April 25, 2002
The suburb of Portabello, once nicknamed "The Brighton Of The North", is located 3 miles east of the town canter, along the London road, on the coast of the Firth of Fourth, a short way down from Leith. Founded in 1739 on what was an area of wasteland, this was a thriving beach resort during the Victorian times that was popular with both local workers and the more well to do alike and is typical of many such resorts that dot the country. The rise of cheap package tourism to foreign, and hence warmer, destinations caused these places to loose their popular appeal and they now live on as faded reminders of a distant time.
The town is basically a charming collection of peeling Georgian and Victorian town houses that line the long promenade. Towards the western end is a large tower built in 1785 as a folly local legend says that is built from stones taken from the Mercat Cross, Edinburgh University, St Andrew's Cathedral and other medeaval building in the area. The town is served by the number 46 bus from St Andrews Square, the journey to Portabello takes around 30 mins, ask the driver to tell you when you get there.
As for the beach itself, the sand is a dull brownish colour thanks to the result of local volcanic activity that formed this areas geography, and the sea can be bitterly cold, even in summer, but what do you expect from the North Sea? It may not sound very appealing but it is very clean and something of a God send when it does get hot and as well as the beach and the promenade the town has all the facilities that you come to expect from a typical British seaside resort, there are amusement arcades, cafes, restaurants, a pub and even a Turkish bath.
With Leith undergoing a resurgence thanks to massive investment being pumped in to gentrify the area, it can be surely only a matter of time before developers turn their attention to the city's only beach, so I would advise you to visit the faded charms of this suburb soon, before they are gone forever.
From journal The Strange Case of Auld Reekie