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In recognition of the essential restrictions and measures imposed by the Scottish and UK Governments, we have closed all sites, depots and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, with immediate effect. Read our latest statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Field Visit

Date 20 March 2015

Event ID 1000546

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


In March 2015, a member of the public made a request to RCAHMS through social media to survey the ruinous remains of part of the late-18th century harbour at Portobello. These had been recently exposed on the beach some 70m east of where the Figgate Burn debauches onto the beach and just a few meters north-east of the front face of the promenade wall (NT 3050 7430). The harbour was built in 1787-88 and the inner basin and the channel leading to it are no longer visible. However, the outer part of the breakwater which guarded the east side of the channel and is depicted on John Wood’s 1824 plan of Portobello still remains, albeit in a ruinous state. It now comprises the lower parts of a wall (averaging 2m in thickness over inner and outer wall-faces) which extends north for a distance of about 28m from the high water mark along the eastern side of the channel before arcing to the south-east and then south for a total distance of 32m. The west wall face comprises quarried facing stones and includes architectural fragments, such as a window sill and a broken window mullion. Immediately west of this wall are five quarried steps from a spiral stair case and a section of a window mullion. The steps appear to have been washed out from the wall facing. This wall was effectively a retaining wall as the space enclosed would have originally been filled with rubble to provide a flat, levelled surface to facilitate the servicing of boats that may well have used the west side of the breakwater as a quay. Wood’s plan indicates that the remains visible today represent part of a larger construction which extended further east along the high water mark.

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH, GLB) 20 March 2015.

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