Gilmerton Cove

Useful Information

Location: Edinburgh.
Meeting Point: 16 Drum Street, Gilmerton, Edinburgh, just off Gilmerton Crossroads, opposite Royal Bingo Hall.
Lothian Buses 3, 3a, 29 and First Bus 82.
Open: All year Wed-Sun 10-17, Sat 19. Booking essential for all tours.
Fee: Adults GBP 5, Concessions GBP 4, Children GBP 3.
Classification: ExplainCave House, sandstone.
Light: electric.
Guided tours: D=60min.
Address: Gilmerton Cove, 16 Drum Street, Edinburgh, EH17 8QH. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1719-1724 cavern dug out by the blacksmith George Paterson.
1782 earliest written account produced by the Rev. Thomas Whyte of Liberton.
1897 extensive survey by F.R. Coles, Assistant Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh.
1998 acquired for the sum of GBP 1 by the City of Edinburgh Council from Ladbroke's Bookmakers and development started.
16-AUG-2003 opened to the public.


Gilmerton Cove are some man made tunnels and chambers below Edinburgh. The first description was made by Rev. Thomas Whyte of Liberton in 1782. He told they were cut between 1719 and 1724 by the blacksmith George Paterson. He also told that Paterson had died around 1735, so he never met him personally. But later several investigators of the cove, like F R Coles, the Assistant Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, doubted that Paterson was able to build it in only five years. They guessed the caves were much older, and he just widened them.

The whole cavern has a central passage with numerous chambers of strange form to both sides. The passage is only 3m deep and 12m long, but it has seven sidechambers. As Paterson told, he built this cellar as an underground dwelling house, the rooms are named bedroom, drinking parlour, or forge. Most of the chambers contain some kind of rock hewn furniture, bed like recesses or a stone table with benches on either side.

The drinking parlour is a 4.50m long and 1.50m wide, supported by a stone pilar in the center of a 3m long rock table. This table is cut inwards at the base with a 7.5cm wide stone ledge left as a foot-rest, and it has a 35 by 20cm big bowl-shaped cavity in its center. This is called a punch bowl. Along the walls all around the chamber are benches cut out of the rock. A number of narrow holes in the ceiling may have been for bringing liquor down into the cave.