Aberlady is a quiet seaside village in eastern Scotland; visit it, and you’ll find a place that’s timeless, mesmeric and utterly compelling. Old, stone cottages, a small, unobtrusive High Street, a convenience store here, a pub there.
The nature reserve that is part and parcel of the place and runs alongside the narrow streets, is serene, ever-changing and packed each day with a staggering array of wildfowl. Smack bang in the middle of all this tranquility is a legendary pub and restaurant, with rooms that will complement your reason to visit. Welcome to Ducks at Kilspindie. As soon as you walk through the door, there’s a cabinet humidor stuffed with well-kept smokes.
Matters improve when you reach the bar and spy scores of bottles of Scotch, with vintages stretching back a very long way indeed. And Ducks Restaurant, complete with a roaring log fire and outstanding wine cellar, is first class. The entire place – including 26 clean and comfortable rooms – is run by the indomitable Scot Malcolm Duck and his lovely wife, Fiona.
Malcolm is a wine connoisseur, a whisky lover – and has been known to enjoy a cigar or two as well. “These things just seem to go together,” he shrugs as we enjoy a nighttime dram on the terrace, coupled with a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. “I’ve always enjoyed a good cigar, as did my father before me.”
Believe it or not, Malcolm’s father was a Scottish GP called Donald – long years before Mr. Disney created his famous quacking cartoon. If you’re a golfer, there are an incredible 22 links courses within just 15 minutes of Ducks’. You can go salmon fishing and game shooting in the glens and hills of the Scottish Borders just minutes away. But the main reason for coming here must be to enjoy the hospitality and the incredible Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve.
I’ve always enjoyed a good cigar.
During my stay, the first Pink-Footed Geese were arriving from Iceland and Greenland to winter along this sheltered and nutrient-rich stretch of water. It’s worth coming here just to witness 30,000 of these large birds tumble from the sky at dusk, their deafening yelping sounding like a horde of infuriated Jack Russells. During the day, oystercatchers and turnstone birds work the shoreline, with countless ducks sleeping on one leg or flying overhead. Peregrines cover the marshes.
After the fresh air of an invigorating day spent watching the mudflats, you can swap your binoculars for a whisky tumbler. Ducks is a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and as such has an astounding array of malts to try by the glass. If Malcolm is on hand, he’ll give you the benefit of his knowledge and suggest a few drams to taste.
Then he’ll encourage you to select something from the humidor – and you can retire to the terrace to end a perfect day in East Lothian.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2014. Read more