Author: Craig Neil
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Last updated on May 13th, 2023.8 minutes to read.
Nestled on the shores of East Lothian, just a short drive from the bustling city of Edinburgh, lies a wee hidden treasure that’s often overlooked by visitors to the capital – Musselburgh Beach.
This charming stretch of coastline is much quieter than nearby Portobello Beach yet it’s just a 20-minute drive from the city centre, making it the perfect destination to escape from the crowds.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Musselburgh Beach to uncover its history, discover what it’s like to visit, and find out what other attractions are worth visiting in the area. So pack your sunscreen and flip-flops and let’s dive into the seaside charm of Musselburgh Beach.
|Opening Hours:||Open 24/7|
|Admission Price:||Free entry|
|Parking:||Car parking at Fisherrow Harbour (postcode EH21 6DH).|
|Facilities:||Public toilets at the harbour and a play park at the beach. Cafes, restaurants, and shops in Musselburgh.|
1: If you’re looking for a beach escape near Edinburgh there are three main choices. The first two – Silverknowes and Portobello – are good options but they’re very busy, which is where Musselburgh comes to the rescue.
Musselburgh Beach sees few tourists from Edinburgh so it’s only really used by locals which means if you visit midweek, even in the height of summer, you’re guaranteed to find a quiet spot.
2: Though not exactly up to the standards of the beaches in the Outer Hebrides, the beach at Musselburgh has sand that’s clean and golden (as long as dog owners have picked up after their mutts).
The side east of the harbour isn’t bad though it has a fair amount of shingle towards the River Esk, while the beach on the west side is smaller but has much cleaner sand.
3: The facilities at Musselburgh Beach are excellent and you’ll find a children’s play park, ample car parking spaces, public toilets, and a long promenade that’s well-maintained and suitable for wheelchairs.
1: Those visitors looking for a walk after visiting Musselburgh Beach can head east along the promenade to the River Esk, cross over the bridge, and follow the path north around Musselburgh Lagoons.
The lagoons (also called Levenhall Links) is a nature reserve formed from the remnants of coal pits which is now a prime birdwatching site. Expect to take around an hour to complete the entire circular route.
2: The beach’s location means it’s easy to find somewhere to go for a bite to eat. There are lots of choices in Musselburgh high street which is just a few minutes walk away, or if you’d rather have a picnic there’s a Lidl supermarket behind Fisherrow Harbour on the A199.
3: Musselburgh is something of a hidden gem when it comes to attractions. If you’ve visited the beach and are wondering where to go next I recommend checking out Inveresk Lodge Gardens, Newhailes House, or the already-mentioned Musselburgh Lagoons.
If shopping is the next item on the agenda then you won’t go far wrong with Princes Street in Edinburgh which is just a 30-minute journey from Musselburgh Beach by bus.
Beaches aren’t exactly the first attraction that spring to mind for visitors to Scotland’s capital city, but there are several gorgeous stretches of clean golden sand between Cramond on the city’s western outskirts and Musselburgh on its eastern edge.
Silverknowes and Portobello are the most-visited of these beaches while Musselburgh tends to only attract locals, which is a wee bit of a shame as it’s a great destination for a seaside break from the city centre.
Getting to Musselburgh is easy thanks to the regular bus services provided by Lothian Buses (buses X7, 44, 124, and 113), and as it’s on the edge of Musselburgh town centre there are plenty of parking spaces for those visitors travelling by car.
If you’re not sure where to go, add postcode EH21 6DH to your sat nav which will take you to Fisherrow Harbour where you’ll find a car park, along with many more roadside spaces on New Street which runs behind the length of the beach.
The harbour dates from the late 16th century and was built to allow supply ships to dock at Musselburgh as well as offer shelter to fishing boats, but due to the shallowness of the water it was deemed unsuitable for international vessels so was mainly used as a fishing port.
Today, it’s still used by fishing boats but it also welcomes private leisure craft as well as guests of the Fisherrow Yacht Club which has its headquarters on the promenade.
If you have your own boat and are thinking of mooring up at Fisherrow Harbour you’ll need to pay around £15 per night which includes the use of toilets, showers, and kitchen facilities at the yacht club.
There are public toilets next to the harbour and there are lots of cafes and pubs heading towards Musselburgh High Street as well as a couple of supermarkets on Newhailes Road, so it’s fair to say the facilities around Musselburgh Beach have all of the bases covered.
The beach itself is around 1.2 miles long and lies on the northern edge of Musselburgh to the immediate west of the Rover Esk and 3/4 mile east of the much larger Portobello Beach.
There are prettier beaches in Edinburgh and East Lothian to be sure, but Musselburgh Beach’s sand is clean and soft and there are plenty of places to set up a picnic where you won’t be bothered by crowds (unlike its neighbour at Portobello).
Visiting Musselburgh Beach is guaranteed to be an enjoyable day out for all ages as there are plenty of attractions and activities to engage in. The beach is an ideal location for leisurely strolls and picnics and it also provides an excellent opportunity for kite-flying as it has lots of open space coupled with stiff sea breezes from the Firth of Forth.
During the summer months, Musselburgh Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming and thanks to the fact the water is shallow and relatively calm, it’s suitable for families with children.
Musselburgh, meanwhile, has several nearby attractions that are worth a look after a visit to the beach, the majority of which are historic in nature (as is to be expected for one of the oldest towns in Britain).
In the high street you’ll find the small but interesting Musselburgh Museum which showcases the town’s rich history and heritage, while the nearby Newhailes Estate, a 17th-century manor house and garden, offers a glimpse into the lives of its past occupants.
Families can make use of a children’s play area on the west side of the harbour as well as a semi-permanent snack van, but if you have kids that are dying to burn off energy then I recommend taking them a short walk along the promenade to Fisherrow Park which has another play park and a large green area where children can run about to their heart’s content.
The promenade that runs along the length of the beach is a great place to stretch your legs after sunbathing, and as already mentioned it’s possible to continue a walk across the River Esk to the lovely Musselburgh Lagoons which is a great retreat for birdwatchers as it has a couple of bird hides hidden away in the centre.
Heading back to the beach, you’ll find a grass area next to the Esk which is the usual location of travelling fairgrounds so remember to check back from spring to autumn as these fairs change throughout the year.
The section of beach near the mouth of the River Esk isn’t as nice as the area on the west side of the harbour in my opinion, but it’s much wider and is well-known for its diverse wildlife which includes many different types of seabirds.
When the tide goes out the sandflats open up to a massive area which attracts hundreds of wading birds so it’s well worth taking a pair of binoculars (link to binocular reviews) on your visit, though be aware the ground is very boggy so care must be taken, and I’d personally advise against taking younger children out there.
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Edinburgh – 350 Explorer.
Landranger – 66 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do nearby
Portobello Beach. Address: Portobello, Edinburgh, EH15 2DX. Distance: 2.2 miles.
Portobello Beach, situated in a seaside suburb 4 miles east of Edinburgh city centre, is a picturesque destination for both tourists and locals seeking a relaxing break from the noise of the capital.
This sandy beach stretches along the Firth of Forth for 2 miles and offers leisurely strolls along a Victorian promenade which features cafes, pubs, and amusement arcades.
Newhailes Estate. Address: Newhailes, Musselburgh, EH21 6RY. Distance: 1.1 miles.
The Newhailes Estate is a stunning 18th-century Palladian villa set amidst 84 acres of picturesque gardens and woodlands. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this historic estate offers a glimpse into Scotland’s past with a house that features preserved interiors, elegant architecture, and beautifully maintained grounds.
A perfect destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, Newhailes Estate promises an enjoyable and educational experience for all ages.
Musselburgh Lagoons. Address: Musselburgh, EH21 7QE. Distance: 3 miles.
Musselburgh Lagoons offer a serene escape for nature lovers. This reclaimed former coal works is home to many different bird species, making the site a haven for birdwatchers and photographers alike.
With walking trails and stunning views across the Firth of Forth, Musselburgh Lagoons provides a tranquil experience for outdoor enthusiasts and families seeking an enjoyable day out.
Prestongrange Mining Museum. Prestonpans EH32 9RX. 2.8 miles.
Prestongrange Mining Museum is an open-air museum that features a collection of original machinery and industrial buildings that have been preserved from their heyday 400 years ago when the site was used as a glass works, a pottery and a colliery.
Entry is free and an on-site shop is situated near the entrance (summer months only).
Inveresk Lodge Garden. 24 Inveresk Village Road, Musselburgh, East Lothian, EH21 7TE. 1.6 miles.
Inveresk Lodge Garden is a 17th-century manor house with an expansive walled landscaped garden. The house is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and is situated in the historic village of Inveresk near Musselburgh in East Lothian.
The garden is home to a variety of wildlife and features an Edwardian glasshouse, a pond, a woodland, and a landscaped lawn.
Frequently asked questions
Does Musselburgh have a beach?
Yes, Musselburgh, a coastal town in East Lothian, has a beach. It is locally known as Fisherrow Sands and is located near the mouth of the River Esk.
The beach is popular among locals and visitors for leisurely walks as well as sunbathing. The beach features a promenade and several green spaces as well as a children’s play park.
Is Musselburgh a seaside town?
Musselburgh is a seaside town in East Lothian, a few miles east of Edinburgh city centre. It sits along the coast of the Firth of Forth, an estuary of the North Sea, and is known for its rich history and picturesque coastal views.
The town offers several coastal attractions including Musselburgh Beach, the River Esk, and the nearby Musselburgh Lagoons.
Is Musselburgh the oldest town in Scotland?
While Musselburgh is often referred to as the oldest town in Scotland due to its history dating back to Roman times, it is not definitively the oldest. There are several other towns and settlements in Scotland with much older origins such as Skara Brae in Orkney which dates back to the Neolithic period.
However, Musselburgh is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Scotland as it has been the location of a settlement since AD 80 when the Romans invaded Scotland.
Can you swim at Musselburgh beach?
You can safely swim at Musselburgh Beach, though it’s essential to take necessary precautions and check the weather conditions and tide times before swimming. Additionally, be aware of any potential hazards such as strong currents (especially around the mouth of the River Esk), sudden changes in depth, and freezing water conditions which can lead to muscle cramps.