Great Places to Stay
- Kilspindie House, Aberlady, East Lothian

Kilspindie House

Twenty five minutes drive from Edinburgh or travel by train, Kilspindie House is located in the centre of Aberlady Village on the attractive coastal road between Edinburgh and North Berwick. Aberlady is famous for its Nature Reserve featuring an important bird sanctuary, as well as plants, flora, fauna around the sandy beach. Nigel Tranter, the Scottish poet and historical novelist lived nearby until his death in 2000. He loved this coastline, walking along the beach daily and writing notes as he went. His memories for the bay are attributed to a character in his book Crusader ..."he was always glad to return here, to the unending sigh of the waves on the far sand-bar at the mouth of the bay, the calling of the sea birds, the quacking of the mallard and the honking of the wavering wild geese skeins which criss-crossed the sky".

The Hotel

The original Kilspindie House was built in 1638 and the adjoining former village school (dating from 1739) was turned into a hotel in 1970. The Bar and Restaurant is the site of the original school room. The hotel was taken over two years ago by Malcolm Duck, the well known Edinburgh Restaurateur (and wine expert) who runs his eponymous Duck's at Le Marche Noir. On asked why he decided to expand the business and become an hotelier, he replies with typical wit - "Kilspindie was there, available and the bank said yes".

Mr Duck has spent a great deal of time, energy and cash on giving the property a good cosmetic facelift with the emphasis on creating a first class restaurant with rooms. This is a quaint and charming 3 AA star village inn, where the focal point is the Bar, to which locals, restaurant diners and hotel guests will gather day and night. Large TV screens are popular on sports nights, especially golf tournaments - though these are considerately tucked away in a function room with a small bar, so as not to disturb those who don't want loud entertainment. Next door is the intimate Duck's Restaurant from where French Windows lead outside to a pretty Courtyard, which boasts a fine old pear tree - pears picked by the chef. The spacious banqueting suite, the Green Room (with outdoor patio) is ideal for private parties, weddings and corporate events.

Kilspindie House has 26 en suite bedrooms with double or twin beds and one Four Poster suite. (Room 38). There are some ground floor rooms for those who prefer not to climb the stairs. All rooms are freshly decorated with polished country pine furniture, comfortable beds (with cushions, throws, soft duvets and pillows) central heating, (very efficient), colour TV, wireless internet connection, telephone, an armchair or two, hospitality tray and attractive contemporary prints and photographs to add artistic flair. Bathrooms have been particularly upgraded, with new floor and wall tiles and electric showers above the bath. Two observations - Bath towels are rather small (even for a size 12 slim lady) and, on this visit, there was limited hot water for the bath and the shower thermostat swerved between ice cold and boiling hot - so be careful. The tariff is reasonable with inviting seasonal dinner, bed and breakfast rates and you can expect a comfortable night's sleep.

Duck's at Kilspindie recently won the Hotel Restaurant Award 2006 at the East Lothian Food Festival beating Greywalls Hotel to bag top place. The Bar received a Highly Commended recognition for Informal dining at the Scottish Hotels of the Year awards 2006 while Head Chef Ben Sparrow was nominated as Best Hotel Chef of the Year. As a sister restaurant to Duck's at Le Marche Noir in Edinburgh, you can be assured of a memorable dining experience where the contemporary Scottish menu, food and presentation is first class throughout. The cosy, intimate dining room with banquette seating and hidden corners creates a romantic mood. Although this is fine dining, the atmosphere is relaxed, the style, smart casual and the service, genuinely friendly and welcoming. Richard, the Maitre d', is utterly charming and the ultimate host who will look after your every whim from aperitif to post prandial dram in the bar.

The à la Carte menu offers six starters and six main courses focusing on fresh seasonal local produce especially Scottish fish and game. Start perhaps with Pan Fried Scallops, served with a small dollop of smooth broccoli puree, crispy pancetta and a tangy red pepper beurre blanc. Exquisite in texture and subtle flavours, this was a perfect light appetiser. Alternatively, Smoked Quail with wild mushrooms, Crab Soup, or Hot Shallot Tatin with melted Goat's Cheese (locally produced), and beetroot and walnut dressing - a delicate artistic composition devoid of any heavy pastry base. For main course, Fillet of Wild Seabass served with Celeriac fondant, artichokes, lentils de puy and a mustard butter sauce was a rich and hearty feast. An equally inventive dish was Partridge with parsnip and foie gras puree, baby turnips, girolles and a Madeira Jus - such detailed menu descriptions illustrate Sparrow's precise, pedantic culinary style featuring surprising combinations. Take it slowly and make sure you have room for pudding -perhaps home made ice-cream, white chocolate parfait or red wine poached pears - ending the meal on a sweet, graceful note.

The wine list should be applauded for a fine choice of house wines by the glass - ideal to select a wine per course rather than finding a bottle to suit the entire meal. Tried and tested, a dry citrus South Australian Snapper Point Verdelho and a very reasonable French full bodied Montmarin Syrah ( 10.50 a bottle, 2.95 a glass).

The Bar serves tasty lunches and suppers featuring an appetising menu of gourmet comfort food: Seafood chowder, fishcakes, beefburgers, pasta, fish and chips, steak sandwich, and steak and ale pie.

At Breakfast there's a help yourself buffet of fruit juices, cereals and tinned fruit, then a full Scottish fry up with eggs, sausage, bacon and beans or scrambled egg on toast. Simple and freshly made. The French waiter, Ben, first admitted the kitchen had run out of beans (probably an early party of hungry golfers) but then beans appeared on the plate as he had run round to the local shop to buy some. That is service with a smile.

Golf Fun and Games
East Lothian is an adventure playground for adults and children alike. This is Golf Country with around 18 golf courses, many famous championship clubs, within a few miles radius. Neighbouring courses are Longniddry, Craigielaw and Kilspindie and the hotel offers a special Earl's accommodation package where you can tour them all. The coastline has superb white sand beaches for a healthy walk, summer picnic or surfing the waves. Aberlady Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary attracts ornithologists and nature lovers year round as does the superb RSPB Seabird Centre at North Berwick. Other visitor attractions include ancient castles and the Museum of Flight housing a fascinating collection of aircraft from World War II fighter jets to Concorde itself. Visit the local Glenkinchie whisky distillery and Belhaven Brewery (founded 1719). North Berwick along the coast is a traditional seaside resort with two long beaches, and attractive gift shops and arts galleries. From here take a boat trip out to the islands, Fidra and Bass Rock to see the puffins. Or travel a few miles further along the coast to historic Tantallon Castle, perched on a cliff above the sea. The illustration shows the Bass Rock from Tantallon. The hotel will assist you in planning a fishing trip, horse-riding and cycling. Kilspindie is a perfect base for an active family holiday, exploring the area, yet easily accessible for a day trip to Edinburgh.

Weddings and Parties
The Green Room and Duck's restaurant offer a choice of function and dining rooms for a private dinner, birthday party or wedding. Direlton Castle nearby is often used for a wedding ceremony, then come here for the Reception. Reduced room rates are offered as part of an event package. Meetings and conferences can be organised with screens and wireless internet facilities.

More Information
For more information or to make a reservation see the Kilspindie House Hotel Web site or e-mail


The 25 minute drive along the coast road from Edinburgh early one evening could not have been easier or alternatively, take the 18 minute train journey from Edinburgh Waverley to Longniddry station, 5 minutes away from Kilspindie, where transport can be arranged to collect you. Being so near the city makes this an ideal base to tour East Lothian as well as sightseeing and shopping in town. Duck's at Kilspindie is undoubtedly a "Destination Restaurant," city dining beside the seaside. Ben Sparrow is an inspiring, creative chef. Malcolm Duck describes his hotel lifestyle as "Fresh, flavoursome food, a warm welcome and a relaxing enjoyable stay". I could not agree more - a dining experience far exceeding my expectations of a country inn.

Don't take our word for it - here are the comments from recent guests:

"We went for the food, and it certainly lived up to their reputation."

"A really enjoyable dinner, and the wines were fabulous."

"The atmosphere was easy which suits us nicely, the service was pretty sharp."

"Our room had a good super-king sized bed, and everything was clean and OK. Breakfast was good. We will visit again."

Vivien Devlin
November 2006

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