Scots get back to the beach as summer season opens

  01 June 2022
Scotland’s bathing water season begins today (1 June) ready to welcome locals, international and domestic visitors to 87 locations around the country, playing a vital role in helping Scotland’s tourism industry recover after limited travel over the last few years.
  • Scots get back to the beach as summer season opens and two new locations added this year. 
  • Seaside and coastal locations play a major role in Scotland’s tourism industry – bringing international and domestic visitors into local communities. 
  • In 2019, 38% of international visitors visited a beach during their visit*. 
  • Of the 85 bathing waters sampled by SEPA last year, 99% are classified as sufficient or better for 2022.  
  • New-look bathing water signs will be installed over the summer at five locations on the west coast. 
  • Know the key steps to protect the water environment and ensure you stay safe near the water. 

Scotland’s bathing water season begins today (1 June) ready to welcome locals, international and domestic visitors to 87 locations around the country, playing a vital role in helping Scotland’s tourism industry recover after limited travel over the last few years.  

Of the 85 bathing waters sampled by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) last year, 99% are classified as sufficient or better for 2022. Thirty two (38%) are rated as ‘excellent’. 

Two new locations, Barassie in South Ayrshire and Lower Largo in Fife, were designated in May following successful applications, bringing the total number of official bathing waters for the 2022 season to 87. 

Bathing water boosts for tourism 

Continually ranked as one of the most beautiful countries in the world by British travel publisher Rough Guide, Scotland’s natural environment is world-renowned and provides a high motivation for people to visit. Its beaches range from remote, unspoilt Hebridean sands to golden stretches along northern and eastern coves and popular western shores – with three bathing waters on inland lochs. 

Trips to the beach provide valuable outdoor spaces for local residents and bring visitors to the shoreline for the day. They also result in overnight stays in communities, meals in local restaurants and cafes, and shopping in nearby locations – which can bring a real boost to the local economy. 

Figures from Visit Scotland show that in 2019 38% of international visitors visited a beach, during their visit. Domestic tourism resulted in 2.3 million overnight trips to seaside and coastal locations and generated £448m of expenditure for the Scottish economy. 

Designated bathing waters are sampled by SEPA regularly during the season, which runs until 15 September, and the results are published online. SEPA’s network of 29 bathing water signs show daily water quality information so visitors can decide whether they participate in water or land-based activities. Predictions are also published on SEPA’s website. 

This year SEPA will be installing six new totem-style bathing water information signs at five locations in the South West - replacing original units from 2003.  

  • Ayr (two signs) 
  • Irvine 
  • Prestwick 
  • Troon
  • Saltcoats/Ardrossan

Ruth Stidson, Principal Scientist (Bathing Waters) at SEPA, said: 

“With Covid restrictions now eased, visitors will be flocking to our stunning coastlines and beaches. SEPA’s bathing water designations ensure beach users can make an informed decision on if they want to take part in water-based activities at 87 locations.  

“Protecting and improving our bathing waters is crucial for our environment, our local economies which rely on beach tourism and our visitors, whether local, domestic or international. SEPA works every day to protect and enhance Scotland’s stunning environment and we are committed to ensuring all of Scotland’s designated bathing waters meet water quality standards. 

“We’ve seen a number of improvements over the last few years, as key projects have delivered positive changes. Partnership working between SEPA, Scottish Government, the farming sector, Scottish Water, Keep Scotland Beautiful, local authorities and communities has been vital to achieving better results. Further work is continuing this year to drive forward improvements this season and beyond.” 

Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:

“There are now more official bathing water sites in Scotland than ever, which is great news for local communities, residents and tourists alike. 

“By investing in protecting and improving bathing waters across Scotland we have made sure many more people can continue to enjoy them with 99% of bathing waters passing bathing water quality standards in 2021.” 

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive VisitScotland said: 

“Scotland’s coastline is home to many stunning beaches and is a vital part of our tourism offering. From family-friendly day trips to water-based adventures, they offer a diverse range of experiences for visitors.  

“SEPA annual bathing water classifications provide helpful guidance for visitors and are a reminder of the important role we all have to play in protecting our natural landscapes.  

“As the summer season starts, we ask everyone to enjoy our waters safely and respectfully. We would urge visitors to follow water safety advice, guidance and signage and, to ensure our beaches are protected for the enjoyment of all, leave no trace of their visit.” 

The season was officially launched at Barassie in South Ayrshire, one of Scotland’s newest bathing waters. 

Councillor Martin Kilbride, Buildings, Housing and Environment Portfolio Holder for South Ayrshire Council said:

“It’s fantastic that Barassie Beach has been recognised with this important status. Barassie now joins Troon, Prestwick, Ayr, Heads of Ayr, Culzean, Maidens and Girvan as an official bathing water. We have some of the busiest beaches in the country so having eight designated coastal bathing waters is hugely important. A big thank you to SEPA and to Scottish Water for all their work and improvements.”  

Councillor Alec Clark, Tourism and Rural Affairs Portfolio Holder for South Ayrshire Council said:  

“This is great news for South Ayrshire. Our beaches attract people from all over the country and beyond, so having designated bathing water is significant. Along with so many others, our tourism sector has suffered of late, so this announcement could not come at a better time. The economic boost our beaches provide, is something which is felt throughout South Ayrshire. I would like to thank the Friends of Troon Beach for submitting the application and welcome Barassie Beach to the South Ayrshire Coastal family of wonderful beaches which we are a privilege to share and enjoy.” 

Ongoing improvement in water quality 

Previous SEPA water quality improvement projects have demonstrated bold and timely action from partnership working with organisation including Scottish Government, Scottish Water, the National Farming Union of Scotland (NFUS)  local communities, local authorities and Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB). Fifteen bathing waters that had a poor classification in 2015 have improved to a sufficient or better classification in 2022.  

SEPA will continue to work with partners to raise or maintain the state of bathing waters throughout Scotland for the benefits of the communities and visitors who use them. 

Dhoon Bay, on the Solway coast, is the only bathing water classified as poor for 2022. SEPA has been working closely with the local community, local authority and Scottish Water to put in place actions to reduce the impact of private sewage treatment systems in the catchment area. Plans for permanent improvements for the private systems serving domestic homes is ongoing, with funds made available by the Scottish Government and assistance from Scottish Water. South of Scotland Enterprise is also involved in plans to upgrade treatment provision at a caravan park in an area that is important for tourism. These actions are aimed at improving water quality in what will be a critical year for this location. 

Help improve our beaches and coastlines   

Communities and visitors to Scotland’s beaches can help protect our water environment, even when they’re not visiting. 

It’s important that people understand the impact what they flush away has on the environment, including their local bathing water. Every year Scottish Water teams deal with around 36,000 blockages, costing customers about £7 million annually, and around 80% of those are caused by people flushing the wrong items down the toilet, or pouring fats, oil and grease down the sink. These blockages in the sewer system can result in spills of pollution into the environment.  

Whether you are at home, at work or on holiday, Scottish Water provides advice on how to protect the network, and Scotland’s water environment, at scottishwater.co.uk/naturecalls   

Simon Parsons, Scottish Water’s Strategic Customer Services Planning Director, said: 

Scottish Water is committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers, coastal waters and beaches.  

“We recently published our urban waters route map, announcing plans to invest up to half a billion pounds more in Scotland’s waste water network to deliver further improvements and ensure that Scotland’s rivers, beaches and urban waters are free from sewage-related debris. 

“All our customers can play a huge part in preventing debris in rivers and on beaches. Our new national campaign ‘Nature Calls’ urges customers not to flush wet wipes (and other items) down the toilet and we are calling for a complete ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.” 

Protecting our bathing waters while at the beach is also vital. Waste from animals or litter is not just unsightly, it can have a negative impact on the environment – so it’s important to make sure your visit doesn’t contribute to pollution. 

Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful said: 

‘We are delighted with the results of My Beach Your Beach; working together, partners, communities and individuals have really raised awareness of bathing water quality, encouraging everyone to play their part in helping to protect the sand and sea. My Beach Your Beach encourages more people to engage in simple actions leading to better bathing water quality. Waste from animals or litter is not just unsightly, it can have a negative impact on the environment. So, visitors are encouraged to take litter home, clean up after their dogs and avoid feeding the gulls, ensuring a good beach experience for everyone who visits.”  

Find out more at keepscotlandbeautiful.org/mybeachyourbeach 

Stay safe at the beach 

For advice on how to keep safe in and around water visit the RLNI and Water Safety Scotland webpages. 

During the season, SEPA posts results online from its sampling of all 87 designated bathing waters. At 29 locations there are bathing water signs with updated water quality predictions by 10am, so you can check before you travel.  

At most locations, bathing is not advised during, or one to two days after, heavy rainfall due to the risk to bathers’ health from short term water pollution. Site-specific information on risks can be found on the individual bathing water profiles on our website. 

Ends 

Notes to editors 

Four images are available to download for use with this story from our photo gallery. No sign in or registration is required. Visit https://images.sepa.org.uk/assetbank-sepa and search using 'Barassie' or the number of the image you wish to use.

  • 27658 - Group shot
  • 27659 - Pupils from Barassie Primary School build sand castles
  • 27660 - Local swimmers in water
  • 27661 - Group shot

*Visit Scotland report - Coastal Tourism 2021 (visitscotland.org) 

More information on bathing waters 

SEPA’s website includes a list of all locations where sampling results are posted, daily predictions, bathing water profiles and more - Bathing Waters: Homepage (sepa.org.uk) 

Water Safety information 

Scotland’s results 

  • Bathing water classifications are typically based on four years of monitoring data.
  • Classifications are calculated at the end of one season for display at the start of the following season. 

  

2021/22 

2020/21 

2019/20 

2018/19 

2017/18 

2016/17 

2015/16 

Excellent 

32 (38%) 

Results carried over from 2019/20 

29 (34%) 

28 (32%) 

25 (29%) 

26 (31%) 

17 (20%) 

Good 

35 (41%) 

31 (36%) 

35 (41%) 

34 (40%) 

36 (43%) 

38 (45%) 

Sufficient 

17 (20%) 

20 (24%) 

13 (15%) 

16 (19%) 

11 (13%) 

12 (14%) 

Poor 

1 (1%) 

5 (6%) 

10 (12%) 

11 (13%) 

11 (13%) 

17 (20%) 

Total Bathing Waters 

85 

85 

86 

86 

84 

84 

Wet weather problems 

  • Diffuse pollution is a key pollution pressure on the water environment in Scotland, but it can be difficult to identify and control. The risk of diffuse pollution is worse during rainfall because nutrients, soil, chemicals and faecal bacteria can be washed from land into the surrounding water environment. Single discharge points might not seem to be an issue, but several combined across a whole river catchment can significantly affect water quality, including in EU designated bathing waters. Land and run-off management practices play a pivotal role in diffuse pollution mitigation. 
     
  • Another source of pollution at beaches can be combined sewer overflows (CSOs). During heavy rainfall CSOs, which discharge diluted but minimally-treated sewage to watercourses and coastal waters, are essential to prevent flooding. However, during extended periods of rain, which are not uncommon in Scotland, the combined effect of CSOs in a catchment can have a negative impact on the water quality. To minimise the impact of combined sewer overflows on water quality, SEPA imposes conditions requiring sewage litter and debris removal and on the location and frequency of their operation. SEPA continues to work closely with the Scottish Government, Scottish Water and the Water Industry to ensure that planned capital investment programmes aimed at upgrading sewerage infrastructure throughout the country are prioritised to maximise environmental benefits.      

Full list of 2021/22 results  

Highland and Islands - 8 excellent, 7 good, 1 sufficient, 0 poor  
 

  

  

Achmelvich          

Excellent  

Dores     

Good  

Dornoch                  

Excellent  

Dunnet  

Excellent  

Ettrick   Bay            

Good  

Findhorn                 

Excellent  

Gairloch Beach   

Excellent  

Ganavan                 

Excellent  

Loch Morlich       

Excellent  

Lossiemouth (East)  

Sufficient  

Machrihanish      

Good  

Nairn (Central)   

Good  

Nairn (East)         

Good  

Rosemarkie         

Good  

Sand Beach          

Excellent  

Thurso   

Good  

  

  

Lothian, mid Scotland and Fife - 9 excellent, 3 good, 4 sufficient, 0 poor  

Aberdour (Silversands)   

Excellent  

Aberdour Harbour (Black Sands)  

Good  

Anstruther (Billow Ness)           

Excellent  

Burntisland          

Good  

Crail (Roome Bay)           

Excellent  

Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry  

Excellent  

Elie (Ruby Bay)  

Excellent  

Kinghorn (Harbour Beach)  

Sufficient  

Kinghorn (Pettycur)         

Excellent  

Kingsbarns           

Excellent  

Kirkcaldy (Seafield)  

Good  

Leven     

Sufficient  

Portobello (Central)         

Sufficient  

Portobello  (West)             

Sufficient  

St Andrews (East Sands)  

Excellent  

St Andrews (West Sands)  

Excellent  

  

  

North East Scotland - 7excellent, 9 good, 1 sufficient, 0 poor  

Aberdeen            

Good  

Arbroath (West Links)     

Good  

Balmedie                

Excellent  

Broughty Ferry   

Excellent  

Carnoustie           

Good  

Collieston               

Good  

Cruden Bay          

Good  

Cullen Bay              

Good  

Fraserburgh (Philorth)    

Excellent  

Fraserburgh (Tiger Hill)    

Good  

Inverboyndie      

Good  

Lunan Bay            

Excellent  

Monifieth               

Good  

Montrose               

Excellent  

Peterhead (Lido)            

Excellent  

Rosehearty          

Excellent  

Stonehaven        

Sufficient  

  

  

Solway - 1 excellent, 3 good, 2 sufficient, 1 poor  

Brighouse Bay  

Sufficient  

Carrick  

Sufficient  

Dhoon Bay  

Poor  

Mossyard  

Good  

Rockcliffe  

Excellent  

Sandyhills  

Good  

Southerness  

Good  

  

  

South East Scotland - 7 excellent, 5 good, 3 sufficient, 0 poor  

Broad Sands        

Good  

Coldingham         

Excellent  

Dunbar (Belhaven)           

Good  

Dunbar (East)     

Good  

Yellow Craig         

Good  

Eyemouth            

Sufficient  

Gullane  

Excellent  

Longniddry          

Good  

North Berwick (Milsey Bay)           

Sufficient  

North Berwick (West)     

Excellent  

Pease Bay             

Excellent  

Seacliff  

Excellent  

Seton Sands        

Sufficient  

Thorntonloch      

Excellent  

Whitesands         

Excellent  

  

  

West Scotland – 0 excellent, 8 good, 6 sufficient, 0 poor  

Ayr (South Beach)             

Good  

Culzean  

Good  

Girvan  

Sufficient  

Heads of Ayr  

Good  

Irvine     

Sufficient  

Largs (Pencil Beach)         

Sufficient  

Lunderston Bay  

Good  

Luss Bay                  

Sufficient  

Maidens  

Sufficient  

Millport Bay        

Good  

Prestwick  

Good  

Saltcoats/Ardrossan        

Good  

Seamill   

Sufficient  

Troon (South Beach)  

Good