Visiting the Seaside from Edinburgh

There may be Scottish destinations with better-known beaches, but visitors often forget that Edinburgh is also a seaside city.


Gorgeous. Historic. Inspiring. Packed with museums, galleries, fine-dining restaurants, luxurious hotels… World-famous for its full-on cultural scene, ancient monuments and elegant Georgian New Town. Edinburgh is all these things and plenty more. And yes, Scotland’s capital city also has its own beaches – and award-winning ones at that! There's a sprawl of sandy pockets heading south along the spectacular Lothian coastline as well, or northwards across the Firth of Forth into Fife. So if it’s a day of fun on the sand, swimming in refreshing waters and a never-ending supply of artisan ice cream you’re looking for on your sojourn in the Scottish capital, here are our top five Edinburgh seaside hot spots. 

Visit the Edinburgh seaside


A day trip to Cramond from central Edinburgh is a double delight, because the photogenic whitewashed village has just as much to offer as the beach it backs. It’s well worth taking time to wander around this quaint former fishing enclave to see the remains of a Roman fort and the 15th-century Cramond Tower, as well as the pretty River Almond-side setting with a sprinkling of cafés, pubs and bistros overlooking yachts bobbing on their moorings. 

The beach itself is a local favourite for sunset strolls and family games on the sand. Long-distance hikers can follow the Shore Walk west to South Queensferry – a cute waterside village with spectacular views to the landmark Forth Rail Bridge. Alternatively, turn east to cycle or stroll Silverknowes Esplanade four miles (6.5 km) along the coast to Granton, perhaps stopping off for a dip at the tiny wild-swimming beach in Wardie Bay next to Granton Harbour. 

Top tip: Cramond Beach itself is gateway to a well-kept Edinburgh secret: at low tide you can take a 20-minute walk across a concrete causeway to Cramond Island. There you’ll find a couple of minuscule patches of sand with excellent rock-pooling potential, panoramic picnic spots with Firth of Forth views and several defunct World War II defence bunkers to explore. 

How to get there: 6 miles (9.5 km) north-west of Princes Street. Line 47 bus, or an hour and 45 minutes’ walk.


Although far from a seaside resort these days, the Port of Leith is still of course besides the sea. There was once an expanse of beach where the docks now stand, but as the area became industrialised, so development swallowed up the sands. Despite its gritty history, Leith has morphed into one of Edinburgh’s liveliest, most hipster areas – so today there’s plenty to explore and do. You can tour The Royal Yacht Britannia, and blow a fortune on souvenirs in the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, while a jog or cycle along the Water of Leith Walkway takes you to Antony Gormley’s bronze figurines forming the Six Times installation – a true Edinburgh hidden gem. 

Top tip: Leith is also one of the best places to eat and drink at the Edinburgh seaside, with a heady mix of Michelin-starred restaurants, quirky cocktail bars and waterfront pubs selling craft beers.

How to get there: 3 miles (4.5 km) from Princes Street. Tram T50, bus lines 13 and 16, or a 40-minute walk.


Join local residents on a jaunt to award-wining seaside ‘Porty’: easily Edinburgh’s most famous beach, Portobello is two miles (3.2 km) of soft sand backed by a busy promenade, which is normally thronged with bikers, joggers and inline skaters. On almost any day of the year, the seafront town's ice-cream parlours, amusement arcades and beachside cafés are full to bursting with happy faces. To add to the lively resort vibe, you can enjoy a bracing coastal walk, feel the sand between your toes, take a dip in the sea or go kayaking – and very occasionally, whales and dolphins can be spotted surfacing offshore in the waters of the Firth of Forth.

Once an independent town and secret base of smugglers, Portobello reinvented itself in the early 1800s as a spa and is rightly proud of its handsome Georgian and Victorian architectural heritage, which is strictly protected in a conservation area. If the weather should preclude al fresco swimming, Portobello Swim Centre is set in a delightful Victorian building with original Turkish baths and steam rooms, a gym and an exercise studio.

Top tip: If your Edinburgh visit coincides, catch Portobello Farmers’ Market in Brighton Park, held on the first Saturday of the month. And there’s a packed year-round roster of events, from beach volleyball competitions to sailing regattas and the Big Beach Busk over the August bank holiday weekend. 

How to get there: 5 miles (8 km) west of Princes Street. Bus line 26, cycle Quiet Route 61, or an hour and 30 minutes’ walk.

The best coastal towns near Edinburgh

North Berwick

Following the breathtaking East Lothian coastline south of Edinburgh, North Berwick is a buzzy seaside town with a choice of beaches edging two sweeping bays. Often much quieter than their Edinburgh counterparts, these sandy stretches make idyllic starting points for family strolls, paddling and sand-castle construction – and there’s even a safe tidal pool on Milsey Bay Beach for novice or nervous swimmers. Still on the water, the town is a popular hub for scuba diving down to sea caves or World War II shipwrecks, as well as dinghy sailing.

Away from the beach, North Berwick is springboard to treks up steep, conical North Berwick Law, where you’ll be rewarded with far-reaching views over the Firth of Forth from the hill's summit. On the horizon you’ll spot the landmark Bass Rock, well-known for its gannet breeding colony. Between late February and October, boat trips to this barren, white-guano-covered islet depart the Scottish Seabird Centre, where you can also watch live camera footage of comical puffins at the Isle of May National Nature Reserve.

Top tip: Should you need to refuel on your North Berwick expedition, the town has a multitude of stylish cafés, seafood restaurants and traditional pubs (try asking for a ‘pint of heavy’ and impress the bar staff with your insider knowledge of Scottish beers).

How to get there: 25 miles (40 km) east of Edinburgh. 50 minutes by car, or half an hour by train from Edinburgh Waverley Station.

St Andrews

Heading north into the ancient Kingdom of Fife, St Andrews is one of the most famous seaside towns near Edinburgh, watching over two postcard-lovely beaches. As well as being home to seven world-renowned golf courses and one of the UK's best universities, the town overlooks a pretty fishing harbour protected from the wind and weather by its vast stone pier – look out for students in red gowns who parade along the pier every Sunday at noon during term time. The iconic beach of West Sands provides an extensive playground for watersports fans from kayakers to windsurfers and sand yachters, still leaving ample space for picnicking families or snoozing in the sun among the dunes.  

Whether you’re staying at the luxurious Fairmont St Andrews for a round on the hallowed Old Course or day tripping from Edinburgh, this is a lovely town for a potter around high-end boutiques, woollen mills and – of course – golfing emporiums. There's also an exceptional choice of dining and drinking options, from high-end restaurants to cool student bars and organic cafés. 

Top tip: Medieval showstoppers that you shouldn’t miss on a St Andrews sightseeing foray include the remains of the photogenic 12th-century cathedral – clamber up 156 steps in spindly St Rules Tower for views over the town to the North Sea – and the dungeons and battlements of the castle ruins.

How to get there: 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Edinburgh. An hour by car, or 75 minutes by train from Edinburgh Waverley Station to Leuchars. Taxis are usually available at Leuchars station, and the journey to St Andrews takes 15 minutes. 

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