The slate landscapes of north-western Wales are one of the planet's newest World Heritage Sites, as certified by UNESCO.

The former industrial heartlands of Gwynedd will take their place among some of the world's most well-known and significant landmarks, including Australia's Great Barrier Reed, India's Taj Mahal, and the USA's Yellowstone National Park.

Awarding body UNESCO, which is the cultural arm of the United Nations, said the region "had a considerable impact on global architecture and urbanisation in Europe and North America," with its slate helping build palaces and city halls from Copenhagen to Melbourne.

Announcing the award, UNESCO said the World Heritage Status "recognises 1,800 years of slate mining, the people, culture and Welsh language, an how the landscape roofed the 19th-century world".

The slate landscapes become Wales' fourth World Heritage Site, alongside Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd.

First minister Mark Drakeford said the award "recognises the significant contribution this part of North Wales has made to the cultural and industrial heritage not only of Wales, but of the wider world. Welsh slate can be found all over the world."

He added: “The quarrying and mining of slate has left a unique legacy in Gwynedd, which the communities are rightly proud of. This worldwide recognition today by UNESCO, will help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration.”

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The new World Heritage Site is not one single location but comprises six parts, including quarry landscapes such as Penrhyn, Dinorwig, the Nantlle Valley and Ffestiniog. 

It also includes the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, Penrhyn Castle and the famous Ffestiniog and Talyllyn Railways, built to transport the slate from quarry to markets around the world and both later transformed into heritage railways. 

The bid for World Heritage Status was led by Gwynedd Council and took 15 years to reach this point.

UK Government heritage minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Unesco World Heritage Status is a huge achievement and testament to the importance this region played in the industrial revolution and Wales’ slate mining heritage. I welcome the prospect of increased investment, jobs and a better understanding of this stunning part of the UK.”

Plaid Cymru called the announcement "a boost to pride in our Welsh heritage and a boost to Wales’ place on the international stage".

The party's culture spokesperson, Heledd Fychan, said "formally recognising the slate industry’s contribution to north Wales is not only a fitting tribute to the labour of thousands of workers over many generations... but it will also ensure that future generations from around the world are given the opportunity to learn and understand the historical, industrial, economic, and cultural impact the slate industry made to Wales and beyond".

And Welsh Conservatives leader hailed the "excellent news" that Gwynedd's bid had succeeded, noting that Wales had seen off competition from other candidates in France, Italy and Spain.

"Against tough competition... our very own slate landscape’s beauty, heritage and culture shone through," he said.

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