With a history of royalty and radicalism straddling medieval patriots and a famous textile heritage to welcoming exiled punks, Paisley has a fascinating story to entice visitors.
Its profile rose as a result of being the only town to make the shortlist in the UK City of Culture competition for its 2021 bid – shining a light on its rich social, historical and cultural offering, which is helping it become one of Scotland’s must-visit destinations.
Just 10 minutes from Glasgow by train, many would not believe the wealth of history and culture on offer.
Paisley town centre boasts the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outside of Edinburgh, making it a haven for architecture and design buffs.
Paisley Abbey – the centrepiece of the town’s rich architectural heritage – is said to be the birthplace of the first Stuart monarch of Scotland, King Robert II (grandson of King Robert the Bruce) in 1316.
Arguably Scotland’s most famous hero of medieval times, William Wallace, is also believed to have been educated at the abbey by monks.
This historic building plays an important role in many of the town’s events and has more recently been used as a concert venue welcoming artists such as Frightened Rabbit, James Grant and local favourite Paolo Nutini.
The famous abbey is not the only architectural gem to be found in Scotland’s largest town.
Paisley is widely considered as “the town that thread built” and it is easy to see why from a walk around the town centre.
It was transformed into an economic powerhouse during the industrial revolution between the late 18th and mid-19th Centuries, when it was catapulted to the forefront of the worldwide thread industry. This was the heyday of the iconic Paisley Pattern – the famous design that took the town’s name around the world and is still instantly recognisable today.
The mark of the town’s industrialists, the Coats and Clarks, can be seen throughout Paisley in the number of exceptional buildings they commissioned for its people.
Paisley Town Hall is a major venue home to a number of popular events in the town’s calendar. The building is a fantastic example of Victorian architecture, built after George A. Clark left £20,000 in his will to build it in 1873.
It is not just architecture buffs who will enjoy a jaunt to Paisley, however, with the town’s impressive musical heritage also attracting visitors over the years.
You can chart the town’s love affair with music back to the late 1970s and 80s when it became a key stop-off location in the west of Scotland for touring punk acts at a time when Glasgow had banned them due to the controversy that followed them.
It led the likes of The Skids, Annie Lennox and The Tourists, The Buzzcocks, Echo and the Bunnymen, Aztec Camera, Simple Minds, and Siouxie and the Banshees to play at the Bungalow Bar.
Visitors can also take a trip to the Brown’s Lane, where a series of striking street art wall murals celebrate Paisley’s famous musical sons – Gerry Rafferty and Paolo Nutini.
The mural trail is a real favourite with visitors and locals alike.
Culture fans can pay a visit to the Paisley Museum and Art Gallery.
The stunning Victorian museum is home to a whole host of treasures from the Shawl Collection – a recognised collection of national significance to Scotland – to one of the best ceramics collections in the country.
The adjacent Coats Observatory is the oldest public observatory in Scotland and is home to a state-of-the-art digital planetarium.
One of the town’s newest attractions is a real must-see. Paisley: The Secret Collection is the first facility of its kind on a UK High Street and is a real treasure trove of significant artefacts from all over the world covering including a neolithic axe and a 1960s badge worn by a Paisley tram driver.
An excellent range of restaurants and bars is also available for visitors to enjoy.
For a cosmopolitan dining experience, Pendulum is a fantastic setting where diners can tuck into some tasty nosh with the town’s most famous landmarks as a backdrop. There is also the fantastic Genova restaurant, named Best Trattoria at the 2017 Scottish Italian Awards and well worth a visit.
A great time to visit the town is during major events such as the annual music, comedy and arts festival The Spree, or the popular Halloween Festival – both of which take place in October.
This year’s Halloween Festival is supported by the Year of Young People event fund, managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
For those looking for more of a tranquil escape, you can visit Castle Semple in Lochwinnoch – one of Scotland’s largest regional parks situated just 20 minutes from the town centre by car. The park is packed with plenty to do from cycling and archery to sailing and paddle sports, with a stunning backdrop. It is also the training base for six of the athletes who make up the team GB sailing squad for the Special Olympics: 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
Paisley has long traditions of art, industry and culture which are evident from walking around its historic town centre. It’s definitely a place that deserves to be one of Scotland’s must-visit destinations.