David McCann Thu 24 May 2018
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have presented Beach and Marina Operators with 12 national and 11 internationally recognised awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, education and water quality.
The international Blue Flag will be flown at 9 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). 45 countries participate in awarding Blue Flags to more than 4400 beaches, marinas and boats 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. 11 beaches have been recognised by this award and can be identified by the Seaside Award Flag or Plaque.
1 of our more rural beaches has 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 2018, in time for the bathing season, which runs from 1st June until the 15th September each year.
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “We can turn up just about anywhere along Northern Ireland’s coastline and lough shores and know you will enjoy world beating scenery. It is thanks to the hard work of dedicated beach and marina operators, achieving prestigious awards, that our experience is matched by impressive standards for facilities, cleanliness and safety that we all want and expect. The pride they take in their work is evident for us all to see when we visit our own special places.”