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Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have presented Beach and Marina Operators with 14 national and 10 internationally recognised awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, education and water quality.

The international Blue Flag will be flown at 8 of Northern Ireland’s beaches and 2 marinas to signify world class facilities and destinations. The Blue Flag is an award programme certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). 47 countries participate in awarding Blue Flags to more than 4000 beaches and marinas worldwide making this award accessible to local beach goers and tourists alike. Beaches and marinas with a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, safety, and access for all. Blue Flag beaches and marinas also offer environmental education activities, as an important part of the award criteria. Beaches and Marinas may only fly the Blue Flag if all the criteria are successfully met throughout the summer season.

The Seaside Award is the national standard for beaches across the UK. The standards required by this programme ensure visitors are guaranteed to find a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed coastal environment with varied levels of facilities provided depending on the location of the beach. 12 beaches have been recognised by this award and can be identified by the Seaside Award Flag or Plaque.

2 of our more rural beaches have received the Green Coast Award, which recognises an agreement between the operator and the local community to protect and promote a natural beach environment rather than developing visitor infrastructure. Green Coast Award beaches can also be found in the Republic of Ireland and in Wales, but due to their more natural state, may not be flying a flag.

Northern Ireland’s coastline has some iconic sights, and many of our awarded beaches include or are next to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with specially protected habitats and species forming a large part of the experience visitors enjoy. The aim of these award programmes is to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to learn more about and spend time in their outdoor environment. Most award winning beaches and marinas provide information points to showcase the best of our wildlife and how visitors can enjoy these natural wonders without disturbing or damaging them.

Information on all the award winning beaches and marinas can be found at www.beachni.com or by picking up an Award Winning Beaches Leaflet from your nearest Tourist Information Centre.

The awards were presented on 24th May 2017, in time for the bathing season, which runs from 1st June until the 15th September each year.

Tony Wilcox, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “Having Northern Ireland’s world class beaches managed to such high standards is helping improve the quality of our lives as well as attracting visitors. Beach operators are inspirational people showing that all of us can play our part in loving where we live. And, in most council areas, the Live Here Love Here campaign is building on this to inspire everyone to get involved in creating cleaner, greener and healthier places to live, learn and work.”

With weeks of fine weather in early May prompting hopes of a fine summer, beaches around Northern Ireland are gearing up for an influx of visitors. To help everyone find their ideal award winning beach or marina Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have created a visitor map highlighting the facilities offered at each beach and also including suggestions for activities or attractions to make for a memorable day out. The guide will be available online, via all Tourist Information Centres, at award beaches, in larger bus and rail stations and from local councils.

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Notes to editors

For reference:

Awards Presented

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

Blue Flag

1. Cranfield West Beach

2. Murlough Beach

3. Tyrella Beach

Green Coast Award

4. Minerstown Beach

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Blue Flag

5. Benone Beach

6. Downhill Beach

7. West Strand

8. Whiterocks Beach

9. Ballycastle Marina

Seaside Award

10. Ballycastle Beach

11. Castlerock Beach

12. Portrush East Strand

13. Waterfoot Beach

North Down and Ards Borough Council

Seaside Award

14. Ballywalter Beach

15. Groomsport Beach

16. Millisle Beach

Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Seaside Award

17. Crawfordsburn Beach

Green Coast Award

18. Helen’s Bay Beach

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Seaside Award

19. Ballygally Beach

20. Brown’s Bay

21. Carnlough Beach

Mid Ulster District Council

Blue Flag

22. Ballyronin Marina

National Trust

Blue Flag

23. Portstewart Strand

Seaside Award

24. Portstewart Strand

For Interview:

Contact the office on 028 9073 6920 or at chris.allen@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.