Gilmerton Cove, a Mystery Beneath Edinburgh

Beneath an old mining village at the southern end of Edinburgh lies a mystery, an unearthed secret from an unknown past. Gilmerton Cove, an underground cave designed and hand-chiseled and carved deliberately from sandstone leaves discoverers baffled. Little is known about the place, but the underground passageways and chambers are elaborate, decked out with stone benches, tables, a small chapel, and a possible sacrificial bed. The site dates back to the 18th century but appears to be much older.

Historians and scientists have different theories and speculations about the construction after conducting radar imaging of the site. There is still more work to be done — more passageways to be discovered. Despite being open to the public for a while, the place remains a mystery and not too many tourists know about the cave.

Once I learned about the mysterious underground, I scheduled an appointment for a tour. Our guide gave us a thorough overview of the place, explaining the different possibilities of what the place was used for and who might have occupied the cave. No one knows the truth, but it seems it has been around for a long time. Despite not knowing about the cave’s occupants, there are several possibilities: the tomb of an ancient king, a meeting place for religious groups, a Masonic lodge, a witch coven, or a Knights Templar retreat.

In the chapel, symbols are carved into the stone next to a ‘ceremonial bowl’. The V V marks represent the Virgin Mary, symbols to ward off spirits. And the cat figure etching is symbolic of witchery. Also observed but not shown here is a masonic symbol. Who knows if there are any real associations to any of the groups, but then, who put them there?

Despite the different theories, one thing is for certain: a local blacksmith, George Patterson, has been recorded to have occupied the cave from a period of about 1724 to 1735. He claims he was the one who carved the cave out, but this is a dubious claim. What is interesting, though, is that he mysteriously disappeared and died. His remains are thought to be in the cave somewhere, but he is yet to be found. However, our guide showed us a blocked passageway filled with rubble, in which he could be buried underneath.

Unlike most underground places we’ve visited, I did not find Gilmerton Cove dank and musty. Despite its age, it is in decent condition. And the only sign of life down here is plantlife as shown below.

We found Gilmerton Cove fascinating and truly worth visiting. I love mysterious places, and this underground cave definitely sparks my imagination. We left the sight with our own opinions after hearing all the possibilities. My quick assumption is that it was a secret meeting place for a religious group like the Knights Templar. But, who really knows!