Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere named on Rough Guides ‘Best Destinations’ for 2024

The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has achieved its second international travel accolade in as many months as Scotland’s UNESCO Trail is named on Rough Guides’ much anticipated list of the ’24 best destinations to visit in 2024’.

Globally recognised as world class for people and nature, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere works in partnerships with local communities, businesses, and leading destination marketing organisations including VisitScotland and the SSDA.  The GSA Biosphere works to promote the region as a place for adventure, discovery and inspiration, and was also recently announced as having made National Geographic’s prestigious ‘Cool List’ for 2024.

The UNESCO-designated region celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022, with official confirmation of an expanded boundary earlier this year. The GSA Biosphere now covers 9,720km² of land and sea including locations where key moments in Scottish history have played out, from the landing of St Ninian on the Whithorn coast to the birth of Robert Burns in Alloway.  UNESCO Biosphere status especially celebrates the connection between people and nature and the array of opportunities to find wellbeing as you explore.  Among Galloway and Southern Ayrshire’s outdoor attractions are the Merrick (the south’s highest peak) and the Southern Upland Way, as well as the Kirkpatrick C2C, the south of Scotland’s coast-to-coast cycle route.  The Biosphere is also home to the UK’s first Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park.

Rough Guides has been publishing travel inspiration and expert advice for more than forty years and is highly regarded by a global readership for its commitment to “authentic insight, meaningful travel and new adventures”.  Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, which connects the country’s thirteen UNESCO sites, was selected for the Rough Guides’ best destination list for the opportunity it offers to explore natural and cultural wonders.  The trail is the first of its kind in the world and in addition to Scotland’s two UNESCO Biospheres it includes Global Geoparks, Creative Cities, and World Heritage Sites.  The trail’s focus on low carbon, sustainable travel has won two international awards since its launch in 2021 while its marketing campaigns have been an important platform for ‘Biosphere businesses’ in leisure and hospitality to reach a worldwide clientele.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has been recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature.

Ed Forrest, the GSA Biosphere’s Director, commented on the Rough Guides list: “It’s a huge honour for our region to be recognised by such respected travel publications as National Geographic and now Rough Guides, and the Biosphere team are excited to know word is spreading that Galloway and Southern Ayrshire is an incredible place to visit, whether for a long stay or just a long weekend.  We’re especially proud of the recognition that this brings Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, which was founded on innovation, collaboration, and making sure that tourism is a force for good nationwide.”


Melanie Allen, Chair of the Biosphere’s Partnership Board and Tourism Individual of the Year 2023 at the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards, said: “This is wonderful news for sustainable tourism, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and for all our local partners, in particular the businesses and communities who work so hard to spread the word that the south of Scotland is a world class holiday destination.  Both Rough Guides and Scotland’s UNESCO Trail centre authentic experience and we’re thrilled that more and more people are recognising the immense value in what conscientious travel and ‘living local’ can bring.”


Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), said: “Many congratulations to the UNESCO Biosphere on its latest accolade, this time from Rough Guides publication.  SOSE has been a proud supporter of the Biosphere since our inception in 2020, as we recognise the important role it has to play in supporting our tourism industry, as well as our region’s journey to Net Zero.  2023 has been a fantastic year for the Biosphere with its tenth anniversary celebrations, renewed UNESCO status and boundary extension. I am sure 2024 will see the Biosphere continue its great work towards creating a better future for local people and nature.”


David Hope-Jones, CEO of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, said: “As a longstanding partner of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, the SSDA is delighted that Rough Guides have made this addition to their ‘must-see’ list, as part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail.  The South of Scotland has something to offer everyone and is fast becoming a world-class destination, with history, culture, nature and community at its heart.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the UNESCO Biosphere. We look forward to welcoming new visitors in 2024 who have been inspired by Rough Guides: a wealth of adventures await them.”


Chair of the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO Anne Anderson commented: “We are delighted that the Scotland’s UNESCO Trail has received commendation from such an authoritative travel publisher as Rough Guides.  As noted by the authors, the variety of UNESCO sites around Scotland is incredible and they have achieved UNESCO Designation status because they are so special, in so many ways, to so many people. Working with VisitScotland and the designations themselves to create the Trail that celebrates this, and brings them to new audiences, was an honour and we look forward to continuing to develop these relationships over the coming years.”


Chief Executive of VisitScotland Malcolm Roughead said: “Responsible tourism is at the heart of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail and so it’s fantastic so see Rough Guides recognising the trail as one of the best for meaningful travel.  The trail takes visitors on an inspirational journey through Scotland’s rich history and heritage, stunning landscapes and the art, music and literature which create our unique culture. It is all part of our sustainable destination development to encourage visitors to stay longer, travel sustainably and explore our regions throughout the year.  This recognition is further proof of the popularity that Scotland holds for visitors worldwide and will give encouragement to industry for the coming year.”


More information about the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is available at or by emailing 

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