It may have narrowly missed out on being named the UK’s City of Culture but Paisley, Scotland’s biggest town, is still set for big things as it carries on its quest to celebrate culture.
The market town is packed with fantastic attractions, stunning architecture and exciting events, and will continue its mark on Scotland’s cultural calendar in 2018 and beyond.
Best known for its world famous Paisley Pattern, which was sewn into shawls produced by local weavers, this small market town grew to prominence at the centre of the global textile trade. Away from the weaves, workers led important conversations around social justice and fair employment.
The town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outwith Edinburgh. Architectural gems include the 12th century Paisley Abbey, the grand neo-classical Paisley Town Hall, the newly-restored Russell Institute and the spectacular neo-Gothic Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church.
So here’s a short guide to Paisley’s cultural highlights:
Paisley Pattern shawls and Paisley Museum
Named as one of 25 objects to shape Scotland’s history, Paisley Pattern shawls symbolise a golden manufacturing era when Scotland, as an active player in the Industrial Revolution, capitalised on global demand for a product. Paisley became the epicentre of production for this particular item over the 19th century thanks to the skill of local weavers in replicating the complicated teardrop motif. The names of the town and the pattern became synonymous as the iconic Paisley Pattern design was favoured across the world, worn by figures from Queen Victoria to the Beatles. Paisley Museum has the world’s largest collection of Paisley shawls – a collection designated by experts as ‘internationally-significant’.
Dating back more than 850 years, the stunning Paisley Abbey is recognised as the cradle of the Royal House of Stewart. It is the birthplace of Robert II of Scotland, the first of the Stewart monarchs. His mother, Marjory Bruce – daughter of the famous Scottish king, Robert the Bruce – died at the historic site while giving birth to the future king. The Abbey became wealthy due to extensive trade with commercial centres in Europe. It was a centre of learning, and it is believed William Wallace was educated at the abbey by the monks. It also has a gargoyle that has been modelled to look like one of the monsters of the film ‘Alien’, thought to be the handiwork of a cheeky stone mason during refurbishment work in the 1990s, and a stained glass window by Daniel Cottier, who influenced Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Paisley’s Grand Fountain
Considered to be one of the best examples of a Scottish-made cast iron fountain, Paisley’s category A-listed Grand Fountain is the centrepiece to the beautiful Fountain Gardens. Standing at 10m tall, the fountain, which is adorned with an array of creatures and cherubs, was gifted to the people of Paisley by mill owner, Thomas Coats. The fountain was fully restored in 2015 and is the only fully function cast-iron fountain in Scotland.
Come face-to-face with some of Paisley’s VIPs in the town’s Brown’s Lane. The street has been transformed into a contemporary piece of art with surrounding buildings adorned with giant street-art murals depicting some of the town’s most famous exports, including Gerry Rafferty and Paolo Nutini.
The Sma' Shot Cottages
This popular attraction offers a unique insight into two distinct periods of Paisley’s textile history, transporting visitors back into the 18th century into a typical weaver’s cottage , originally built in the 1750s. Within the weaver’s cottage, you will find the original weaving looms and learn about the origins of the Sma’ Shot Day celebration held in July each year.
Part of the Paisley Museum complex, Coats Observatory is the oldest public observatory in the country, dating back to 1883. As well as the astronomical work, daily weather readings are taken and the observatory had also served as a seismic recording centre monitoring earthquakes worldwide, including the famous 1906 San Francisco quake.
Paisley: The Secret Collection
Paisley is unveiling a treasure trove of objects with the UK’s first publicly accessible Museum Store on a High Street. Paisley: The Secret Collection will house tens of thousands of items from Renfrewshire’s collections in a purpose-built publicly-accessible storage unit in a former retail property. The collection includes some of Paisley’s world-famous textiles, plus a mix of ceramics, world cultures, social history, art and sculpture, natural history and local archives – with many of those items unseen by the general public in decades or longer.
Major events programme
Paisley has a growing reputation for staging a number of major events attracting regional, national and international audiences to experience a culturally-vibrant town.
Highlights include Weave (July), a two-day cultural festival wrapped around the town’s traditional Sma’ Shot celebrations and celebrating its roots in both textiles and radicalism; The Spree (October) multi-arts festival, now a major fixture in Scotland’s cultural calendar, which has an attractively-varied programme of music, drama and dance, and this year featured a homecoming show by Paolo Nutini.
The town has also secured a number of other major events. Having won the right to host the British Pipe Band Championships from 2016-2018, Paisley has recently learned it will again hear the skirl of the pipes and the beat of the drums when the championships return for another three-year run from 2019-2021. The town has also won the right to host the Royal National Mòd in either 2021 or 2022, having previously staged this famous showcase of Gaelic culture in 2013 in one of its most successful stagings.
Paisley Burns Club
Paisley Burns Club was founded in 1805 and is the world's oldest formally constituted Burns Club. The club meets in its premises in Queen St Paisley - a cottage once owned by Paisley’s world-famous poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill. Tannahill was also the founder and first secretary of Paisley Burns Club.
For more inspiration about things to see and do in Paisley visit: www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/paisley-p237371
For more information about the Paisley visit : http://www.paisley2021.co.uk/
Notes to Editors
- Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
- VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
- The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
- This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
- Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland to visit different parts of the country
- Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
- Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
- Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
- Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
- Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
- Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
- To ensure everyone can safely enjoy Scotland’s amazing countryside and landscapes, VisitScotland encourages all visitors to fully respect their surroundings by behaving in a responsible and appropriate way.
- VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
- The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
- Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP
- The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit www.gov.scot or follow @scotgovESIF
- For VisitScotland’s press releases go to http://www.visitscotland.org/media_centre.aspx, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to http://www.visitscotland.org/
- Where possible, a Gaelic speaker will be made available for broadcast interviews on request (Far an tèid iarraidh, agus far am bheil sin nar comas, bruidhinnidh neach le Gàidhlig aig agallamh) 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
- 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
- The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
- The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.
- The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
- The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
- For more information visit visitscotland.com/HHA2017 or join the conversation at #HHA2017