Three miles from the tourist-trodden Old Town of Edinburgh, Portobello has a completely different feel from the medieval spires and haunted snickleways the Scottish capital is famous for. The shoreline here has been on a rickety wooden rollercoaster of rebrands over the centuries, from a thriving industrial base in the 18th century to an upmarket seaside destination for the Victorians and then a slightly neglected suburb of faded grandeur at the turn of the millennium. Slowly and quietly since, indie shops have sprung up along the high street and street food stalls have replaced the Wimpy fast food joint, which stubbornly clung to the side of the promenade’s arcades for decades.
These days, if it’s sunny – “taps aff” weather, as they’d say here – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot of sand at the long sweep of beach that doesn’t already have a rainbow windbreaker or disposable barbecue occupying it. Tables and chairs spill out from brunch spots on the promenade offering avocado toast and eggs Benedict with a sea view, and you’re never more than a few feet from an artisan ice cream hatch.
Here’s how to spend your time in Portobello.
The main draw to this Edinburgh suburb is its long stretch of sandy beach. On a clear day, the sea is denim blue, with clear shallows lapping quietly at the shore and, closing your eyes, you could be on a Greek island save for the obnoxious squawk of seagulls fighting for chips The west end of the beach is popular with dog walkers, strolling along the sand with a view all the way to Bass Rock in the distance. For those with limited mobility, beach wheelchairs are available.
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Art Walk Porty
Year-round, you can see the evidence of Portobello’s artistic community in the seaside-themed street murals and pop-up installations that appear in parks and on the promenade. The view out towards the East Lothian headland from the latter attracts sketch artists, which might explain the “Portobello pencil sharpening project” – sharpeners glued to the beach walls that went viral in 2020. September sees 10 days of eco-art projects pop up around Portobello and beyond during the Art Walk Porty Festival.
Portobello Swim Centre
It may seem odd to visit the beach only to head…