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World Heritage Sites

Understanding World Heritage Sites in Wales

In this guide

1. Introduction

World Heritage Sites are places of Outstanding Universal Value to the whole of humanity. This means that their cultural and/or natural significance is so exceptional that it has special importance for people everywhere, now and in the future.

World Heritage Sites are not simply the best examples of their type; they are sites, monuments and landscapes that say something fundamental about humanity, where we have come from and the world we inhabit. The selection process is rigorous and demanding to make sure that World Heritage Sites are truly an exclusive collection of international significance.

There is no higher recognition of heritage value than World Heritage Site status. This means that we have a responsibility to protect, conserve and present our World Heritage Sites for future generations.

2. UNESCO

The concept of World Heritage was created in 1972 when UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Over 190 nations have ratified the convention and over 1,000 sites have been inscribed as World Heritage Sites. Governments that have ratified the convention (States Parties) identify and nominate suitable sites to the World Heritage Committee for inscription on the list maintained by UNESCO.

The UK is a State party. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport acts as the State party for the whole of the UK and is responsible to UNESCO for the UK’s general compliance with the convention.

3. World Heritage Sites in Wales

There are three World Heritage Sites in Wales:

• Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (inscribed 1986)

• Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (inscribed 2000)

• Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (inscribed 2009).

The Welsh Ministers are responsible for:

  • identifying and putting forward sites to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for nomination
  • ensuring compliance with the convention  in Wales.   In practice, Cadw carries out these roles on behalf of the Welsh Ministers.  

Local planning authorities also have an important role in protecting World Heritage Sites and their settings from inappropriate development via the spatial planning system.

There is more information about protecting World Heritage Sites in Managing World Heritage Sites in Wales.

Our World Heritage Sites are precious. It is important that we work together to help everyone understand their history and what makes them internationally significant.  If people care about them, we can not only keep them safe but also unlock the opportunities they offer Wales through improved global recognition, tourism, regeneration and lifelong learning.

The protection, conservation and presentation of our World Heritage Sites, now and in the future, are fundamental to achieving these ambitions.