Britain's Blue Flag Beaches

Broadstairs in Kent

It’s hard to beat a great British seaside holiday, and we’re blessed with a tremendous choice of beaches dotted all around our diverse coastline. If it’s a pristine stretch of white or golden sand you want, we can do that. If it’s rugged shale beaches in craggy coves, we can do that too. Windswept, deserted miles of sand, gentle bays and inlets, rockpools, turquoise sea, rolling dunes and crashing waves – you choose. Any one of these, and often a combination of two or more features, is available somewhere along our coast. The sun may be more elusive in our fickle summers in the UK, but as the saying goes – there’s no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong type of clothes!
There are plenty of guides and online sites that will help you to find the perfect beach for a day out at the seaside or if you want to plan a longer stay. Look out for those beaches which have been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag or Seaside Award, which means you can be sure they will be first class in every sense.
A total of 168 beaches in England and 33 in Wales have been recognised for their cleanliness, safety, public amenities and quality of water by Keep Britain Tidy in this year’s Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. A Blue Flag is an internationally recognised symbol given to beaches and marinas for ‘high standards of management, cleanliness and safety’ – an eco badge of honour which any beach can be proud of. An international jury of conservationists, environmentalists and lifesavers meets twice a year to make the awards based on information, including the results of seawater analysis, sent to them by the local authority responsible for the beach. It’s up to the local authority to put a beach forward for an award, which is then issued for a single season.
Blue Flags were awarded to 56 beaches in England and a further 122 received a Seaside Award. Thanet in Kent received most Blue Flags this year, with seven of its beaches singled out. Poole, Bournemouth, Isle of Wight and Torbay were each awarded four Blue Flags. Awarded beaches are to be found all over England, in the north east, east Midlands, south east, south west and on the east coast.
Wales will also see plenty of Blue Flags snapping in the sea breezes this summer, with an impressive 33 beaches awarded the highest accolade. Pembrokeshire did particularly well, rivalling Devon for counties with the most flags. Beaches in Gower, Snowdonia, Ceredigion and Anglesey will also be flying the blue standard for all the world to see. Wales can boast some stunning coastline, with over 100 beaches to choose from.
Scotland too has its fair share of wonderful beaches, many far-flung and remote and some so rarely visited that if you do know where to go, chances are you’ll have the place to yourself. Keep Scotland Beautiful will be announcing this year’s Blue Flag winners in July, in time for the school holidays although beaches to get a Seaside Award have already been announced.
Beaches, bays, cliffs and rockpools are some of our great natural playgrounds for all ages. Sailors, surfers, kayakers, swimmers and scuba divers will all find plenty of scope to enjoy themselves, as will beachcombers and the bucket and spade brigade. Even sun-worshipers will have their day in the sun, with a bit of luck! Deckchairs and donkey-rides are still to be found at many of the more traditional resorts and a day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without an ice-cream cone or fish and chips in a seaside café. Most of our seaside towns and villages are home to a wide range of pubs, bistros for al fresco eating and restaurants which offer fine-dining, if that’s what you’re after.
If you like cooking, one of the advantages of going self-catering is being able to buy some of the local produce such as fish and seafood and enjoy it with family and friends. If you find somewhere with a small harbour be sure and see if anyone’s landed some lobster, crab, sea bass or mackerel you can buy fresh off the boat. For a full list of beaches awarded a Blue Flag or Seaside Award click on one of the links below. Wherever you see one flying you know you’re on one of the country’s cleanest beaches, but don’t forget there are many others that may not be listed but can turn out to be wonderful discoveries.
For more information and guide to beaches in the UK, see:
Keep Britain Tidy
Keep Wales Tidy
Keep Scotland Beautiful
The Beach Guide