Water quality at 26 Scottish beaches is rated 'excellent'

Achemelvich beach in the Highlands Image copyright Sue Fraser
Image caption Achmelvich beach in the Highlands (rated excellent)

Bathing water at 26 beaches across Scotland has been rated "excellent" in an official survey of water quality.

The highly rated beaches include Achmelvich in the Highlands and Southerness in Dumfries and Galloway.

A total of 73 locations in Scotland met strict European water quality standards, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Popular beaches at Ayr, Nairn and Sandyhills in the south-west of Scotland were among 11 rated "poor".

However overall water quality has improved since last year, when 17 beaches were rated "poor" and 17 "excellent".

Sepa said it was working to ensure every beach in Scotland achieved the standards of the new European bathing water directive by 2020.

Image copyright Joe Stewart
Image caption Silversands beach at Aberdour, Fife (rated excellent)

Calum McPhail, from the agency's environmental quality unit, said "great progress" has been made in improving bathing water quality in Scotland.

But he added: "We understand that some local communities will be disappointed, as we are, that there are 11 bathing waters which have been rated as having a 'poor' EU classification.

"It is important to remember that a 'poor' classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor.

"These are still fantastic beaches to visit, and we are working with the Scottish government and our key partner organisations to help all of Scotland's bathing waters to avoid 'poor' classifications."

Beaches rated 'excellent' Beaches rated 'poor'
Aberdour (Silversands) Ayr (South beach)
Achmelvich Cruden Bay
Anstruther (Billow Ness) Fisherow Sands
Balmedie Heads of Ayr
Broughty Ferry Kinghorn (Harbour beach)
Carrick Monifieth
Crail (Roome Bay) Nairn (Central)
Dornoch Nairn (East)
Dunnet Portobello (West)
Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry Sandyhills
Elie (Ruby Bay) Yellow Craig
Fraserburgh (Philorth)
Largs (Pencil beach)
Loch Morlich
Millport Bay
Pease Bay
St Andrews (East Sands)

Source: Sepa.

Sepa monitored 84 official EU designated bathing waters across Scotland between 1 June and 15 September 2016.

The EU used the data to rate 26 beaches "excellent", 36 "good", and 11 "sufficient" in line with the bathing water directive, which was introduced in 2015.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "This is great news for Scotland's seaside resorts and comes as many of us look forward to summer visits to our beautiful beaches.

"This shows the hard work of local authorities, communities, Sepa and the Scottish government is achieving results. This kind of partnership working is important as many local economies depend on beach tourism.

"I would encourage people to stay safe and take a look at the online guidance so they can get the most out of Scotland's bathing waters."

Image copyright David Nicoll
Image caption East Sands beach, St Andrews (rated excellent)
Image copyright John Duffy
Image caption Pease Bay, in the Borders (rated excellent)

The agency also announced that it would be monitoring water quality at Gairloch beach and Sand beach in the north-west of Scotland for the first time this year.

It comes after they were officially designated bathing waters by the Scottish government.

And it added that real-time water quality information would be available on electronic signs at 29 beaches across the country, after Monifieth was added to the signage network.

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