Located 3 miles (5 km) east of Edinburgh's centre, this seaside town on the Firth of Forth originated from a single thatched cottage in the mid 18th Century held by a veteran of Admiral Vernon's 1739 campaign at Puerto Bello in Panama. By the end of the century it had become a fashionable bathing resort for Edinburgh's well-to-do. It was also a working town and former industries produced bottles, bricks, glass, lead, paper, pottery, soap and mustard; an oyster bed was exploited after its discovery in 1839. The town was made a burgh in 1833 and was incorporated into Edinburgh in 1896. Notable buildings include the Old Parish Church (1809), the multi-spired St John's Church (1909) and the villas along Regent Street (early 19th century). A railway station operated here between 1846 and 1964. The site was redeveloped as a Freightliner Terminal (next to Sir Harry Lauder Road) which operated until the 1980s, although the facility remains intact.
Nearby is Joppa which was created in the early 19th century from a plan by Robert Brown. The village had two railway stations, one at Milton Road (1847-59), the other at Brunstane Road (1859 - 1964).
Noted residents of the town were geologist Hugh Miller (1802-56), who shot himself at his home on the High Street, and physicist Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868). Music hall artist Sir Harry Lauder was born here in 1870.