A two-mile sandy beach and grand Georgian architecture make Portobello the coastal answer to Edinburgh’s historic centre. Playing host to popular events like the annual Big Beach Busk and international volleyball competitions, this newly-awakened, award-winning beach regularly draws crowds from the city and further afield.
Towerbank Primary School proudly claims the title of Edinburgh’s only seaside school. With traditional buildings dating back to 1884 and a modern extension and nursery, it’s a good representation of the area’s old-meets-new aesthetic. The 643 children are arranged into 23 classes, with 80 additional younger ones in two nursery classes. The school is central to the community and works closely with local organisations as well as parents and carers. A little back from the seafront sits Portobello High School, Edinburgh’s largest school and a popular choice in the area. The buildings are well equipped, with an eight-floor main building, two gymnasiums, a swimming pool and a music department. However, there is currently a brand new Portobello High School site under construction, and teachers and students alike are planning to move into the new premises in January 2017.
While many will always see the late 19th century as Portobello’s heyday, recent years have seen the area enjoy a huge resurgence in fortunes. Thanks in part to independent community action, the beach is now often just as crowded as it was in the 1800s, with the Big Things on the Beach art group and Portobello Open Doors village fair regularly bringing scores of people to the historic area. And for the more active residents, the Portobello Kayaking and Sailing Club has also been revived, offering kayaks, dinghies and even locally built St Ayles rowing skiffs.
The promenade is refreshingly quiet for a seaside resort, with a few classic staples like cafes and an amusement arcade. But a bit further back along the main street you’ll find a host of independent shops among traditional Edinburgh architecture. From hardware shops to hairdressers and bottle shops to banks, taking a stroll up Portobello High Street is a relaxing, sociable way to get your shopping done. And you won’t have to go all the way into Edinburgh for a good night out. With The Esplanade Bar & Restaurant and Dalriada on the seafront, and a range of bars, pubs and restaurants on the high street, it’s the ideal place for a quiet drink at the end of a long week. But if you did want a big night out, or just fancied somewhere a bit different, Edinburgh is right on your doorstep.
As with everywhere in Edinburgh, Lothian Buses provide constant transport to the city centre and beyond. Take the 19 to Princes Street for some big-name shopping. Or jump on the 21 to Leith for a stylish night out. There’s no doubt that Portobello is getting more desirable by the day; the cultural and commercial revival is making it an increasingly popular place to live.