Gilmerton: Above and below
An ex-coal-mining village built above a network of historic caves and tunnels, Gilmerton is a grand old town sitting in the open plains four miles southeast of Edinburgh city centre. With a view of Arthur’s seat, and the Pentlands just a short drive away, it’s a favourite of history buffs scenery seekers.
Hand-carved from sandstone directly beneath the town’s streets, Gilmerton Cove is a bit of a mystery. Even after extensive archaeological and historical research, nobody is quite sure who’s responsible for these man-made caves. What is known is that local blacksmith George Paterson lived in them in the 18th century, and got into a bit of trouble for letting people use them for Sunday drinking. Some locals claim it was used a drinking refuge for the upper classes, and that it was secretly linked to a nearby Hellfire club. Others claim it was a smugglers’ lair. Be sure to visit and decide for yourself – the caves were restored by the council and opened to the public in 2003.
Gilmerton Primary school is a popular local state school currently serving around 450 pupils. With 22 pupils to every teacher and 88% of them performing well or very well in reading at p7, this is a favourite with local families. Then there’s the similarly placed Craigour Park Primary, as well as the nearby Danderhall Primary, with roughly 250 pupils and 17 to a teacher.
Older kids can consider Gilmerton High School, whose previous pupils include Eric Faulkner from the Bay City Rollers, rugby unions’ Bruce Hay and M.E.P David Martin. With 610 pupils, and extra-curricular activities ranging from Astronomy to Eco Schools, Gilmerton High has recently seen some of its best ever assessment results.
The picturesque and spacious streets are typical of Scottish towns that were able to expand outwards, rather than upwards. The main road has all the classics; hairdressers, takeaways, newsagents and a few supermarkets. Turn off at the pharmacy and you’ll also find a children’s nursery and a doctor’s surgery. And for bigger or more stylish shopping sprees, Edinburgh is just up the road.
Out and About
Gilmerton isn’t what you’d call a party town. But there are a couple of friendly pubs worth making your local. The Robin’s Nest on Gilmerton Road is famous for its steaks, chicken and everything else that comes off the grill. While the Mechanic Arms is known for its traditional open fire and friendly staff. But if you’re looking for something a little less cosy, Edinburgh is just four miles away. Old Town and New Town offer everything from cobbled alleyways to buzzing high streets, and local transport will get you there in a jiffy. Just jump on the number 3 or 29 Lothian Bus and make the most of the gorgeous city on your doorstep.