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Edinburgh for Dummies Volume 2: Beaches and Coastal Villages

Edinburgh is surrounded by some of the most peaceful beaches in Scotland. And you don’t have to travel far from the city before you can enjoy a fresh sea breeze!

Aberlady Bay

About 17 miles east of Edinburgh, and just past the Aberlady village, is one of the area’s most interesting beaches. As well as being great for bird and wildlife watching (you can often glimpse deer at dawn and dusk), the beach has some hidden surprises. Half buried in the sand are two midget submarines, which were deliberately sunk here at the end of World War II.

Take in the views with an energising walk – the round trip takes about 90 minutes and is well worth the effort.

A word of warning: be aware of the tide – it comes in very fast here.

Gullane Bents

Popular with surfers, Gullane is just 20 miles from Edinburgh on the A198. It’s also easy to reach by bus – a regular service runs to Gullane from Edinburgh – and the beach is just a short walk from the village.

The beautiful long beach is a great setting for a peaceful stroll. Edged by dunes, it offers superb views west to Edinburgh and you can enjoy spectacular sunsets.

The village of Gullane is also worth exploring and boasts an impressive range of pubs, shops and restaurants, making it a great place for a day out.


This long sandy beach is popular with families and dog walkers. There’s loads of room for the kids to run about, fly a kite or enjoy a game of football. If you prefer to take things at a more leisurely pace, you can take a gentle stroll along the sand, taking in the great views over the Firth of Forth to Fife and the island of Fidra.

Yellowcraigs is east of Edinburgh, just before North Berwick on the A158.


3 miles to the southeast of Leith lies Portobello, Edinburgh’s town beach. Once a lively seaside resort, it still retains a faded charm – and on a hot summer’s day, the beach can be a mass of swimmers, sunbathers, surfers and pleasure boats.

Buses run to Portobello from Princes Street.


A small beach, close to Edinburgh and easily reached by car or bus, Cramond is a popular choice with Edinburgh residents who head here to walk and cycle on the beachside paths.

At low tide you can cross the causeway to Cramond Island and explore, but be careful as the changing tides come in fast and there have been cases of people getting stranded on the island overnight!

Coastal Villages

South Queensferry

South Queensferry nestles beneath Sir John Fowler’s iconic Forth Rail Bridge (opened in 1890) and the equally famous Road Bridge (opened by the Queen in 1964).

The royal connection doesn’t end there; this was the landing place of the ferry that carried Queen Margaret (wife of Malcolm III) between Edinburgh and Dunfermline in the late 11th century – hence the village’s unusual name.

South Queensferry is 10 miles west of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth and is full of interesting old buildings, such as the church of St Mary’s (1441) and Hawes Inn, which boasts stunning views across to Fife.


This historic conservation village is just 17 miles east of Edinburgh on the A198, but despite their closeness, this peaceful village is worlds away from the buzz of the city. Boasting superb views across Aberlady Bay, the village is a magnet for golfers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Once the port for the nearby town of Haddington, Aberlady offers a number of good hotels and restaurants, as well as access to some of Scotland’s best links and courses. The nearby Nature Reserve gives you the chance to see lots of local wildlife and is particularly popular with birdwatchers.


A pretty village about 20 miles east of Edinburgh and 5 miles west of North Berwick on the A198.

Golf has been played here since 1854, and today there are three courses, all offering great views. The best – a splendid 360 degree panorama across East Lothian, Edinburgh and the Forth – can be enjoyed from the number 7 green on Gullane number 1 course.

Find out more on the Gullane Golf Club website.

Alternatively, you can relax at Greywalls Country House Hotel. The house, which dates back to 1901, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the gardens by Gertrude Jekyll – it’s well worth a visit.