More beaches rated as ‘excellent’ for water quality – but 10 fail to make grade

Ten beaches around Scotland have been rated as having “poor” water quality, new figures show.

The rating from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) means the beaches – 12% of the total assessed – have not met strict environmental water quality standards this year.

In contrast, however, around a third of bathing waters have been labelled “excellent” and the remainder were also judged to have met the higher standards that came into force four years ago.

The figures were released as the bathing season gets under way, and come as the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful gave 61 beaches awards in recognition of their high standards for visitors.

St Andrews (West Sands)
St Andrews (West Sands)

According to Sepa, fewer bathing waters have been rated as “poor” since the tighter standards were introduced in 2015.

Of those that fell below standard, four were in the Solway area (Brighouse Bay, Dhoon Bay, Rockcliffe and Sandyhills) and three were in the West of Scotland (Ayr – South Beach, Heads of Ayr and Irvine).

The remaining three were in East Lothian (Fisherrow Sands), Fife (Kinghorn – Harbour Beach) and South East Scotland (Eyemouth).

Sepa said that partnership projects are under way to improve those bathing waters rated as “poor”.

Some 88% of Scotland’s 86 designated bathing waters were found to have met the required criteria, with 32% judged to be excellent, 41% good and 15% deemed sufficient.

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In the Highlands and Islands, improvements have been seen with Dores moving up to “excellent”, and Nairn (Central) and Thurso moving up to a “good” rating.

In North-East Scotland, Lunan Bay and Peterhead (Lido) have both improved to “excellent”, while Aberdeen has moved up to “good”.

In South-East Scotland Dunbar (East) and Thorntonloch have both improved to “excellent” with Yellow Craig and Seton Sands improving to “good”.

Calum McPhail, Sepa’s environmental quality manager, said: “Every day Sepa works to protect and enhance Scotland’s stunning environment.

“It is great news that more bathing waters have met the ‘excellent’ standard than since the new tighter standards first came into force in 2015 and we are also pleased to reveal that fewer bathing waters are rated as ‘poor’.”

Meanwhile, Keep Scotland Beautiful named the locations that have achieved Scottish Beach Award status for 2019, after having met a range of criteria, including on safety, access and facilities, and cleanliness.

This year sees many long-standing award participants return, including Gullane Bents in East Lothian and St Andrews West Sands in Fife, both of which are celebrating 27 consecutive years as award winners.

In total, 54 beaches have held an award for five or more years in a row.

Irvine Beach – Front Shore in North Ayrshire is also welcomed back onto the list for the first time in a decade.

Fife retains its title as the region with the most awards, being home to 14 winning beaches.

The Highlands was second, with 12 successful award winners.

Keep Scotland Beautiful chief executive Derek Robertson said: “Scotland’s coastlines and waters attract thousands of visitors every year. These beach users can be assured that where they see the Scottish Beach Award flag they will have the experience they are looking for: a clean beach, excellent amenities and signposting about the local area, as well as information about water quality.”