Visitors to Edinburgh have often heard of the Underground City supposedly hidden beneath the streets of the Royal Mile and are disappointed to hear that no such thin exists (though Mary Kings Close is excellent).
For those willing to plan ahead and leave the city centre, Gilmerton Cove offers an interesting alternative.
What Is Gilmerton Cove?
Gilmerton Cove isn't so much an underground city as an underground 'dwelling'. It consists of a set of rooms and passages that were hand carved out of sandstone underground.
The history of Gilmerton Cove is rather uncertain. The generally accepted explanation is that it was carved by local blacksmith George Paterson in the early 18th century.
It's certainly true that Paterson did indeed live in the underground cave system until 1737, there are records to show it. But whether he actually carved the entire system is uncertain. Some survey work has suggested that the cove is older than Paterson's time and not built using typical blacksmith tools. It also seems that carving out that the cove would simply have been too much work for one person.
Of course Paterson could well have built some of the cove, expanding on what was already there. Which then leaves the questions of who originally built it, and why.
There are numerous speculations, some fuelled by the discovery of bore holes that look as if they were designed to carry liquid around the cave system. Water? Liquor? Or someone less pleasant...
So whilst much is known about the cove, much remains a mystery. Suggested explanations include Covenanters, debauched local nobles and even covens of witches!
Where Is Gilmerton Cove?
Gilmerton Cove is situated about four miles to the south of Edinburgh city centre in (or rather under) the village of Gilmerton. By car it's on the A772, there are also a couple of buses that go out that way.
Tours of the chambers are run by Rosslyn Tours. There are several tours most days, however these must be pre-booked - don't just turn up! Children under 5 are not permitted and those aged 5 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Because of the age and nature of the venue, the cove is not wheelchair accessible. In addition the floor is uneven and often wet so you'll need to wear sensible shoes - and you might also want to take along your own torch.
Price is currently (Jan 2017) £7.50 adult, £4 for a child (5-16) with a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) costing £20. The tour lasts about an hour. To find out more about tours and booking check out the official website here.
This site is not associated with or endorsed by Rosslyn Tours. Prices and other details might have changed since this page was published - always check with the venue.
This page last updated: 18-08-2017