What are the cleanest and dirtiest beaches in Edinburgh and the Lothians?

Swimming season is fast approaching, but which beaches should you visit and which should you avoid this summer?

Edinburgh and the Lothians has many gorgeous beaches, but not all of them are considered good swimming spots by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), who assess water quality on a yearly basis.

If you’re looking to take a dip this summer, Edinburgh Evening News have ranked nearby beaches from cleanest to dirtiest.


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This popular beach in East Lothian is considered to be an excellent place to swim. SEPA studies have found there are no significant pollution risks for this bathing water.

It is also an excellent location for sunbathing, walking, picnics, windsurfing and canoeing.


Swimmers near Dunbar will love this spot, which has excellent water quality.

Portobello beach is a popular swimming spot, however, it is not the cleanest.Portobello beach is a popular swimming spot, however, it is not the cleanest.
Portobello beach is a popular swimming spot, however, it is not the cleanest.

On a sunny day, it is also a perfect place for a walk or a picnic.

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Dunbar (East)

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Locals that live near this spot should get their swimming costumes out, as the water quality in this spot was rated excellent by SEPA.

Gullane, a gorgeous sandy beach in East Lothian, is a perfect spot for a dip!Gullane, a gorgeous sandy beach in East Lothian, is a perfect spot for a dip!
Gullane, a gorgeous sandy beach in East Lothian, is a perfect spot for a dip!

This beach is particularly popular with families, as there are many rock pools for children to play in.


This spot in East Lothian has had excellent water quality for five years running.

Under normal circumstances, there are no significant risks of pollution, so swimmers and surfers should feel free to enjoy the waters without worry.

Broad Sands

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The water quality in this spot, which is adjacent to Yellow Craig, is considered good by SEPA.

While under normal circumstances, there is no significant risk of pollution, bathers are advised not to swim after heavy rainfall.

Dunbar (Belhaven)

This 1.3km long beach, which is loved by windsurfers, has good water quality.

However, there are still risks of wet weather driven short-term pollution at this bathing water.


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The waters on the outskirts of Longniddry, which are popular amongst windsurfers, were given a good rating by SEPA.

While there is still a risk of short-term pollution after heavy rainfall, this is a decent spot for swimming during dry periods.

Yellow Craig

This beach, which is near North Berwick, has improved in recent years. In 2016 and 2017, the bathing waters were rated poor, but SEPA’s latest report found that the water quality was good.

However, swimming is not advised during or one to two days after heavy rainfall, due to risks that agricultural run-off could pollute the water.

North Berwick (West)

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This spot, which is located on the northern coast of North Berwick, has bathing water that is of good quality, according to SEPA.

However, there is a risk to bathers’ health from water pollution after heavy rainfall.

Seton Sands

This 2.2km long beach, which is located to the east of Cockenzie and Port Seton, is classed as sufficient.

Swimmers should avoid this spot when there is wet weather, as sewage can overflow into the bathing waters.

North Berwick (Milsey Bay)

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This spot, which is situated on the north east side of North Berwick, is not the best place to swim.

SEPA rated the water quality as sufficient, and warned bathers of potential pollution from sewage overflows and faecal matter.

Portobello (Central and West)

This beach, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, is a popular swimming spot for locals. However, the water quality is only deemed as sufficient.

The water is subject to short-term pollution, and SEPA particularly advise that bathers do not swim during rainfall or in the days after. A 2020 report also found that human sources are contributing to faecal pollution of the bathing water.

Fisherrow Sands

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This area should be avoided, as it is no longer regarded as a designated bathing water by SEPA, who advise the public against swimming at this spot.

The water quality has not been recently assessed, but in 2019, the location was given a poor rating for five consecutive seasons.