When it comes to Europe’s most idyllic beaches, it’s often the Mediterranean that hogs the headlines.
But those who take the time to explore Britain and Ireland’s coastlines will stumble across secluded coves that can match many of the Continent’s most renowned sunbathing spots.
It’s something that UK holidaymakers are starting to discover.
Travel industry experts say they expect the number of Brits shunning a foreign trip in favour of a break around the British Isles to rise yet again this year.
According to recent research, up to 10m Brits – a third of those who say they are planning a summer holiday – will visit a destination in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales rather than travel abroad.
It follows a seven percent increase in the number of British tourists opting to remain at home in 2015, with Cornwall, the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands, the Yorkshire Dales and the Norfolk Broads being revealed as England’s five most popular destinations.
The reason for this sudden rise has been partly attributed to the increased popularity of campervans, with retailers reporting a 10 percent rise in sales over the past 12 months.
There has also been a surge in demand for holidaymakers to travel with their pets.
However, another determining factor might well be the huge amount of UK beaches that now boast a prestigious Blue Flag award.
Almost 200 sites around the UK and Ireland now carry the certification, a globally recognised indication of excellent water quality, high levels of safety and services and exceptional environmental standards.
Set up as a way to maintain coastal environments and promote sustainable tourism, the scheme has been running since 1985, and is co-ordinated by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
It is a not-for-profit organisation which operates across 60 countries in Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia, North America and South America.
Certificates, also referred to by the organisation as awards, are issued annually.
This year’s announcement has just been made, with England alone being awarded 68 Blue Flags – seven more than last year.
We’ve picked out several beaches to help give you a little inspiration for your summer hols:
Polzeath Beach, Cornwall
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Cornwall and Devon boast the most amount of Blue Flag beaches in the UK, with eight each. Polzeath is one of them. Also known as Hayle Bay, it is a small stretch of sand on the north Cornwall coast. It is hugely popular with surfers, and is well served by pubs, cafes, shops and restaurants.
South Sands Beach, South Devon
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Salcombe’s South Sands beach is set in a picturesque cove and is popular with water sports enthusiasts who come to canoe, sail, windsurf and dive around the local shipwrecks. It is also located within an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, and walkers can enjoy a three-mile circular trek through the surrounding countryside.
Crawfordsburn, Country Down, Northern Ireland
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Set within Crawfordsburn’s Country Park, this stunning beach is ringed by wooded headlands, meadows and miles of walking trails which is teaming with wildlife. The park also has an Adidas-approved 5km running trail.
Blackpool Sands, South Devon
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Blackpool Sands Beach has a reputation as one of the area’s ‘most beautiful natural treasures’. It is popular with families who rent the paddle boards and kayaks on offer. The beach is privately managed and cleaned on a daily basis, while it also has sandpits for children and shower facilities.
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Less than 10-minutes walk from Falmouth town centre, it is the largest of the area’s four beaches. It is raked every morning during the summer months, while the local Gylly café prides itself on always using local produce.
Keem Strand, County Mayo, Ireland
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Achill Island, connected to mainland County Mayo by a single bridge, has a wealth of secluded coves – five of which boasts Blue Flag beaches. Keem Strand is one of them, attracting beach-goers during the warmer summer months and walkers during the winter, who can stroll along the cliff-top paths. Keem Bay is uninhabited and the only building is a coastguard hut on the hillside.
Llangrannog Beach, West Wales
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Llangrannog is one of two beaches that form part of the small fishing village with which it shares its name. Next to it is the spectacular cove of Cilborth, which can only be accessed by a tricky coastal path or from Llangrannog Beach at low tide.
Oddicombe, Torquay, Devon
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Accessed by a steep road, visitors can also choose to take the 90-year-old Babbabacombe Cliff Railway, run by volunteers and which ferries tourists and locals up and down the hillside to the water’s edge. It is known for being one of South Devon’s quieter beaches, and has huts to rent along with sailing boats and paddle boards. It also has a newly refurbished café.
Achmelvich Bay, Lochinver, Scotland
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White sands and turquoise water – not what you’d expect from a beach in Scotland. It is a renowned surfing spot, popular with families and is served by the Shore Camp site which overlooks the bay.
For more information about the Blue Flag visit: www.blueflag.global