Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Edinburgh's Mysterious Underground World
Despite a life-long interest in subterranean worlds—and a fair amount of time spent in Scotland—I must admit that I only recently learned about the mysterious underground rooms beneath Edinburgh that are known as Gilmerton Cove.
Those who would like to visit must first find the old plumber’s workshop that hides the last remaining entrance to the “cove.” Then, they must descend more than thirty feet beneath the streets until they reach a tunnel carved out of sandstone. This long, winding passage provides access to six strange rooms, each decorated with stone pillars and furniture.
For centuries, Gilmerton Cove was believed to have been the work of a blacksmith named George Paterson, who claimed to have built the chambers between 1719 and 1724 as a home for his family. However the origins of the underground structure may be far more bizarre. Unusual carvings on the walls and furniture have led many people to believe that Gilmerton Cove is much older than Paterson alleged.
Some experts have suggested that the cove was built in the seventeenth century by Roman Catholics who practiced their religion in secret to avoid persecution by the English. Others think that the rooms may have used by the Freemasons for their mysterious ceremonies. Still others (perhaps not experts) believe Gilmerton Cove was the site of a witches’ coven.
However, the most interesting (and wacky) theory was proposed after a hidden door was discovered behind a pile of rubble in one of the underground rooms. Though it can’t be excavated (the street above would collapse), there may be another tunnel that leads in the direction of nearby Rosslyn Chapel. The fifteenth century church is famous for its rumored connection to the Knights Templar—the Christian military order that some believe may have discovered the Holy Grail. Could the Templars have used Gilmerton Cove as their secret hiding place?
(Below: Rosslyn Chapel)