Where to smoke: The Scottish Highlands

Where to smoke: The Scottish Highlands

by Nick Hendry
Photography by Hanson Leatherby

When discussing the best places to smoke a Cuban Cigar we often gravitate towards the luxury of lounges in hotels and restaurants.  In London and around Europe the choice is substantial – fine establishments offering a wealth of food and drink pairings to pair with a smoke, as well as some incredibly well-stocked humidors, fill the great capitals of the continent.  Indeed, cigar smoking is enjoying something of a resurgence in the luxury sector, with more and more properties turning over space to the enjoyment of world-class tobacco.  The comfort and convenience of venues with extensive menus and exemplary service is undoubted, but sometimes we may desire a bit more tranquillity for our smoke than offered in a big city. For a moment of true pause and reflection, one needs the silence of nature’s wildernesses.  For this, few places on the planet can match the seclusion and true majesty of The Scottish Highlands.

Sometimes today’s world can leave us in need of a complete disconnect from the demands of an increasingly fast-paced society.  The demands of constant emails, the buzz of instant smartphone alerts and the bustle of the hectic metropolis can be draining on all of us.  Technology and the impact it has on our businesses and lives may bring with it a vast array of benefits and opportunities, but these are tempered by a pressure to deliver results at any time of the day or night.  A few hours, with a few cigars, in an elegant lounge can remove a little of this weight from our shoulders – a few days with a few more sticks can remove even more.

Lighting your Cohiba cigar can be a challenge against the Highland wind

It would be best to pack a windproof lighter for trips to the Highlands

One of the most appealing aspects of the solitude of The Scottish Highlands is that this remoteness is actually rather accessible.  Fly to Edinburgh or Glasgow, pick up a hire car and head north: after no more than an hour you will begin to see that yours is the only vehicle for miles around.  Wild camping is legal and popular in Scotland, as long as it is done responsibly and considerately: your enjoyment of Scotland’s beauty should never leave a mark on it.  Choose a spot with a glorious view – by water is best – pitch your tent and sit back.  Lighting a cigar in surroundings such as this will enhance your enjoyment of both the smoke and the surroundings – fewer distractions will allow you to focus more on the flavours, while the meditative act of smoking will help you settle into the silence and truly appreciate the beauty of your locale.

Fly fishing with a fine Cuban cigar

A fine cigar can be the ideal way to ease the frustration if the fish aren't biting

Of course, there is more to occupy oneself with in The Highlands than appreciation of the scenery.  World-class salmon fishing, exhilarating mountain bike trails, or even a simple hike through the hills will clear the mind and invigorate the body, helping to blow away all the stresses of city life.  After a long day in the lochs and streams, or trekking up the side of a mountain, a hearty meal followed by a large ring gauge cigar is the perfect recovery plan.  Light your fire, light your Cohiba cigar and watch them become the only light to be seen as the sun slowly sets.  Make sure you take steps to beat the chill – even in summer, temperatures up here are not high, especially in the evening – by wearing appropriate garments.  This is not a place for your summer linens.  Consider as well arming yourself with Scotland’s most famous export: whisky is made to beat the cold, and the flavours will blend beautifully with your cigar and the aroma of the smoke from the fire.

A good jumper paired with a good whisky will keep you warm in the Highlands

A good jumper paired with a good whisky will keep you warm in the Highlands

In the event you feel wild camping is perhaps a bit too rugged and outdoorsy for your own tastes, there are alternatives.  Scotland has an impressive complement of hotels that are close enough to nature that you will be able to enjoy it during the day, but comfortable enough that your evening’s recovery will be assisted by locally sourced food and drink in a warm and cosy surrounding.  Here are 2 of our favourites, complete with outdoor space for your after dinner cigar:

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Skye offers some of the most breath-taking scenery in the country, and Kinloch Lodge is the perfect base to explore them from.  Enjoy the deer stalking and fly-fishing tours led by the hotel, or set off on your own to explore the Fairy Pools and marvel at the Old Man of Storr.  Days exploring this beautiful island will be rounded off by dinner in front of an open fire followed by a cigar in the grounds overlooking the loch.

The Glasshouse, Edinburgh

The Glasshouse, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is, admittedly, not a remote location, but the beauty of Scotland is how close you always are to countryside.  If you feel unable to completely disconnect from civilization, this is the base for you: right in the heart of the city, a whisky bar with a magnificent array of single malts, and a roof terrace spanning over an acre to enjoy an evening’s smoke on.  All this and no more than 30 minutes’ drive from the Pentland Hills.  The perfect middle ground between the convenience of life of Scotland’s capital and the awe-inspiring beauty of her landscape.

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