Edinburgh: Beside the Seaside

By: Anna Millar

April 2, 2013

Scotland may not be known for its bikini worthy climate, but that doesn’t stop it having some great beaches to enjoy, whatever the weather.

Just a short three-mile jaunt east of the urban bustle of Edinburgh’s city centre, Portobello (or Porty) wears its slightly retro vibe well. An outmoded arcade merrily co-exists with the town’s recent influx of good bars and family-friendly cafes, along an ever-welcoming prom. Once a 60s seaside haunt for day-tripping Central Belters, Porty’s more recent rise as a go-to spot for young professionals in search of a room with a view has seen a ground-swell of community-led local activity, from a monthly organic food market to the emergence of one-off art and music mini-festivals along the promenade.

South Queensferry

South Queensferry Beach © Anna Millar

Sitting along the front, the Victorian grandeur of Portobello Baths gets brownie points for being one of the only original, still-functioning Turkish baths in Scotland. Better still, its cafe affords a mighty fine view across the Firth of Forth. The Espy pub, just a few minutes’ walk away offers ample libation.

Heading out of town four or five miles in the other direction, you’ll find the pretty harbour village of Cramond. Book lovers may know the name from its fictional associations with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, but locals simply come here for the long promenade walk, a pretty stroll through the village or more adventurous mile-long ambles along the tidal causeway to Cramond Island (just remember to double check the safe crossing times). With a story dating back over 2000 years and shrouded in tales of times past, there are some interesting bits of local history to be found in the Kirk and Tower. Nearby, the Cramond Inn – one of only two pubs in Scotland owned by brewers Samuel Smith – offers a seriously cheap pint (£1.50 when last supped) should you fancy a tipple.Those of a more active disposition could keep following the path to South Queensferry (a further four and a half miles away) – although the “˜Ferry is easily accessible on the 43 bus from the city centre.

Forth Bridge, South Queensferry

The Forth Rail Bridge, South Queensferry © Anna Millar

Home to one of Scotland’s best known images, the Forth Rail Bridge, South Queensferry also plays host to a supremely quiet stretch of beach. A nice blend of countryside and seashore, the walk from Cramond sets you on a path by Dalmeny House and Barnbougle Castle before finishing under the bridge, which is handily just across the road from the Hawes Inn pub. Boat trips run regularly out to Inchcolm Island from across the road and are well worth the £10 ticket price.


The sands of Gullane © Anna Millar

Those looking to venture a little further afield can jump in a bus or car to East Lothian and the sands of Gullane, or the livelier seaside town of North Berwick. A family favourite for its Seabird Centre and Bass Rock, it’s also home to a collection of walking and arts festivals, including the roundly excellent Fringe by the Sea in August.

Sea Bird Centre, North Berwick

Seabird Centre, North Berwick © Lesley Martin

Header photo © Anna Millar


Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.