World Heritage Site

An area with natural and/or cultural heritage of outstanding universal value may be awarded this most prestigious accolade.

St Kilda is the only World Heritage Site in Scotland recognised for its natural heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) later extended this status to also include the archipelago’s cultural heritage. St Kilda today remains one of the rare ‘mixed’ World Heritage Sites.

Find out more about St Kilda’s World Heritage Site status on the UNESCO website.

Scotland’s Flow Country, an expanse of blanket bog in Caithness and Sutherland, is on the UK Tentative List of potential World Heritage Sites. The Peatlands Partnership is conducting a community consultation on the potential for a Flow Country World Heritage Site. You can access the consultation documents and other information on the Highland Council consultation portal or via the Flow Country website. A summary of the proposals can be found in the discussion document Go with the Flows? 


UNESCO grants this non-statutory designation under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The Convention was adopted in 1972 by the General Conference of UNESCO. It was ratified by the UK Government in 1984.


Scottish Ministers make natural World Heritage Site proposals via the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). NatureScot advises Scottish Ministers on natural heritage sites.

Defra will include on the UK Tentative List those sites it assesses as suitable for World Heritage Site nomination. A site must then submit evidence to Defra to request a formal nomination slot. UNESCO assesses the suitability of nominated sites for inscription on the World Heritage List.


The World Heritage Committee maintains, and reviews every five years, the World Heritage List of designated sites.

The Committee may recommend that a World Heritage Site:

  • requires further protection
  • is removed from the World Heritage List – if it is inadequately protected or its value has been lost through damage

Protection and management

World Heritage Site designation requires statutory protection and management of the site’s outstanding universal value.

St Kilda is also protected as a:

It is within a National Scenic Area and is managed as a National Nature Reserve by the National Trust for Scotland.

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