AN idyllic holiday spot, it once boasted a bustling promenade, railway station and open-air pool with none other than Sean Connery as its lifeguard.
Now hopes are high that hundreds and thousands could once again be heading to the rumoured birthplace of the 99 ice cream after Portobello scooped a major accolade.
Efforts to restore Edinburgh’s seaside to its former glory have taken a step forward with Keep Scotland Beautiful awarding the town a Resort Seaside Award Flag, making the beach one of only 14 in the country with the accolade.
Resort beaches are described as being actively managed and promoted as tourist resorts and which meet high standards of cleanliness and safety.
It is the first time Portobello has had any accreditation from the environmental charity and Councillor Gordon Munro, vice-convener of economic development, said it was long overdue.
“Following the Seaside Award, this summer Portobello will be firmly on the tourist map. We also hope some residents will venture down to explore Edinburgh’s seaside as well – giving a boost to the economy.”
In anticipation of a boost in numbers, the city council has launched Shop on the Prom, a scheme which will see a poster display of businesses displayed next to the Fun City amusement arcade.
Damian Killeen of the arts group Big Things on the Beach said the award was “excellent news” for the town. “We would hope it would encourage everybody in Edinburgh to really appreciate what they have on their doorstep,” he said.
In addition to Portobello’s success, eight East Lothian beaches have Rural Seaside Awards, with Dunbar East making the grade for the first time.
Derek Robertson, Keep Scotland Beautiful’s chief executive, said: “There has never been a better time to enjoy Edinburgh’s beach.”
In the nineteenth century, Portobello, with state-of-the-art salt water baths built in 1807, was the Capital’s seaside resort but saw its popularity decline from the 1950s as overseas package holidays became more affordable for city-dwellers.
Local business leaders today welcomed news of the award.
Terry Magill, owner of the Dalriada Bar on Portobello Promenade, said: “If it means that ten per cent more people come down to the beach and become regular visitors then that’s an achievement.”
Andras Laki, assistant manager at The Espy bar in Portobello’s Bath Street, said: ““If it means there will be more public functions on the beach – markets and concerts and things – I am sure it will help a lot. ”
Great eight in good state
It may be the first time Portobello has been recognised as one of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s top beaches, but East Lothian boasts eight that have made the grade.
Belhaven Bay, Dunbar East, Gullane Bents, Longniddry Gosford Bay, North Berwick East, North Berwick West, Longniddry and Yellowcraig all have rural status.
Gullane Bents was the first ever beach to have received an award through the scheme.
Among the 14 Scottish beaches with resort status are Aberdeen Ballroom, Montrose Seafront, Broughty Ferry and South Ayr.
Packing it in
The top five best things to do in Porty, apart from just sit on the beach
1. Visit one of the growing number of cafes on the High Street and Prom
2. Enjoy music and film nights at seafront pubs
3. Go sailing or kayaking
4. Join the sea swimming group at Porty Baths
5. Don’t forget the amusement arcades