The Edinburgh suburb of Gilmerton was at one time a thriving mining community, but there are a series of caves and passages beneath the village that were dug for some mysterious purpose that certainly did not involve farming ore.
Known collectively as Gilmerton Cove, the network of seven chambers and numerous passages that run beneath the suburb has baffled historians since its discovery. The entrance to the underground site is known to have been underneath a local blacksmith’s residence at one time which has led to a number of theories. Among the popular speculations about the caves is that they were a place for the gentry to drink discreetly, that they were a hiding place for religious refugees, or that the space was a smuggler’s lair. The hand-carved caves were opened as of 2003 as a tourist attraction so any aspiring historic detectives are welcome to explore the caves and decide for themselves.
Update as of May 2022: The site is closed indefinitely.
Know Before You Go
Gilmerton is in southern Edinburgh. Grab a bus from Princes Street or North Bridge- the 3 or the 29 (heading to Mayfield and Gilmerton respectively). Both take you to the LIDL supermarket, which is diagonally opposite the little white cottage that's connected to the Ladbrokes shop. That cottage is the entrance to the site! Booking is essential: Call 07914 829177 or 0131 666 2035, email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or text to arrange a tour, maximum of 12 per tour Winter Tours (October-March): Monday - Friday 12pm Tour Saturday & Sunday 12pm & 2pm Tour Summer Tours (April-September): Monday - Friday 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm Tour Saturday & Sunday 12pm, 2pm, 3pm. Tour lasts approximately 1 hour.