Northern Ireland’s beaches provide the perfect place for a fun day out, and today, 24th May, awarding body TIDY Northern Ireland, in association with Northern Ireland Tourist Board, announced that 11 beaches and 2 marina’s will fly the prestigious International Blue Flag and 11 beaches will fly the Seaside Award. This is simply our best year for beach awards. Ever.
So, with the weather hotting up for summer, TIDY Northern Ireland is urging people to take a trip to an award winning beach and dip a toe in the sea or have a picnic. To help everyone find out where their nearest award winning beach or marina is TIDY Northern Ireland launched a special map at today’s event, which will be available online, via all Tourist Board Information Centres and at local beaches.
The awards comprise of the highly prized international Blue Flag award, now in its 25th year, for beaches and marinas, as well as the rural and resort Seaside Awards. Blue Flag beaches must meet 32 criteria, including Guideline bathing water quality as set by the EU Bathing Water Directive. The Seaside Award operates in a similar manner including meeting the mandatory EU standards for bathing water. Despite this being the best year in Northern Ireland for beach awards, the EC has raised the bar in terms of water quality. In years to come it may be even more difficult to win Blue Flag and Seaside Awards – not because of any deterioration in water quality but because the revised Bathing Waters Directive is setting even more water quality stringent standards.
Laura McCorry, Director of Corporate Development, Northern Ireland Tourist Board said,
“NITB is delighted to be the sponsor of the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards 2012. Every year, visitors come to Northern Ireland to enjoy our stunning coastline. Some come to catch a few crashing Atlantic waves on their surfboards, others to cycle the scenic coastal routes and others simply to drink in the views. The safety and cleanliness of our beaches is therefore very important in attracting visitors. So I am absolutely delighted that this year, we have a record number of award winning beaches and marinas. This is particularly good news, given that we expect 2012 and 13 to be phenomenal years for tourism in Northern Ireland. We will be encouraging our visitors to kick off their shoes, walk down to the water’s edge and enjoy our fresh waters and warm welcome at one of our 23 award winning beaches!”
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive for TIDY Northern Ireland said, “This is a vintage year for Northern Ireland’s beaches with more than ever before qualifying for the prestigious awards. This is down to the dedication and commitment of our beach operators as well as the infrastructure investment from Northern Ireland Water. There has never been a better time to visit our coast with your family and friends. It really is our time, our place.
Presenting the awards, Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood, MLA, commented “Today’s increase in Blue Flag and Seaside Awards is great news for Northern Ireland’s beach users and seaside towns as they know they can expect the best when they see a Blue Flag or a Seaside Award symbol. These beach awards recognise the high standard of facilities and management at our most popular beaches, as well as the water quality. The high number of awards this year reflects the excellent water quality recorded at our bathing waters last year. I have organised a number of Good Beach Summits to address the quality of our beach areas and it would seem that that work is bearing fruit.”
The Minister also took the opportunity at the awards to launch a new beach web site for Northern Ireland www.beachni.com. The new site developed by Outdoor Recreation NI will provide a ‘one stop shop’ for information on 23 beaches by giving detailed and relevant information on each beach, its facilities and what activities can be undertaken there. In addition, the website will also act as a main information point for beach related news, events and blogs.
It comes with perfect timing as more and more of us are staying at home and heading down to our own coast for more affordable holidays, with an array of top notch beaches to choose from.