Record number of Scottish bathing beaches rated ‘excellent’

Ayrs South Beach  like the nearby Heads of Ayr  saw its water quality drop to be officially classed as poor last year. Picture: SWNS
Ayrs South Beach  like the nearby Heads of Ayr  saw its water quality drop to be officially classed as poor last year. Picture: SWNS
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There is good news for Scots taking the plunge around the country now that the official swimming season is under way, as a record number of beaches meet the highest water cleanliness standards.

A total of 26 out of Scotland’s 84 designated bathing waters have been rated “excellent” this year, up from 17 in 2016.

These include favourite spots such as Achmelvich in the Highlands, Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae and Pencil Beach in Largs.

A further 36 are considered “good” and 11 “sufficient”.

The number classed as “poor” has dropped from 17 last year to 11 in 2017.

These include two popular west coast destinations, Heads of Ayr and South Beach in Ayr.

Official bathing water designation enables action to be taken to ensure the bathing water meets the standards to protect public health.

Tailored improvement plans have been put in place at each site deemed ‘poor’ in an effort to raise all bathing waters to the new EU standards by 2020.

The classifications, produced by the Scottish Environment protection Agency (Sepa), are based on four years of sampling at each site and conform to strict new European guidelines.

The ratings will be displayed at beaches until the season ends in mid-September.

Calum McPhail, from Sepa’s Environmental Quality Unit, said: “It is good to see that there has been a reduction in the number of bathing waters classified as poor, and a general improvement across the other classifications.

“While this is great progress, 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.”

The primary causes of poor bathing water quality are short episodes of pollution caused by the impact of heavy rainfall on sewage systems and drains, field run-off and agricultural activity.

Five special groups have been formed to tackle poor water quality at key locations.

Two new beaches – Gairloch and Sand, both in Wester Ross – have been designated as bathing sites for the first time this year, but ratings will not be applied to the beaches until water monitoring has been carried out.