    Find out more about the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

  • Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

    The beautiful architecture of Edinburgh shows an important development in city building. 

    Discover more about Edinburgh's Old and New Towns.

  • New Lanark

    The purpose-built 18th century mill village of New Lanark is the vision of philanthropist and social reformer Robert Owen.

    It was conceived as an ideal working and living environment for industrial labourers and their families.

    For over two centuries, the village was a world-renowned blueprint similar projects.

    Read more about New Lanark.

  • St Kilda

    St Kilda is home to a compact landscape of rare beauty and drama. Powerful volcanic and glacial forces as well as two millennia of human habitation have shaped it over millions of years.

    It's the UK's only dual World Heritage site.

    Read more about St Kilda.

Creative cities

Scotland has three of these, each with a unique perspective, economy and culture.

UNESCO places creativity and cultural industries at the core of their urban development. This is to make their cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

  • Dundee, UNESCO City of Design

    Dundee was once best-known for its flourishing textile and shipbuilding industries. It is now the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design.

    It continues to place innovation at its heart, emerging as a cutting-edge multidisciplinary design hub.

    Read more about Dundee, UNESCO City of Design.

  • Edinburgh, UNESCO City of Literature

    Books and reading have been at the beating heart of Edinburgh’s rich cultural life for centuries. It was designated the world's first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004.

    Read more about Edinburgh, UNESCO City of Literature.

  • Glasgow, UNESCO City of Music

    Glasgow is home to one of the largest, most vibrant and accessible music scenes in the world. It became the UK’s first (and world’s third) UNESCO City of Music in 2008.

    This highlighted its diverse culture, history and musical identity, which sets it apart from other cities.

    Read more about Glasgow, UNESCO City of Music.

3. How can my business benefit from UNESCO?

  • Be listed on

    A listing helps you to connect with visitors across the world and is free for all types of tourism businesses.

    The website has 23 million visits per year and is translated into five languages. By showcasing your business through a web listing, you can let visitors know that you are open and ready to welcome them.

    Sign up here for a free web listing for tourism businesses.

    Use our tour management system for tour operators.

  • Get Green Tourism accredited

    For promotion alongside Scotland’s UNESCO Trail activity, you must be Green Tourism accredited. This means that you align with UNESCO values and responsible tourism.

    Run by Green Tourism UK, this well-recognised award is an important part of Scotland’s future as a sustainable tourism destination.

    Visitors seek sustainable options when planning their holiday. So, joining this scheme is worthwhile for all businesses.

    The Green Tourism logo will appear on your VisitScotland web listing, and visitors will be able to search and filter for your business.

    Becoming a Green Tourism business is a great way of reducing not only your carbon footprint, but also utility, water, and waste bills.

    Find out more about the Green Tourism scheme on their website.

    Explore how your business can benefit from responsible tourism practices.

  • Read up on UNESCO

    Familiarise yourself with the story of your local UNESCO sites, so you can share this information with visitors. You can make use of our microsite to find some useful information about UNESCO and Scotland's UNESCO Trail.

    Browse our UNESCO Trail microsite.

  • Use our promotional material

    You can UNESCO Trail imagery from our Media Toolkit for use in your own promotions. Register for free, then search UNESCO Trail.

    You can also consider featuring local UNESCO designation(s) in your promotional materials. This could include your website, e-newsletters and social media channels.

    Feel free to link to relevant sections of our UNESCO Trail microsite to help your visitors find out more.

    View our Media Toolkit.

    Browse our UNESCO Trail microsite.

4. Business case studies

  • The Scottish Poetry Library

    The Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) is in Edinburgh's historic Old Town.

    It houses the nation’s collection of contemporary Scottish poetry books, pamphlets and audio material.

  • Nithbank Country Estate

    Nithbank Country Estate is an award-winning Five Star country house B&B in Dumfries & Galloway.

    It has an exceptional commitment to responsible tourism. This is particularly in relation to working with the local community and wildlife conservation.

  • JP Orkney

    JP Orkney sell homemade produce in their online shop. They also deliver tours and provide environmentally-friendly electric camper van hire.

    They use their electric vehicles to deliver their tours, carefully source packaging and grow their own produce.

5. Useful resources on responsible tourism

The following provide more information on UNESCO, responsible tourism, and Scotland’s green ambition.

Related links