Portstewart Strand, a two-mile stretch of golden sand in County Londonderry has been named the Best Blue Flag Beach in the UK.
A favourite with locals and tourists alike who come to enjoy the clean sand, magnificent views and unique wildlife, Portstewart Strand is cared for by conservation charity the National Trust.
The competition was run by Holidaylettings.co.uk and twelve Blue Flag beaches from around the UK were nominated. The public were then asked to vote for their favourite beach online. On hearing about Portstewart Strand’s nomination, beach supervisor for the National Trust, Gill McIlmoyle, rose to the challenge rallying support from the local community and visitors to the beach.
‘I was out on the beach every day asking people to vote for us. I was so proud that Portstewart Strand was the only beach in Northern Ireland to be nominated for the award and I was determined that our wonderful beach would win.
‘I’m hugely grateful to the local community for their support and to all our members and visitors who took the time to vote for Portstewart Strand, ensuring a landslide victory for our beach.’
Portstewart Strand faced stiff competition from some of the most scenic beaches in the UK including Swanage in Dorset, Minnis Bay in Kent and Porthmeor in Cornwall. However none came close to this local gem which received a staggering 43% of the votes to secure first place and the title of Best Blue Flag Beach in the UK.
Saskia Welman, spokesperson for HolidayLettings.co.uk, said: ‘We picked twelve amazing Blue Flag Beaches that we felt perfectly embody everything that’s great about the British seaside. They needed to be iconic, family-friendly, and they all had a unique characteristic about them.
‘We’re delighted to reveal that after running our online survey for more than three weeks, Portstewart Strand has come out on top and has been voted as the number one Blue Flag beach by our visitors.
This amazing beach has got it all, from fine golden sand that is perfect to build sand castles, to ancient dunes that make it a much-loved spot for walkers throughout the year. It’s also popular for surfing and other water sports.’
The Strand, which receives around 150,000 visitors a year is managed by a team of staff and volunteers from the National Trust who work tirelessly to ensure this impressive stretch of the north coast retains its natural beauty and remains an important wildlife sanctuary.
The beach is one of only 10 Blue Flag beaches in Northern Ireland and is unusual in that cars can park on the sand in a defined zone, with walkers having free access to the rest of the Strand. Behind the beach lies an impressive sand dune system, accessed through waymarked trails, where a rich biodiversity of plants and animals co-exist.
‘My staff and I get regular compliments from visitors on how well cared for the beach is,’ says Gill.
‘It takes a huge effort to keep this vast stretch of beach clean and well presented, especially in high season when there can be thousands of people on the Strand. Winning this award is recognition of all the hard work that we do here. I am delighted that our beach has been named the best in the UK. For me, there really is nothing to touch it; it’s the best office in the world!’