Northern Ireland flies flag as a record 70 sites receive green status
A record number of parks and green spaces in Northern Ireland have been awarded Green Flag status.
Seventy locations received awards from environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful after exceeding tough environmental standards for green space management and visitor facilities.
The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for parks and open and green spaces.
For the 2018/19 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw another increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.
There were nine first-time winners this year across all participating council areas, including Belmont Cemetery in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Loughgall Country Park and Portadown People's Park in Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council.
Also receiving the accolade for the first time were Connswater Community Greenway and Half Moon Lake in Belfast City Council, Broadmeadow in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Moat Park in Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Hill of The O'Neill in Mid Ulster District Council and Kilbroney Park in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award and The Green Heritage Award for sites which conserve, enhance and help people enjoy the heritage value of the site.
Rathfern Activity Centre and Toome Linear Park received their first Green Flag Community Awards and the ruin of Ballyeaston church received its third Green Flag Community Award. These sites are managed and maintained by volunteers.
Belfast's Botanic Gardens and The Mall in Armagh received their first Green Heritage Awards, with Antrim Castle Gardens and Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre receiving their third Green Heritage Awards.
The Green Flag Awards are judged annually by green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against strict criteria, ranging from horticultural standards to cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.
"We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme," said Dr Ian Humphreys, the chief executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
He added: "We are proud to have so many wonderful green spaces in Northern Ireland for people to experience, and encourage the public to head outdoors."