The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere & Ross Bay Retreat

Ross Bay Retreat sits within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, a region that is internationally recognised as a world class environment for people and nature.  One of a global network of more than 700 UNESCO Biospheres, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire was the first to be designated in Scotland and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022.

GSAB UNESCO Trail The Eye Black Loch

The Eye at Black Loch

Biosphere & Local Tourism

UNESCO Biospheres work in local, national and worldwide partnerships to support and promote conservation, education, climate resilience, nature-friendly enterprise and sustainable development.

Marie McNulty, Business Development lead for the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere says:

“Here in southwest Scotland the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is part of the multi award-winning Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, and has recently been named as an “unmissable” experience in two prestigious travel guides: National Geographic’s annual ‘Cool List’ and Rough Guides’ Best Destinations for 2024.  It is home to incredible sites (and sights) including Galloway Forest (a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park), the Merrick (the highest summit in the south), and historic locations that embody Scotland’s colourful history from St Ninian to Robert Burns.”

GSAB Nature Day Hannahston Community Woodland 2

Nature Day at Hannahston Community Woodland

Connecting People & Nature

As an organisation the GSA Biosphere works alongside local, sustainable enterprises to showcase the region’s unique offer in leisure and hospitality.  All UNESCO Biospheres are founded on an ethos of creating enduring connections between people and nature, whether your time here is long or short.  Among the special experiences on offer here are cultural and heritage tours with trained Biosphere Guides, a range of self-guided itineraries, and an ‘Explore the Biosphere’ map which spotlights more than 300 Proud Supporter businesses, places of interest, Biosphere Communities, and walking and cycling routes.

Exceptional Commitment to UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals 

Ross Bay Retreat is one of fifty local providers to have achieved the Biosphere Certification Mark, a trademarked accreditation awarded to businesses that demonstrate exceptional commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

GSAB UNESCO Trail Hidden Veg

Hidden Veg at Balmaclellan

Sustainable Biosphere Visitor Experiences

With these partners the GSA Biosphere is spreading the word that an immersive and sustainable visitor experience is accessible to all, and that tourism is a force for good.  Take a deep dive into the website at  with a look at the Biosphere’s Visitor Charter for an idea of what local people are most excited to share.

Biodiversity at Ross Bay Retreat

Ross Bay takes it’s role in contributing to biodiversity within the GSA Biosphere very seriously. We have taken many measures both on the farm and in our holiday cottages to help create those enduring connections between nature and people. The wonderfully diverse and natural surroundings are one of the many reasons why people love coming to Ross Bay Retreat.

Sue Dale-Sunley, owner at Ross Bay Retreat says ‘Here at Ross Farm we strive to enable sustainable farming which benefits the farm animals, wildlife, environment, landscape and nature, making our peninsular beautiful for all to enjoy.’

Most recently we have we have grown a field of kale to out winter the cattle. The wildflower meadows in spring and summertime has created a large number of flittering butterflies which has been incredible to see (the large white and small white skippers are amazing!).

We have also grown our own fodder beet to help feed the cattle both indoors and outdoors throughout the year. Great for the cattle and great for the birds, bees, insects and wildlife.

flower meadows

Flower Meadows

How Farmers Can Help Reverse Climate Change

Recently we did some work with the Soil Association of Scotland who are researching to advise the government on best farming practices. Our farm scored well for a number of the key measurements including soil, water and animal welfare. There were a number of recommendations that are following to improve our overall biodiversity score.

Quote from the Soil Association Scotland about Ross Bay Farm

‘Good grassland and water management, farming with trees, building soil health and farming organically are some of the ways farmers help to reverse climate change and restore wildlife. Soil health is a really critical metric. Great soil health will influence everything from crop efficiency, to herd health, to water resilience to pest control. Increasing things like soil organic carbon and soil biodiversity helps create a better, more dynamic living soil, which is better for your farm operation and draws down atmospheric carbon at the same time.’


Rock Samphire at ‘Botany’ Ross Bay

Last year a group of very friendly botanists conducted a survey on the farm and immediately surrounding area to determine the variety of plant species that grow locally. They were keen to establish the extent of biodiversity of the plants and wild flowers in and around our farm counting and identifying the various species.

When compared to other areas of the UK it was pleasing to see that we did well. The team of botanists found some scarce and threatened species growing locally. These included juniper shrubs, wild onion (meadow garlic) and ramsoms (wild garlic) which are more commonly found in the shade of wild forests. Rock samphire, was also found and is not normally found so far north and more synonymous with Southern England. All these plant species must love our local ecosystem, the great weather and nutrient rich fertile land.

Come & Embrace the Wonderful Biodiversity at Ross Bay

We pride ourselves on being a peaceful quiet haven to relax whilst offering a wonderfully biodiverse location for visitors and guests to get away from it all and enjoy nature at its very best.

2024 is already booking up fast so we have recently added our 2025 prices and cottage availability online for guests to book in advance. This is to help make sure they get the dates they want.

Come and visit this beautiful corner of Scotland, you will see why so many keep coming back time and time again.

Ross Bay & Farm

Ross Bay & Farm

Useful Information & Relevant Links

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere – Background Information

The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has been recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature. Our UNESCO Biosphere designation was awarded in 2012 in recognition of the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that southwest Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience
and celebrate in a sustainable way.

GSA Biosphere ‘Our vision’:

To demonstrate our passion for living in a way that benefits people and nature.

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