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A tunnel in Gilmerton Cove.

Mysterious Underground Labyrinth in Scotland May Have Originally Been a Druid Temple

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The latest research at Gilmerton Cove suggests that the mysterious network of underground tunnels was once a Druid temple that dates back more than 2000 years. For centuries, the hand-carved passageways and hidden chambers have been linked to smugglers, the Knights Templar, and witchcraft.

Gilmerton Cove is located in Gilmerton, a suburb of Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2003, it was opened for visitors, and ever since then it has been an educational and fun attraction. At the same time, the site’s still an object of restoration and conservation work, preserving it for future generations. Most experts who research this site have been unable to pinpoint the true origins behind several stone tables and chairs found within Gilmerton Cove.

Inside Gilmerton Cove.

Inside Gilmerton Cove. (CC BY SA 2.0)

According to Julian Spalding, a writer, art expert, historian, and the former head of Glasgow's museums and galleries, the temple could have been in use for centuries. He believes that further work at Gilmerton Cove may unlock many of the secrets connected with the mysterious labyrinth.

The official records state that this place was created by local blacksmith George Paterson in 1724. Until now, nobody had proof for anything different. However, now Spalding may found the right way to explain the origins of the site. He claims that a temple was deliberately buried by the ancient Druids to protect the sacred nature of the place. He is convinced that Paterson simply dug out rubble used to fill in the remains of the temple. As Spalding told the Scotsman newspaper:

“It is very probable that the whole complex was deliberately buried, a widespread ancient practice which prevented the subsequent defilement of sacred sites. This interpretation explains why two passages are still blocked by unexcavated rubble. It is inexplicable why Paterson should have filled them up after going to the immense trouble of excavating them. The work is beautifully consistent throughout and indicates a team of highly-skilled craftsmen, with numerous assistants, guided by a mastermind.”

The connection with witchcraft in the Gilmerton Cove is usually linked with the use of the site by the 18th century “Hellfire Club.” This group was formed in the 1740s by Sir Francis Dashwood, owner of West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The main goal for this gentleman’s club was a hedonistic lifestyle connected with spending time with women, drinking wine, and enjoying music. Some researchers note that there were religious practices connected with the sexual activity of the group.

Many of the members were also important figures of Parliament, Lords, etc. But in the opinion of Julian Spalding, the Hellfire Club was interested in the site because of the much older fame of the location.

Portrait of Sir Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer, by William Hogarth.

Portrait of Sir Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer, by William Hogarth. (Public Domain)

Spalding believes that the shapes of the rooms and passages is related to the womb, and were carved during Celtic times, or from an even earlier culture. He claims that the identification of Gilmerton Cove as a Druid temple makes sense with all the evidence. According to his research, the site is dated back to the Iron Age and it contains lots of proof for its origins because of its good condition. Spalding summarized:

“Druids were known to meet in secret in woods and caves away from habitation. Gilmerton is on a high ridge, marked with megaliths, overlooking Cramond, the site of mankind’s earliest settlement in Scotland, and, later, a Roman Fort. If it is a Druid temple, discovered by chance in the 18th Century, then it will be the first substantial archaeological evidence of this sophisticated and highly-secretive priesthood.”

Nowadays, the entrance to Gilmerton Cove is through what looks like a traditional mining cottage. Julian Spalding hopes that it will receive a world heritage status. If the future works in Gilmerton Cove confirm Spalding’s hypothesis, it will be another place on the Druid path, joining locations like Rosslyn near Edinburgh, Cairnpapple cairn near Bathgate, Dingwall (the ancient Viking capital of Scotland), Callanish (the land of the goddess Brigit), and many others.

Archaeologists Sam Badger and Magnus Kirby investigate the mysterious tunnels.

Archaeologists Sam Badger and Magnus Kirby investigate the mysterious tunnels. (Pamela Grigg)

Historical sites connected with Druids are also in other parts of the UK. According to the Independent, at the village of Stanway, Essex, near Colchester, the grave of an Iron Age man was found in 1996. The remains are known as the ‘Druid of Colchester’ and were dated to about 40-60 AD. He could have been a Druid, a medical doctor, or both.

The bones were discovered among a number of graves of important people from this period. The wooden chambered burial site included not only human remains, but also a board game, a decorated cloak, a jet bead (which is believed to have magical properties), and medical equipment. The medical kit consisted of 13 instruments, such as scalpels, needles, surgical saw, hooks, sharp and blunt retractors, etc.

Surgical Tools found with the ‘Druid of Colchester.

Surgical Tools found with the ‘Druid of Colchester.’ (Public Domain)

Featured Image: A tunnel in Gilmerton Cove. Source: John Dale/CC BY SA 2.0

By Natalia Klimczak



Since we can’t date rock, these tunnels could have orginated thousands of years ago.  People could have kept adding to them.  And even in recent times, people could have added to them.  Very hard to tell if you can only base the conclusions on rock.

We find all sorts of tunnels and massive underground systems in every part of the world.

Why did humans spend so much effort digging under the ground?  I think people should think about the question.  They didn’t do it for the fun of it.  Would you spend generations burrowing holes today?  They didn’t do it as protection against people, because militaries have the slogan, “A cave is a grave.”  

Tom Carberry

Re-reading the article on Chartres Cathedral which was a Goddess worship place and knowing Druids were worshipping male God represented as an Sacred Oak, could the cave had been a Goddess worship place also?  Is there a water source somewhere in the cave?  A well or a spring?  

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Looking to possibly visit this on a holiday in May, so I'm interested in your comment to decide if I am wasting my time. Can you tell me exactly why you think this is a load of rubbish?

And you are right because?????????????? 

Si vis pacem, para bellum

What complete rubbish . Who wrote this nonsense ?


Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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