An archaeological mystery that has defied explanation for almost 300 years, Gilmerton Cove features a series of chambers and passageways carved by hand into sandstone underneath the streets of South Edinburgh. Explore one of the city’s best-kept secrets to see if you can figure out the riddle behind who created this place and why.
Gilmerton Cove can only be experienced on a guided tour, which must be booked in advance. Seven chambers and a number of passageways are open to the public. See features like rock-hewn tables and chairs, a baptismal font, a large punch bowl, and a fireplace. Elements such as a well that doesn’t reach water and a few blocked tunnels add to the mystery. Most people agree that the cove was likely the home of an 18th-century blacksmith named George Paterson. Whether he dug out the chambers and tunnels as he claims is uncertain, and the structure could be significantly older. An adjoining museum presents additional information visitors can use to form their own theories.
Things to Know Before You Go
The guided tour of Gilmerton Cove lasts about one hour.
Wear sturdy shoes that are suitable for walking over uneven, possibly wet, ground.
It’s a good idea to bring a flashlight.
Gilmerton Cove is not suitable for children under the age of 5; children aged 5–15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Some of the space is confined, with low ceilings, which may not be suitable for those with claustrophobia.
Gilmerton Cove is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Gilmerton Cove is located in the suburb of Gilmerton, south of central Edinburgh. Take bus 3 or 29 from Prince Street or North Bridge to the LIDL supermarket diagonally across from the white cottage entrance to Gilmerton Cove.
When to Get There
Gilmerton Cove can be visited year-round, though tours must be booked in advance. From April to September, three guided tours are offered daily. From October to March, only two tours are offered daily. Tour groups are restricted to 12 people, so book early to avoid disappointment.
Legend and Possibilities
Although George Paterson claimed to have dug out the entire cove in five years, many believe that such a feat was impossible using hand tools. There are many alternate theories, including that it was a meeting place for the Knights Templar, a witches’ coven, a hiding place for political refugees, a Hellfire club, or an ancient Druid temple.
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