Marble Arch Caves win Unesco Global Geopark status
The Marble Arch Caves and the spectacular Fermanagh landscape surrounding them have won Unesco Global Geopark status.
The 20,000-hectare geopark straddling the border is now the second Unesco-recognised site in Northern Ireland after the Giant's Causeway, and is on a par with Newgrange in the Republic.
Marble Arch Caves Unesco Global Geopark, which takes in winding rivers, spectacular cliffs, prehistoric tombs and one of Europe's finest showcaves, is now ranked among some of the most stunning places in the world.
The status is awarded in recognition of an area's internationally important rocks and landscapes, and how they are used for sustainable tourism.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said: "I welcome this historic announcement of Unesco Global Geoparks, the first new programme in Unesco for over 40 years. Here in Northern Ireland, we are fortunate to have some of the most diverse rocks and landscapes on Earth.
"It is these foundations that have given rise to our most iconic tourist attractions such as the Giant's Causeway World Heritage site and, of course, the Marble Arch Caves Unesco Global Geopark here in Fermanagh.
"There are currently nine Unesco Global Geoparks in the UK and Ireland, and each has seen the benefits that such a designation can bring, with increased visitor numbers and tourism revenue.
"A visit to a Unesco Global Geopark is a guarantee to a visitor that they will experience some of the most stunning and internationally significant natural assets that any destination has to offer.
"This is a significant achievement, and I would like to congratulate the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, who have worked in close partnership with the team at the Marble Arch Caves to secure this award, which will make a substantial contribution to our tourism offering."
Finance Minister Arlene Foster added: "This award is a fitting recognition of the spectacular Marble Arch Caves, which we in Co Fermanagh are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. The new status of the caves reinforces Fermanagh as an international tourist destination and will provide a boost to the local economy, as well as the wider economy."
The Global Geopark is one of 120 around the world and is home to a fascinating variety of geology, natural landscapes and historic relics.