Gilmerton Cove: Edinburgh's mysterious and historic cave is a gem well worth saving – Donald Anderson

Gilmerton Cove was until recently one of Edinburgh’s best-loved attractions
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Where I live in Gilmerton was once the highest-rated Edinburgh attraction on Trip Adviser. Gilmerton Cove is a cave that was reputedly carved from solid rock some 300 years ago by a blacksmith called Paterson. It has three rooms running off a central corridor. That would have been a Herculean task for one person, and I am sceptical of that story.

Since it was refurbished 20 years ago, Gilmerton Cove has been a successful small-scale visitor attraction that has given pleasure to many tens of thousands of visitors, including many who have made the trip beyond the city centre to explore more of what Edinburgh has to offer. It was run, and run well, by Gilmerton Heritage Trust and by an incredibly talented guide by the name of Margaretanne Dugan. However, it has become one of Edinburgh’s victims of Covid as lockdown and maintenance issues combined to close a once popular local attraction.

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All of Edinburgh’s important historic buildings in the city centre have now been saved. However Gilmerton Cove is one of many listed buildings on the outskirts of the city centre that need investment.

Gilmerton Cove, about ten feet below ground, is thought to have been inhabited up to 300 years ago (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)Gilmerton Cove, about ten feet below ground, is thought to have been inhabited up to 300 years ago (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)
Gilmerton Cove, about ten feet below ground, is thought to have been inhabited up to 300 years ago (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)

Nearby in South Edinburgh is Gracemount House, where the local community has come together to launch a fantastic fundraising campaign to save what was in its day perhaps Edinburgh’s most successful community centre when it was run by a visionary youth worker, John Boag. Elsewhere the spectacular Inch House is part of ambitious plans for both the house and the amazing Inch Park.

In Gilmerton, the local community has a great champion in its community council which is always looking for ways to improve the area. There are meetings planned to devise a rescue plan for the Cove. A small and willing band of locals is coming together to rescue a gem well worth saving.

Edinburgh still has many historic buildings to save. The model of a local community working with a willing partner in the council seems like the best solution. Hopefully, Gilmerton Cove will again throng with visitors keen to explore one of Scotland's finest small visitor attractions.

Donald Anderson is a former leader of Edinburgh City Council

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