Blue Flag beach awards welcomed
More beaches in Northern Ireland will be able to fly the internationally recognised Blue Flag this summer.
A total of 10 locations across counties Antrim, Down and Londonderry have received the prestigious cleanliness award - two more than last year.
A further 10 beaches have also been given the UK-wide Seaside Award for good water quality.
Ian Humphreys, chief executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful which issues the awards in the region, said: "A Blue Flag means excellence; that we can proudly say nearly half of the designated bathing waters in Northern Ireland are world class is quite an achievement."
Some of the most popular holiday resorts including the West Strand and Whiterocks in Portrush, Co Antrim; Portstewart Strand in Co Londonderry; as well as Tyrella and Murlough beaches in Co Down have been recognised again.
Benone beach at Magilligan in Co Londonderry is celebrating success for the 25th consecutive year.
T wo marinas in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, and Ballyronan, Co Londonderry, were also awarded Blue Flag status.
Mr Humphreys added: "After a difficult summer season last year, with heavy rainfall affecting water quality on a number of occasions, this is an excellent result."
Environment minister, Mark H Durkan, said the awards demonstrated the hard work and dedication of coastal councils and the National Trust to provide first class beaches.
He said: "The coast of Northern Ireland is an amazing place to visit, and these awards demonstrate how much work has gone into promoting our excellent beaches.
"I trust that next year even more beaches and marinas will apply for these awards."
The Blue Flag Award is issued in 46 different countries for the highest standard of water quality, visitor facilities including toilets, lifeguards and first aid during peak hours as well as disabled access.
Colin Neill, Tourism Northern Ireland board member, said: "Northern Ireland's stunning beaches are amongst our greatest tourism assets, and keeping them clean and safe is of the utmost importance to us."