A record 51 parks and green spaces across Northern Ireland have received prestigious Green Flag awards for environmental excellence.
Green Flag awards, which are recognised around the world, are given to places that exceed tough environmental standards for green space management and visitor facilities.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, which held the awards at Armagh Palace Demesne, said it had seen a continued increase in the numbers of public parks, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the required standards.
First-time winners of awards this year included Antrim/Belmont Cemetery, Castle Park in Bangor, Clare Glen, Palace Demesne, Carnfunnock Country Park, Ecos Nature Park, Eden Allotment Gardens and Maghera Walled Garden.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful announced two new Green Flag categories — the Green Flag Community Award and the Green Heritage Award.
Ballyeaston Church Ruin received a Green Flag Community Award for the site, which is managed and maintained by Ballyeaston Village Committee.
Antrim Castle Gardens and Clotworthy House and Sentry Hill historic house and visitor centre, meanwhile, received the Green Heritage Award.
The Green Flag Awards are judged every year by green space experts who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen praised the successful applications,
“Our parks and open spaces are frequently enjoyed by people of all ages, providing an opportunity to relax and unwind from everyday life,” she said.
“We recognise and reward the achievements of all those who work to improve the quality and environmental standards of our parks and open spaces.
“It is a credit to all those involved that the Green Flag Award scheme has continued to grow over the last four years. I am delighted that this year we have seen a record number of applicants to the scheme.
“I look forward to the continued success of the awards in the coming years in helping more and more of our public parks and green spaces achieve higher environmental standards.”