Beaches and Coastline

The Seaside Award

Seaside Award 2017 logo

To be considered for the prestigious Seaside Award, a beach has to satisfy certain criteria and the most important is bathing water quality.

2017 Seaside Award flag

The water quality testing is carried out by Marine Division, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). Only beaches that are frequented by a sizeable number of bathers are included in this programme. Within Mid and East Antrim Borough, they are Carnlough, Ballygally and Brown’s Bay. These beaches are only three out of a total of 23 beaches in Northern Ireland that are tested for water quality.

The longest beaches in Northern Ireland where surfing and many other water sports are popular and which attract thousands of visitors, aim for Blue Flag. The smaller and more sheltered beaches of East Antrim suit the Seaside Award.

The bathing water quality is tested 20 times a year during the bathing season which runs from the beginning of June to the middle of September. Scientists from Marine Division in DAERA take these water samples back to their laboratory in Lisburn and in a few days they report back to all the coastal Councils with the results for their area. 

The results are displayed in table format, in information panels located beside the beaches and are updated regularly. Further information is available from NI Direct's Bathing Water Quality page. Problems in water quality might happen only once a year (or not at all) after a period of heavy rain when pollutants on land can be washed downstream into the sea. If this does happen, signs are put up advising against bathing.

Achieving this exacting standard, while critical, is not enough on its own to get the Seaside Award; many other factors are taken into consideration by the judges. All the right information about the beach and the local facilities has to be clearly displayed at the beach. The beach also needs to be kept clean of litter. The public is always encouraged to take litter away with them. As well as Council staff keeping an eye on the beach and carrying out regular litter picks, local volunteers carry out beach cleans about once a year. 
If you are interested in taking part in one of these beach cleans please contact us. When good weather coincides with holidays, hundreds of people can converge on these beaches. Life-saving equipment, facilities for disabled users (where possible), dog control and toilet facilities are also part of the necessary criteria for Seaside Award. 

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful manages the judging and applications for Blue flag, Seaside Award and other coastal programmes.

The Beach Management Strategy provides a basis for decision-making on matters relating to beaches in Mid and East Antrim.