England now has more Blue Flag beaches than holiday favourites Cyprus, Mexico or South Africa, with 77 in total. This is up from 71 in 2019 (the accolade wasn’t awarded in 2020 due to the pandemic).
Hornsea and Scarborough North Bay in Yorkshire, Leysdown in Kent and Crooklets Beach in Cornwall were among the beaches to receive a Blue Flag distinction this year after missing out in 2019.
Meanwhile, popular spots including Brighton, Margate Main Sands in Kent and Skegness in Lincolnshire have all retained their Blue Flag status.
For the first time, England also has a Blue Flag marina: the Royal Albert Dock and Salthouse Dock Marina in Liverpool.
Wales was awarded Blue Flag accolades for 45 of its beaches and marinas – one more than in 2019 – including Caswell Bay, Whitesands Bay and Prestatyn.
Blue Flag status is awarded by charities Keep Britain Tidy and Keep Wales Tidy, and is only bestowed upon beaches that have excellent facilities, are litter free and have achieved a high standard of water quality.
Local authorities must also have pledged to run a minimum of five educational activities for the local community and visitors at the beach, in order to raise awareness of the importance of looking after the environment.
Botany Bay and Westbrook Bay, both in Kent, are among the beaches that have lost their Blue Flag designation in 2021.
As well as the Blue Flag awards, 132 English and 25 Welsh beaches have received Seaside Awards, which recognise beaches with the highest standards of beach management.
In Wales, 13 beaches have also been given a Green Coast Award, recognising hidden gems along the Welsh coastline.
Keep Britain Tidy's chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “This year, more than ever, we are going to be relying on our country's beautiful beaches to escape for a much-needed break after all the stresses and strains of the past year.
“Whether it's camping in Cornwall, renting a cottage in North Yorkshire or simply having a day out at the seaside in Sussex, a fantastic beach is an essential part of a holiday for so many of us.
“Last year, due to the pandemic, we did not have the opportunity to celebrate all the great award-winning beaches around the coast, so this year we are delighted to have even more winners than we did in 2019, thanks to the incredible work of the teams around the country that make our beaches clean and safe for us all to enjoy.
“From environmental education for the local community and ensuring responsible beach use, to cleaning regimes and an increasing number of recycling facilities, it is a full-time commitment to create beaches worthy of these awards.”