Future now looks brighter for attraction as action underway to save historic Gilmerton Cove - Donald Anderson

I wrote earlier this year about Gilmerton Cove – actually a cave, which has been a wonderful small-scale visitor attraction located in an unglamourous setting underneath the bookies in Gilmerton.
Tour guide Margaretanne Dugan at Gilmerton CoveTour guide Margaretanne Dugan at Gilmerton Cove
Tour guide Margaretanne Dugan at Gilmerton Cove

Despite its setting, the Cove is a fascinating visitor attraction and enchanted tens of thousands of visitors a year when it was operated by a fabulous guide, Margaretanne Dugan. Unfortunately, the Covid crisis caused the tour operation to close and the keys were handed back to the council which owns the building

The Cove was reputed to have been built single-handedly sometime around the early 1700s by local blacksmith George Paterson. It may have had much earlier origins but they are shrouded in mystery. Having lain empty for many decades the Cove was refurbished in 2003 with funding secured as part of the relocation of the Moredun Institute. The work was carried out as part of a major revamp of Gilmerton town centre and that work now needs updating.

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In recent weeks local community activists including the Community Council have come together to see if the Cove can be saved. The council has been very quick to respond. It organised a meeting with local councillors and agreement was reached to commission a survey into the condition of the Cove. There are issues caused by water penetration and it is known that the wiring needs replaced. The council deserves credit for its immediate and positive action.

Donald AndersonDonald Anderson
Donald Anderson

The survey will determine how much work is needed to re-open the Cove to visitors and what options there might be for running this historic building. There are a variety of options.

One of Scotland’s finest tour companies is Mercat Tours. It may be that a company like Mercat could be interested in running a small-scale visitor attraction, or the local community might come together to run the site as happened before.

Gilmerton Cove is not the only historic building in Edinburgh in need of repair. Despite the city’s success in saving historic buildings in the World Heritage Sites in the city centre, many fine buildings outside the city centre need investment to help remove them from Historic Environment Scotland’s At Risk Register. In south Edinburgh Gracemount Mansion was closed in 2018 for safety reasons. An amazing group of local activists have been working hard to transform the house and its walled garden.

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Elsewhere in the city there have been campaigns and concerns raised regarding buildings in the grounds of the Astley Ainslie and Victoria hospitals, the Shrubhill Tramway workshops and in Granton over the historic Gasholder. The Gasholder is set to be transformed into an amazing public space for rest and relaxation after a successful Levelling Up Fund bid. The work will be completed in less than two years.

Edinburgh has achieved amazing progress from the dark days of the 60s and 70s when demolition was the preferred method for dealing with historic buildings that had fallen into disrepair. The success of restoring our city centre can hopefully lead to work being carried out to transform the more than 80 buildings outside the city centre that remain on the At Risk Register.

Gilmerton Cove can be part of that transformation. Council and community support has been swift, and thankfully the future now looks much brighter for Gilmerton Cove.

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