As the UK’s most popular city after London, Edinburgh needs no introduction. The fine city attracts over 13 million visitors a year, drawn to its iconic castle, historic Royal Mile, elegant New Town and of course, its excellent shopping. But what about Edinburgh beaches? It’s a coastal city, remember.

The beautiful Edinburgh beaches may not be as well known, but they offer stunning outdoor spaces and something for everyone. From the eclectic mix of quirky shops at Portobello Beach to the nature reserve at Aberlady Bay, Scotland’s capital provides the perfect days out and about on the sands. Read on to discover our pick of the…

best beaches near Edinburgh Scotland

5 best Edinburgh beaches

Cramond Beach

Cramond Beach Edinburgh one of the best Edinburgh beaches
Image by AAMcKay on Flickr shared via Creative Commons License

Edinburgh enjoys a prime waterfront position on the Firth of Forth and there’s nowhere better to enjoy the views than at Cramond Beach. Take a scenic walk along the paved Promenade or the sandy beach and feast your eyes on the pretty coastline dotted with historic fishing villages, the majestic mountains in the distance and the busy shipping lanes.

Our top tip: At low tide, walk along the causeway across to Cramond Island to see derelict World War II battlements and get even better views of the Firth. But check the tide timetable beforehand so you don’t get cut off by rising tides.

Highlights: unspoilt, rich in history with plenty to see and do nearby
Distance from Edinburgh: less than 4 miles
Public transport? Yes, on the 41 or 43 bus
Facilities: free parking, public toilets, shops, cafes
Wheelchair access? Yes
Dog-friendly? Yes

Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach Edinburgh beaches
Image by Rob Schulze on Flickr shared via Creative Commons License

We do all like to be beside the seaside and if you’re looking for a classic day-out at the beach, make Portobello Beach your destination. The 2-mile stretch of golden sands come complete with a paved promenade, perfect for prom strolling and a break from sightseeing in Edinburgh city centre. The promenade also has lots of shops to browse if the weather isn’t quite as warm as you’d hoped, plus a good choice of cafés and ice cream parlours.

Our top tip: be sure to check out the Victorian swimming pool at the leisure centre that also includes Turkish baths – guaranteed to be warmer than the sea at any time of year!

Highlights: family-friendly sands with a classically British promenade
Distance from Edinburgh: just 3 miles
Public transport? Yes, on the 26 or 124 bus
Facilities: arcade, surrounding shops, cafes, public toilets, parking
Wheelchair access? Yes
Dog-friendly? Yes

Longniddry Beach

Longniddry Beach Edinburgh - best Edinburgh beaches
Image by Dave Warley on Flickr shared via Creative Commons License

Around the Edinburgh coastline and on the open sea, is the lovely Longniddry Beach. At high tide it’s rocky, but once the waves fall back lovely sands are revealed. This beach near Edinburgh forms part of the John Muir Way coastal walk, a 134 mile coast-to-coast route from Dunbar in the East to Helensburgh in the West and is a haven for bird-watchers and walkers.

Our top tip: when you’re on the beach, look left to admire the trio of Forth bridges: the Forth Bridge, built in 1890 and a British engineering icon, is backed by the Forth Road Bridge (1.6 miles in length) and Queensferry Crossing, completed in late 2017 and the world’s longest 3-tower cable-stayed bridge.

Highlights: rock pools, bird-watching and the fine views towards Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges
Distance from Edinburgh: just under 9 miles
Public transport? Yes, on buses 124 or X24 or by train from Waverley station
Facilities: free parking, cafe, shops, public toilets
Wheelchair access? Yes
Dog-friendly? Yes

Aberlady Bay

Aberlady Bay is one of the best Edinburgh beaches
Image by Mark Longair on Flickr shared via Creative Commons License

Aberlady Bay in East Lothian is just a 30-minute drive from the bustle and crowds of Edinburgh city centre, but offers a peaceful haven. The nature reserve combines different habitats such as salt marsh and sand dunes as well as the beach, and is something of a hot spot with wildfowl, waders and breeding birds. Look out for pink-footed goose from Iceland who stop off here for an autumn feast before heading further south.

Our top tip: when it’s low tide, you can see the remains of two midget submarines at this Edinburgh beach. But keep an eye on the waters while you’re looking – the tide rises quickly here.

Highlights: the wildlife including the year-round calendar of different birds
Distance from Edinburgh: slightly under 12 miles
Public transport? Yes, on bus 124 or X24 or by train from Waverley station
Facilities: free parking, public toilets
Wheelchair access? Yes (with care – uneven surfaces)
Dog-friendly? No, dogs are not allowed in the nature reserve

Yellowcraig Beach

Yellowcraig Beach is one of our favourite Edinburgh beaches
Image by Martin Burns on Flickr shared via Creative Commons License

This long and peaceful stretch of sand rates as one of the best Edinburgh beaches and is perfect for a family day out. As well as walking the shores, you can enjoy terrific views of the 1885 lighthouse on Fidra Island and of the Firth of Forth towards Fife. You may also want to explore the nearby forest trails during your visit.

Our top tip: bird-watching goes up a notch at Yellowcraig Beach. Watch the gannets diving into the waters at 90mph or the growing puffin colony on nearby Bass Rock.

Highlights: sand dunes, rock pools and the views
Distance from Edinburgh: about 17.5 miles (45-minute drive)
Public transport? Yes, on the X5 bus
Facilities: children’s play area, public toilets, outdoor barbecues available, large car-park (£2), seasonal ice-cream van
Wheelchair access? Yes
Dog-friendly? Yes

And since we’re talking about Yellowcraig Beach, we couldn’t not mention this luxury castle tower near North Berwick – it’s perfect for a large family group looking for a seaside holiday within easy reach of Edinburgh beaches:

Large holiday house North Berwick near Edinburgh
Large holiday house near Yellowcraig Beach, North Berwick

Inspired by our selection of great Edinburgh beaches? Browse our collection of stunning holiday lets in Scotland and combine some of the UK’s finest city sightseeing with a spot on the sands.

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