THE number of Irish beaches getting prestigious Blue Flag awards has reached an all-time high.
However, five beaches either lost their Blue Flags or failed to regain them for a range of problems including cattle on the beach.
A record 87 awards -- three more than last year -- have been handed out for this summer with Donegal, Mayo and Kerry having the biggest number of top swimming spots, notching up 13 each.
But safety concerns caused Malahide to lose out due to a permanent red flag flying during the summer warning people not to swim because of drowning dangers.
And Mullaghmore in Sligo lost out because of the continuing problem of cattle roaming on the beach making it "unsafe" for visitors, according to An Taisce, which administers the EU-wide awards.
Claycastle and Youghal front strand in Cork both lost their flags after failing to meet the water quality criteria.
Poor water quality at Rush south in Dublin meant it failed to get a coveted flag.
Improvements in water quality led to Dollymount regaining its Blue Flag after losing it in 2011, while Downings in Donegal received one for the first time since 1999.
Skerries South and Donabate in Fingal got flags for the first time since 1995 and 2007 respectively.
However, not one beach on Dublin's southside applied for a Blue Flag, due to continuing problems with water quality.
The Three Sisters Marina in New Ross, Wexford was a first-time winner.
Water quality, safety, lifeguards, and beach management are all taken into account in awarding a Blue Flag.
A total of 58 Blue Coast awards were also made. These spots do not reach Blue Flag standard because of the lack of proper built infrastructure.
Beaches which lost lost the Green Coast Award due to non-compliance with water quality included; Ballycastle in Mayo; Claycastle and Red Strand in Cork; Annestown and Newtown Cove in Waterford, Cullenstown in Wexford.
Presenting the awards in Portmarnock, Dublin, yesterday Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he was pleased that Dollymount regained its flag.
"A capital city holding a blue flag is a truly significant achievement," he said.