Edinburgh is larger than it seems, which is something I’m only really discovering after a year of living here. Outside of Princes Street and the Royal Mile there is a halo of almost-towns: a diverse assortment of neighbourhoods with their own identity that stand proudly independent of Edinburgh. One of these is Portobello, which over time has transformed from a classic Victorian seaside resort into a young and bohemian seafront community.
This transformation has led to a beach promenade on which a garish amusements arcade, selling hot dogs and ice creams, sits alongside a flower-strewn caravan converted into an artisan coffee shop. Further along, two young female buskers sing and strum melodically besides a giant inflatable play park. It creates an interesting and colourful mix of old meets new, which seems just right for a place that calls itself ‘Edinburgh’s seaside’.
Most importantly, the variety means you can enjoy a luxury hot chocolate made with caramel and pink Himalayan sea salt from The Little Green Van, followed by a fudgy wudgy ice cream cone from the arcade – all while sat on the beach looking out to sea!
There aren’t many restaurants, but the most popular few have a definite ‘hipster’ bent. Seafront venues such as The Beach House offer typically ‘trendy’ breakfast and lunch menus, where most of the bread is sourdough and topped with avocado, and many of the cakes gluten- and dairy-free. Favourite local pub The Espy is decked out with stylish vintage signage and trailing flower baskets.
The beach itself is a long plain stretch of soft sand divided by groynes. On the few days a year where Edinburgh has beach-going weather it’s popular with families, but on the windy and changeable, late-September day we went, it was mostly populated by dogs. In fact, dogs are everywhere in Portobello – we spotted breeds of all shapes and sizes both on the beach and the long flat promenade.
It must be a prerequisite of living along the promenade to keep your house and garden looking lovely. Every one of the cute little houses, some painted different colours, is fronted by an equally cute front garden: neat, flowery and personal. I felt particularly envious of the garden set with an elegant table and chairs, topped with wine glasses.
There are more scenic beaches in East Scotland, and Edinburgh suburbs with more to do. But Portobello has a unique charm all of its own, which is reason enough to pay it a visit.