World Heritage Site

Could The Flow Country become Scotland's next UNESCO World Heritage Site? If it does, it will join The Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef as one of the most important natural sites in the world.

We believe that The Flow Country deserves to be recognised alongside these illustrious names and that a World Heritage Site would bring many benefits to local communities.

The Flow Country cannot become a World Heritage Site overnight. First of all, we want to carry out a thorough community consultation, to give as many people as possible the chance to tell us what they think about the idea of a World Heritage Site in Caithness and Sutherland. Secondly, we will need to make a strong case for the Flow Country becoming a World Heritage Site – first to the UK Government and then later to UNESCO.

This exciting project could bring a globally-recognised accolade to the North Highlands and help to preserve this incredible environment for future generations.

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Why does the Flow Country deserve World Heritage status?

The proposed Flow Country World Heritage Site straddles Caithness and Sutherland, lying at the heart of one of the largest areas of blanket bog in the world. This globally rare habitat includes a wide range of peatland vegetation, bog pools and of course many important bird species.

The Flow Country is considered the best habitat of its type, anywhere in the world. It is the quality and extent of the blanket bog habitat that gives this site outstanding universal value and justifies its current position on the UK’s tentative list for World Heritage Site status. You can read more on this topic by downloading this comparative analysis.

The peat throughout this remarkable ecosystem records the history of the plants, animals and people who have made this region their home for thousands of years.

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In addition to being a globally-rare type of peatland, blanket bog has been recognised as an important habitat for the environmental services it provides. The blanket bog of The Flow Country stores an incredible amount of carbon (400 million tonnes!) and healthy blanket bog continuously removes carbon from our atmosphere. These peatlands also act as a natural filtration system for the rivers and streams that run off it, thereby providing cleaner waters for our fish and other aquatic wildlife.



How could a World Heritage Site help the communities of Caithness and Sutherland?

There isn’t another World Heritage Site quite like The Flow Country in the UK, so it would be impossible to say exactly what the benefits would be. From looking at other, similar sites, however, we have a good idea about the sorts of opportunities that a World Heritage Site could offer for Caithness and Sutherland.

In many ways, a World Heritage Site is what the local communities make of it. Accommodation providers could benefit from new customers who want to stay in a World Heritage Site; local businesses could mark their produce with a globally-recognised brand; school pupils and university students could learn in an environment recognised as the best of its type in the World and tour operators could offer guided excursions across a World-class habitat.

It will be up to the people of Caithness and Sutherland to determine which opportunities they choose to take and how this new accolade helps to shape the future of the two counties.

 Read our discussion paper to find out more!

What happens next? 

In December 2019, the Peatlands Partnership submitted a Technical Evaluation of The Flow Country to the UK Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). In early 2020 the DCMS will decide whether or not to nominate The Flow Country as the UK's next candidate for World Heritage Site status. 

The next and final stage of the process would be to submit a full nomination to UNESCO, who would determine whether or not The Flow Country meets the criteria for World Heritage Site status. It will take between 18 months and 2 years to complete this challenging stage.

This second stage requires a more detailed justification of The Flow Country and a more refined draft boundary map. It will be very important for us to incorporate local input into this nomination and we will therefore carry out a second round of public consultation.


Who are we?

The Technical Evaluation will be submitted by The Peatlands Partnership, which was formed in 2006 and is made up of the following organisations:  Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Forestry and Land Scotland, The Highland Council, RSPB Scotland, Plantlife International, the Environmental Research Institute (University of the Highlands and Islands), Highland Third Sector Interface, the Flow Country Rivers Trust, Northern Deer Management Group and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). 

 In 2017 The Peatlands Partnership established the Flow Country World Heritage Site Working Group. This Working Group was tasked with carrying out an extensive community consultation and completing the technical evaluation of The Flow Country as a potential World Heritage Site. The Flow Country World Heritage Site Working Group consists of: SNH, Forestry and Land Scotland, The Highland Council, RSPB Scotland, The Environmental Research Institute, The Confederation of Forest Industries, HIE, The Federation of Small Businesses, Scottish Land and Estates, Rural Payments and Inspections Division, Wildland ltd. and Visit Scotland.

Have Your Say

The Flow Country has experienced human influence for thousands of years and this landscape will continue to be shaped by those fortunate enough to call it their home. We want to work with communities to see that The Flow Country continues to be a world-class habitat, as well as ensuring that local people feel the benefit of this highest of heritage accolades.


Drop-in events


Gail Ross MSP attends our Wick drop-in event

We held 15 drop-in events at locations across Caithness and Sutherland through May and June 2019. We were really pleased to speak to just under 200 people at these events – thank you very much to everyone who came out to see us.

We will hold more of these events next year, so keep an eye on this page for more details.


Big events

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Professor Iain Stewart, Professor Barry Gilbertson and Neil Oliver (left to right) at our Eden Court event

From 5th – 7th July we held three very well-attended events in Lairg, Thurso and Inverness. A huge thank you to the 850 people who came out to hear Professor Barry Gilbertson, Professor Iain Stewart and Neil Oliver talk about The Flow Country and the World Heritage Site Project.


Contact us

We would love to hear your thoughts and questions, so please feel free to contact us using any of the following methods:


Phone: 07775411270

Post: Joe Perry, Highland Council Offices, Drummuie, Golspie, KW10 6TA