Northern Ireland bathing waters amongst the best in Europe

Date published: 11 October 2018

Northern Ireland continues to enjoy some of the best bathing water quality in Europe, with more than half classified as “Excellent”, according to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).


All 26 bathing waters around our coast have met strict European standards for quality. Sixteen of the 26 bathing waters were classified as ’Excellent’, a prerequisite for a coveted Blue Flag Award. A further six met the ‘Good’ standards and the rest met the ‘Sufficient’ standards.

David Small, Head of DAERA’s Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group welcomed the publication of the 2018 results.

“This is a superb result for our beaches, especially given the changeable weather our coastline is often subject to, but more importantly, it’s good news for our holidaymakers and bathers who can confidently enjoy our fabulous beaches,” he said.

“We take great pride in these results and know that maintaining them will take a sustained effort. We will continue to work to reduce water pollution to keep our bathing waters clean and safe.

“I am delighted to see that Ballyholme has moved from “Poor” to “Sufficient” for the first time since 2016. This is excellent news and is most likely the result of the extensive work we have carried out with NI Water, in both catchment improvements and on the sewerage infrastructure upgrades in Bangor.

“Our beaches are a priceless resource to tourism and to the health and well-being of our local communities and visitors alike. It is imperative that we continue to strive for the very highest of standards,” added Mr Small.

The results are:

Excellent Quality

  • Magilligan (Benone)
  • Magilligan (Downhill)
  • Castlerock
  • Portstewart
  • Portrush Mill – (West)
  • Portrush Whiterocks
  • Portballintrae
  • Ballycastle
  • Helen’s Bay
  • Groomsport
  • Millisle
  • Kilclief
  • Ballyhornan
  • Tyrella
  • Murlough Co Down
  • Cranfield Bay

Good Quality

  • Ballygally
  • Brown’s Bay
  • Crawfordsburn
  • Carnlough
  • Portrush Curran (East)
  • Cloughey

Sufficient Quality

  • Waterfoot
  • Ballywalter
  • Newcastle
  • Ballyholme

The results were announced today at the Better Beaches Forum whose members include DAERA, NI Water, coastal local authorities, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the National Trust, Surfers Against Sewage and some coastal community groups. 

The Forum works to improve water quality, improve beach cleanliness, manage facilities and keep the public better informed.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Download the published 2018 Bathing Water Compliance results.
  2. The bathing season runs from 1 June to 15 September. During this time, a comprehensive monitoring programme is carried out by DAERA staff. A bathing water monitoring programme has been in place since 1988.
  3. This year three new bathing waters sites were identified - Cloughey, Kilclief and Ballyhornan. 
  4. Comparing the 2018 with the 2017 classifications for the 23 sites monitored that year, the overall classification for 18 locations were unchanged. An improvement in classification was seen at five locations; Ballyholme moved from ‘Poor’ to ‘Sufficient’, Carnlough and Portrush Curran from sufficient to ‘Good’ and Ballycastle and Millisle from ’Good’ to ‘Excellent’. 
  5. The Better Beaches Forum produced a Better Beaches Report 2018. Local councils, the National Trust and NIEA have a statutory role as bathing water operators.
  6. DAERA continues to work with NI Water to improve the water environment through targeted investment in improved sewage treatment and with the agriculture sector to administer a number of agri-environment incentive schemes. Both sectors are also regulated.
  7. In 2015 a new EC Bathing Water Directive came into full effect, replacing the older 1976 Directive. It introduced new standards for bacteria in water which are approximately twice as stringent as the old Directive. It contains four standards; Excellent, Good, Sufficient and Poor. Compliance with these standards is calculated on bathing water quality data over four years.
  8. The new ’Sufficient’ standard is approximately equivalent to the old ’Good’ standard.
  9. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  11. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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