Portobello Baths and Beach

July 27, 2011 by

Day Trips, Sightseeing, Things To Do

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh - Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

Scotland is not the first place imagine when thinking about beautiful beaches. But on the other side of Arthurs Seat from the Edinburgh‘s city centre is the suburb of Portobello, which has a long beach fronting onto the Firth of Forth. Lovely for strolling and gazing across the water.

If you fancy a swim, and the water’s a little too cold – which I admit it’s going to be for most of the year – then head for the Portobello Baths on The Promenade. Here is one of the fabulous swimming pool and Victorian Turkish Bath houses that you find dotted throughout many British cities.

In renovating and modernizing they’ve kept the best features of the complex. The swimming pool still has the lovely colonnaded balcony wrapping around, with wooden steps and floors. And if you want to relax and renew, head into the steam rooms.  The theory of these Victorian Turkish Baths – which bear almost no similarity to real Turkish hammams – was, and is, to steam yourself into health. Three rooms go from Fridigarium, or cool room, to Tepidarium, right up to the Caldarium or hottest room; it’s your choice what temperature to lie in. A lot of people choose the medium heat, take a book or magazine and just lie there slowly warming themselves right through the marrow of the bones, especially when it’s a rugged winter’s day outside.

Then comes the challenge of the cold plunge pool – a shock to the system but a blessing to the skin. Try it if you dare. Many people lament the modernising of these types of bathing complexes. The pools these days tend to be chlorinated rather than so salty you could float effortlessly. But modernising is better than closure and I encourage everyone, after a day of walking the hilly, stone streets of Edinburgh, to replenish and refresh in the Cauldarium.

-Philippa Burne

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