A five-year collaborative project between Gilmerton Heritage Trust and The City of Edinburgh Council allowed the newly restored Cove to open in 2003 as an educational resource for the community as well as a place to visit.
There are many theories about the origins of the Cove and its purpose. It is known that it was the 18th century residence of local blacksmith, George Paterson. The parish records show that he was reprimanded for allowing alcohol to be consumed within the Cove on the sabbath. It is not known whether Paterson was responsible for carving the Cove.
Popular theories are that it was used as a drinking den for local gentry, a Covenanters refuge, and a smugglers' lair. Extensive archaeological and historical research has failed to resolve the mystery. In 2007, the documentary television series Cities of the Underworld featured Gilmerton Cove in the episode Scotland's Sin City which postulates that the Cove was linked to a nearby Hellfire Club building via a secret passage.