19 May 2016

Great news for the summer: in 2016, Wales increased its number of international Blue Flag Awards, with 44 of our beaches and three marinas winning a Blue Flag.

That’s six more than last year. The new beaches were Poppit Sands (Pembrokeshire), Tywyn beach (Gwynedd), Porthcawl Marina (Bridgend), and Whitmore Bay and Penarth Marina (Vale of Glamorgan).

A further 26 beaches were awarded the Green Coast Award, an excellence award for the ‘hidden gems’ along our coastline, and a total of 92 beaches won a Seaside Award for providing excellent facilities such as toilets, access for disabled people, car parks and cafes.

Talk about superb timing: the latest awards come in the middle of our Year of Adventure, during which we’re challenging visitors to find their own epic experience along the coast, whether it’s coasteering or canoeing, surfing or swimming, or simply messing around in rock pools.

It’s also a boost for the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, the longest continuous coastal path in the world, featuring hundreds of harbours, coves, inlets – and, of course, beaches. 

Blue Flag is the international standard for great beaches, established in 49 countries around the world. It’s managed by the Federation for Environmental Education and run locally by Keep Wales Tidy.

The Blue Flag is only awarded to beaches and marinas that have the highest quality of water, environment, management, safety and services – so it’s a guarantee that you’ve arrived at a clean, safe and beautiful beach. 

A few things worth pointing out: the Blue Flag scheme was started in the 1980s, and in its early days Wales had just one Blue Flag beach. Now we’ve got more per mile than anywhere in Britain – so that’s a measure of how much water quality and visitor experience has improved here.

Secondly, Blue Flags aren’t given lightly. In 2012, summer storms washed a lot of contaminants into the sea, and swathes of British beaches lost their status. Not their fault (and most won them back a year later). But nobody wins, or keeps, a Flag based on past glories. 

Thirdly, as lovely as it is to have gongs, it’s not the whole story. We’ve got an estimated 230 beaches dotted around the Welsh coast, and 70% of them don’t apply for awards, often because they’re tucked away in wild places. That doesn’t make them any less spotless or beautiful – just harder to find. Still, it is our Year of Adventure, so you’ll just have to hit the Coast Path, and hunt them out for yourself. To get you started, here are five proudly non-award-winning secret gems in Pembrokeshire.

All the same, we’re chuffed at the results. Thank you, Keep Wales Tidy, and thank you, Blue Flag. We’re proud to fly you.

For a full list of award-winning beaches, view the Keep Wales Tidy list. Or download the free Wales Coast App on your fancy Android / iPhone – see WalesCoastApp for details.