Watersports in Edinburgh & The Lothians

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  • A man on a bodyboard cuts through the waves at Belhaven Beach, Dunbar.
    Bodyboarding at Belhaven Beach © Coast to Coast Surf School
  • Two sloops sailing off the coast at North Berwick, East Lothian.
    Sailing at North Berwick
  • Two sea kayakers paddle along the shoreline with the Bass Rock looming in the distance.
    Sea kayaking near the Bass Rock
  • A man cuts through the surf on a board at Belhaven Beach.
    Surfing at Belhaven Beach © Coast to Coast Surf School

With its sheltered seas and miles of pristine beaches, conditions in Edinburgh & The Lothians are perfect to try your hand at watersports. Ideal for beginners, you can expect to find lessons and courses in a wide range of sports, including surfing, diving, sea kayaking and more.


Hiding below the surface of the Firth of Forth is a true diver’s playground. As with many watersports, the coastline off Edinburgh & The Lothians provides an excellent first step to mastering diving. The waters off the capital of Edinburgh were active in both World Wars with some of the first and last casualties of the war reported here, including the last British ship to be sunk, SS Avondale Park. There is also a First World War German dreadnought, Dresden, lying on the seafloor as well as the recently discovered German submarine, U-714. In addition to shipwrecks, the Forth is teeming with impressive marine wildlife, including occasional visitors like the Minke whale.


The south east of Scotland first caught sight of surfers in the 1960s and it’s been a regular fixture along its coastline ever since. Scotland’s first ever surfing club appeared in the 1970s in Pease Bay so the region has a strong connection to the sport. East Lothian has some of the best beginner beaches in the country, most within 35 minutes of the capital.

Belhaven beach at Dunbar is among the best, with two miles of beach producing rolling waves perfect for surfing and bodybording. Coast to Coast Surf School operates here between March and November and offers daily instructor-led surfing lessons and weekend-long courses for beginners as well as skill building classes. The swell at beachs like North Berwick’s East beach or Tantallon offer a challenge for more intermediate or expert abilities though the rips, or currents, can be very strong at high tide.

Sea kayaking

The Firth of Forth is one of the UK’s largest river estuaries and provides the ideal backdrop and conditions to try a wide range of watersports. Sea kayaking is just one exciting way to explore parts of the estuary’s coastline that are mostly inaccessible on foot, including the Bass Rock, one of the largest gannet colonies in Europe. The sport does require some skills as sea conditions can change unexpectedly so why not do a weekend course? The beach at Tantallon is a good place to try out your skills, especially at mid to high tide. If you’d rather perfect your skills on more tranquil waters, Boots’n’Paddles offer introductory inland sessions on the Union Canal.


With its sheltered waters, beginners can really get to grips with the sport in the Firth of Forth aboard all manner of craft; from small dinghies to yachts. For those wanting more of a challenge and have planned ahead, the open waters of the North Sea beckon with many traditional fishing villages along the coast to put in at should the weather turn fowl. You can find visitor moorings at the busy harbour marina at North Berwick, close to the Bass Rock and the islands of Fidra and May, or further along the coast at the popular harbour in Dunbar. Due to potential hazards, it is advised that newcomers to the sport try sailing inland first. Whiteadder, located between Dunbar and Eyemouth, is a picturesque loch with safe waters to get your first taste of sailing and build your confidence, with facilities for changing, equipment hire and lessons.

Find marinas in Edinburgh & The Lothians at SailScotland.co.uk.