26 of north's beaches and marinas win awards
TWENTY-SIX beaches and marinas across Northern Ireland have been recognised for their standards of excellence in an awards scheme which celebrates "great blue spaces on our doorstep".
In the year of a pandemic, the locations were chosen to raise awareness of the positive connection between the outdoors and our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Coveted blue flag status was awarded to eight beaches across the north, two of which were in Portrush - West Strand and Whiterocks.
Murlough in Dundrum, Benone strand in Limavady, Tyrellea in Newcastle, Cranfield in Kilkeel, Coleraine's Castlerock beach and Downhill Strand will also have the internationally renowned blue flag flown for the 2021 season.
Marinas at Bangor, Glenarm, Ballycastle, Carrickfergus, Portglenone and Ballyronan earned blue flags, which are certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and have 49 participating countries globally.
The 2020/21 winners were selected by the conservation charity 'Keep Northern Beautiful'.
Beach and marina operators were recognised for their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality and safety, providing access and educational activities.
The Seaside Award and Green Coast Award were also given to those beaches which met national standards to ensure visitors enjoyed a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided appropriate for the location.
Helens Bay Beach in Bangor received the Green Coast accolade while eleven beaches - including Carnlough, Waterfoot and Millisle - earned this year's 'Seaside Award'
The charity say the awards aim to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to learn more about their coastal environment.
Ian Humphreys, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful chief executive, said: "The past year has restricted our ability to travel and meet people. Yet, we are fortunate to have such great local blue spaces right on our doorstep.
"All of us can be rightly proud of this beautiful place we call home. Behind every one of these special places are dedicated key workers whose effort all year round keeps these blue spaces in such excellent condition. These awards are a small way of saying thank you and recognising that we have so much to be proud of in our community."