On the coast at the mouth of the Peffer Burn, Aberlady was an active harbour as early as 1149. On this largely sandy shoreline it was one of the few places where the trading vessels of the day could come close to the shore for loading and unloading. In 1633 this nautical role was formalised when an Act of Parliament designated it as the port for Haddington, five miles to the south.
Through the 1700s the wealth of the village was supplemented by an active weaving industry: and by various less formal, but equally active, smuggling operations. However the larger ships of the 1800s needed deeper water, and Aberlady's role as a port gradually diminished. Today Aberlady Bay is a nature reserve.
In 1898 a railway station was built at Aberlady on the Gullane branch line. This was not a great success and passengers services on the line ceased very early, in 1932, and even freight trains stopped using it in 1979.
In 1876 two golf courses were laid out at Aberlady. The Kilspsindie Golf Club lies on the west side of the village and is highly recommended by connoisseurs of Scottish golf courses. The Luffness New Golf Club lies to the north-east of the village and is a championship links course used for final qualifying when the Open is held at Muirfield.
Aberlady is built along a single street which turns sharply towards the sea at its east end. The parish church lies at the west end of the village. Most of the structure dates back to 1773, though the tower was built in the 1400s on the site of an even earlier church.
Half way along the High Street you almost stumble across the mercat cross unassumingly located on the pavement on the north side of the road, with Cross Cottage behind it. The quality of many of the buildings in the village shows very clearly the wealth of Aberlady over the centuries. Particularly interesting is "The Gardens" a three storey town house at the east end of the village complete with louvered upper floor windows.
Much of the commercial life of the village lies on the south side of the High Street. This includes the Kilspindie House Hotel and the Old Aberlady Inn, both adding interest to what is already a fascinating and attractive village.