IRVINE beach has the lowest quality bathing water in North Ayrshire, according to Scotland's environmental watchdog.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) test the designated waters across the nation each year throughout bathing season (June 1 to September 15) to generate a rating.

These cover four categories: excellent; good; sufficient and poor.

Now SEPA's most recent survey of the waters has shown Irvine's to be considered "suffiicient" - the lowest rating across North Ayrshire.

The rating will apply for the duration of the 2023 season.

In recent years the beach has proved increasingly popular on sunny days, with thousands flocking to the Irvine shore during the warm weather this summer.

Other bathing waters in the area - Seamill, Largs (Pencil Beach) and Saltcoats/Ardrossan - all received 'good' ratings.

And though the Irvine water quality was worse than anywhere else in North Ayrshire, it's still an improvement on recent years.

SEPA rated the water quality 'poor' from 2019 to 2021, but 2022 saw an improvement to 'sufficient' for the first time since 2018.

Scotland’s bathing water quality continues to improve, with 38 out of 87 (44 per cent) rated as ‘excellent’ for 2023, while only two recieved 'poor' ratings.

This is the highest number ever and highlights sustained improvements in bathing water quality, achieved through partnership projects.

Overall bathing water quality has seen ongoing improvements since 2015, when tighter standards first came into force.