Promenading at Portobello
Portobello (or Porty to locals) has always had an affinity with water. Just 20 minutes from Princes Street, Portobello’s 2 miles of award-winning sandy beach were a popular destination for day trippers from Edinburgh and Glasgow in the 19th century; the town was home to saltwater baths in the early 20th century and then an outdoor lido in the 1930’s.
Today, Portobello remains a highly desirable residential area. All year-round, the beach and prom are popular haunts for Edinburgh locals looking to stretch their legs, sample some of the foodie delights found in the town’s cafes and restaurants, and, for the hardier souls, take a dook in the water.
Next time you’re passing through Portobello, keep an eye open for some of the town’s historic landmarks…...they have one or two stories up their sleeve…...
Portobello Potteries Kiln
During the early years of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, Portobello became the site of many manufacturing industries, such as brickworks, saltworks, and glassmaking. Built on the site of the old harbour are two kilns, dating from 1906 and 1909, which belonged to Buchan’s Pottery. They are the last two surviving bottle kilns in Scotland.
The Coade Stone Columns
(Image Credit: Visit Scotland Kenny Lam)
Situated in Portobello Community Gardens, there’s a shroud of mystery still attached to these columns. Moulded from a malleable artificial stone called Coade, a material which is highly weather-resistant, they look as if they were just made yesterday.
Originally, the columns stood for nearly 90 years in a garden in nearby Hope Lane. How these columns ended up there, in the early part of the 1800s, remains a bit of mystery. There is some indication that they were intended to be chimney stacks, as the designs are similar to those found at Dalmeny House near South Queensferry.
The pillars were moved to their current location in the mid-2000s.
Sadly no longer existing, Portobello Pier was opened by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1871. The 1250 foot pier cost £10,000, was designed by Thomas Bouch, who also engineered the first Tay Bridge, and included a restaurant, bar and bandstand.
The pier quickly became an attraction, with day-trippers flocking from Edinburgh, as well as further locations such as Wishaw and Galashiels. In August 1871, on the holiday to mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott, over 2500 people visited the pier, at a cost of one penny!
Not only was the pier the first of its kind in Scotland, it was also a port of call for Firth of Forth pleasure steamers. Excursions to the Isle of May, Elie, North Berwick, and Bass Rock were offered, allowing more and more people the chance to experience different parts of the area’s coastline.
However, the fact that the pier was open on a Sunday did cause controversy.
Keeping the pier well maintained was a constant financial struggle though, and in the winter of 1917, gales wrought such destruction that the structure was deemed unsafe, and the pier was demolished.