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Portobello Beach Visitor Guide

Welcome to Portobello Beach, a charming seaside suburb of Edinburgh. In this article, we’ll take a good look around this beautiful beach, which has two miles of golden sand and clean water that’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing. You’ll also see the promenade, which hosts many events throughout the year, such as the Big Beach Busk, where musicians and performers entertain crowds of locals and tourists.

Portobello Beach is a great place to relax and enjoy the sea breeze, and as it’s just a few miles from the city centre, it’s easy to get to for visitors to Edinburgh. Join me as I explore this lovely spot and share tips on how to make the most of your visit.

Portobello Beach Collage
EH15 2DX
Opening Hours:Open 24/7
Admission Price:Free entry
Parking:Car parking on Joppa Road (B6415) and Bridge Street car park (postcode EH15 1DD).
Facilities:Public toilets, cafes, restaurants, swimming pool, play park, snack vans, shops on Portobello high street.
Photos:YouTube Video


Portobello is a charming seaside destination located just a few miles east of Edinburgh. Known for its attractive seafront and vibrant community atmosphere, Portobello offers visitors an enjoyable experience that’s far removed from the hubbub of the city centre, yet it’s close enough that it can be easily included in a visit to Scotland’s capital.

The history of Portobello dates back to the early 18th century when the area was primarily used for pottery manufacturing due to the rich deposits of clay in the area.

At that time it was called ‘Friggate Muir’ and didn’t take on its current name till 1740 when retired sailor George Hamilton built a cottage near the seafront which he named ‘Puerto Bello’ after the victorious battle of Panama in 1739.

As Edinburgh and the surrounding areas became more gentrified in the late 18th century, Friggate Muir changed its name to ‘Portobello’ and started to transform into a seaside resort for the wealthy residents of Edinburgh who sought a quiet retreat away from the bustling city.

Portobello Beach

The construction of elegant Georgian and Victorian villas along the coastline contributed to the area’s growing reputation as a fashionable place to visit, and before long it became one of Scotland’s premier Victorian holiday destinations featuring a Lido (a type of outdoor pool), one of the UK’s first Turkish baths, and a 2-mile promenade that’s as popular today as it was when it was originally built in 1866.

Getting to Portobello is exceptionally easy thanks to a good amount of parking spaces as well as the superb Lothian Buses which run services to the area throughout the day. From Princes Street, take any of the following bus routes: 19, 26, 42, or 124, or if starting at North Bridge, take these routes: X7, 45, or 49.

An all-day pass that allows unlimited travel across Edinburgh costs around £5 while a single-journey ticket costs around £2 for adults. If you need to park a car, try Bridge Street (postcode EH15 1DD), Straiton Place (postcode EH15 2BA), or any of the side streets that face the beach (as long as they aren’t reserved for permit holders only).

Portobello Beach

The Highlights

1: Edinburgh has a number of places where visitors can enjoy the coastline of the Firth of Forth (Cramond and Leith spring immediately to mind), but Portobello is the pick of the bunch due to its size. You’ll find 2 miles of golden sand at Portobello Beach, so there are plenty of spots away from the crowded areas where it’s possible to set up a picnic in relative peace and quiet, especially towards the northern end.

2: Those visitors looking for a mini seaside day out won’t have to go much further than the middle of the Portobello seafront. The facilities are pretty good between the Portobello Swim Centre and the Tumbles Gymnastics Centre (Westbank Street to Bellfield Street), with pubs, cafes, a play park, amusement arcades, and public toilets.

Just be aware that it’s also the busiest part of the promenade, especially at the weekend between June and August when it’s heaving with crowds.

3: In addition to the cafes on the promenade, there are lots more on Portobello High Street, which is just a couple of minutes’ walk away. The burgh of Portobello is a pleasant Edinburgh suburb that’s full of independent galleries and bistros, and it’s easily accessed from the city centre by bus or car.

Portobello Beach

Visiting Tips

1: As already mentioned, Portobello becomes very crowded in the summer months so if you’re looking for a quiet place to relax in the sun you might prefer heading west a couple of miles to Musselburgh Beach instead. This stretch of sand isn’t as big as the one at Portobello, but it sees far fewer visitors, and the facilities are excellent thanks to plenty of parking spaces, shops, and cafes in the vicinity.

2: Parking at Portobello is hit-and-miss when it comes to finding available spaces, so if you don’t mind a walk I recommend looking for a roadside space on Seaview Terrace on the southern end of Portobello.

3: The two best places to eat on the promenade (in my opinion) are The Espy and The Beach House which are located next to each other. The Espy is a pub with a restaurant which serves massive portions of food while The Beach House is a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. If you’re on a budget, follow Bath Street, which runs to Portobello High Street (0.2 miles away), where you’ll find a Greggs and a Bayne’s bakery on either side of the road.

Portobello Beach

Tourist Information

Portobello Beach, known locally as ‘Edinburgh’s seaside’, boasts a stunning 2-mile stretch of golden sand that is perfect for relaxing with a picnic, sunbathing, or enjoying water sports. The beach’s shallow waters and gentle waves provide a safe environment for swimming and paddling, while the promenade that runs parallel to the shoreline is ideal for leisurely walks at all times of the year.

Visitors looking for things to do at Portobello Beach can also enjoy a number of sports activities, ranging from beach volleyball to sailing and windsurfing. The Portobello Sailing and Kayaking Club offers lessons and equipment rentals for those interested in exploring the waters of the Firth of Forth, while families with young children can make use of the nearby Straiton Place play park and Portobello Swim Centre swimming pool.

Heading inland to the high street, visitors will find the burgh of Portobello to be a vibrant and thriving community that has retained much of its original Victorian charm and character.

The high street is lined with a wide range of independent shops, cafes, restaurants, and pubs along with two notable landmarks – the Portobello Town Hall which dates back to 1914 and serves as a hub for community events, and the St. John The Evangelist Church which is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture that was built in 1906.

Portobello Beach

Towards the middle of the beach near the Tumbles Gymnastics Centre, visitors can view the Portobello Pottery Kilns, two traditional bottle kilns that are the last remaining examples of their type in Scotland, while 1/3 mile to the south they’ll find the Portobello Swim Centre, a historic Victorian building that houses a modern 25-metre swimming pool and a traditional Turkish bath.

The swimming centre is also one of the few remaining Victorian pools that has a working Aerotone – an early hydrotherapy treatment that’s similar to a modern Jacuzzi.

Throughout the year, Portobello hosts several events and festivals, such as the annual Big Beach Busk and the Portobello Village Show, both of which draw visitors from far and wide. There are also art-themed events such as The Art Walk Porty which highlights the work of local artists and encourages visitors to explore the creative side of the community.

Overall, a visit to Portobello Beach offers a fantastic family day out, and with its fascinating history, picturesque setting, and lively atmosphere it’s no wonder that this seaside retreat has remained a popular destination for locals and visitors alike for well over 100 years.

Portobello Beach

Things to Do

Sunbathing and Swimming: The golden sands of Portobello Beach are perfect for sunbathing, and if you’re brave enough, you can take a dip in the North Sea. Just be aware that the water temperature can be cold even in the summer months so a wetsuit is recommended.

Watersports: The beach is a popular spot for water sports enthusiasts. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard and enjoy a day out on the water. As the beach is shallow the waves are often quite gentle, making it suitable for beginners looking to try surfing.

Beach Volleyball: The beach offers several volleyball areas towards the middle of the promenade that are free to use. Gather some friends and enjoy a fun, competitive game of volleyball which is a great way to keep fit while enjoying the seaside atmosphere.

Walk along the Promenade: Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade and enjoy the beautiful sea views. There are plenty of benches where you can rest and watch the world go by and the promenade is also lined with a variety of shops and places to eat.

Visit the Portobello Swim Centre: If it’s too cold for a swim in the sea, head over to the Portobello Swim Centre. Due to the fact that it is a council-run facility, the prices are very affordable. It also has an indoor Victorian pool and Turkish bath.

Portobello Beach

Things to Do Nearby

Leith. Address: Shore, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6QU. Distance: 3 miles.
Leith is a vibrant and historic former fishing port near Edinburgh’s city centre that’s renowned for its trendy bars and restaurants. It’s a fascinating place to walk around due to the number of restored Victorian warehouses that line Commercial Street and Bernard Street.

Holyrood Park. Address: Edinburgh, EH8 7JL. Distance: 1.9 miles.
One of the largest city parks in the world, Holyrood Park covers an area of more than 650 acres, comprising a Highland landscape complete with lochs, grasslands, and hills. The highest point in the park is Arthur’s Seat, which is a long-extinct volcanic plug that offers stunning views across Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside.

Portobello Swim Centre. Address: 57 The Promenade, Portobello, Edinburgh, EH15 2BS. Distance: 0 miles.
The Portobello Swim Centre is a popular leisure facility on the Portobello Promenade which offers a range of aquatic activities. The Victorian building is home to a 25-meter pool, a teaching pool, and a Turkish bath. The centre provides swimming lessons, fitness classes, and leisurely swim sessions, making it an ideal destination for health-conscious visitors and families seeking fun-filled swimming experiences.

Newhailes Estate. Address: Newhailes, Musselburgh, EH21 6RY. Distance: 2 miles.
Newhailes Estate is a stunning 18th-century Palladian villa set amidst 84 acres of picturesque gardens and woodlands. The National Trust for Scotland owns this historic estate, which has a house with well-preserved interiors, elegant architecture, and immaculate grounds.

Musselburgh Lagoons. Address: Musselburgh, EH21 7QE. Distance: 4.2 miles.
The Musselburgh Lagoons offer a serene escape for nature lovers. This reclaimed former coal mine is home to many different bird species, making the site a haven for birdwatchers and photographers alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Portobello Beach famous?

Portobello Beach has a rich history and was once a popular Victorian holiday resort.

Today, Portobello Beach is famous for its beautiful sandy coastline and charming promenade. It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals due to its scenic views, recreational activities, and its close proximity to Edinburgh’s city centre.

Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, sailing, and beach volleyball among other activities. The beach is also lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops, making it a perfect spot for a relaxing day out by the sea.

Where is Portobello Beach in Edinburgh?

Portobello Beach is located in the Portobello area of Edinburgh between Craigentinny and Joppa. It lies along the Firth of Forth’s southern coastline, approximately 4 miles southeast of the city centre. The beach is easily accessible by car or public transport.

Is it safe to swim at Portobello?

Yes, it is generally safe to swim at Portobello Beach. However, it is essential to be aware of the weather conditions, water temperature, and currents before swimming. Always pay attention to any posted safety signs. Additionally, it is a good idea to swim with a partner and stay close to the shore.

Is Portobello in Edinburgh worth visiting?

Yes, Portobello, near Edinburgh, is definitely worth visiting. It is a charming seaside town located just a few miles from the city centre. Portobello Beach is the main attraction, offering a beautiful sandy beach that’s perfect for a relaxing walk or a day of sunbathing.

The town also has a range of cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as a number of local shops and galleries. Additionally, visitors can spend time at the Portobello Swim Centre, which features a historic Victorian-era Turkish bathhouse.

How long is Portobello Beach Walk?

The Portobello Promenade is approximately 2 miles long.

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Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.