Paisley is a large town in Renfrewshire, on Clydeside in the Central Belt of Scotland. It was a major centre for textiles, mass-producing "Paisley pattern" fabrics, though all the mills are long gone. The main reason to visit is its fine abbey, founded by the 6th century monk St Mirren or Mirin, who also gives his name to the town football club.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, weaving technology evolved from traditional human-powered looms to great machines in mills driven by waterwheels then later by steam. The parallel advance was in dyes, to make brightly-coloured threads to weave into patterns. Red dye was especially tricky to produce, so red clothing was a status symbol. Then along came the brilliant “Turkey Red”, which was “fast” ie resistant to washing and sun-bleaching, though its extraction from rubia plant root was anything but fast. This was replaced in turn by synthetic dyes, based on the aniline or azo-compounds that heralded present-day colourings.
19th C westerners were delighted by patterned shawls from Kashmir that were based on Mughal or Persian traditional designs with a boteh motif, a decorated pear- or cone-shape. The shawls were quickly copied and mass produced, especially in Paisley where the looms could handle multiple colours. Later technology simply printed the design, often of boteh against a Turkey Red plain background. Paisley pattern became the common name for this style. It was wildly popular until the 1870s, fell out of fashion, then came back during the 1960s era of hippy orientalism. It’s again in a lull at the start of the 2020s as a “Dad’s tie” style, but it’s a strong design which is unlikely ever to disappear.
1 Glasgow Airport (GLA IATA) is only 1.5 miles north of Paisley town centre. McGill's Bus 757 runs from the airport to Paisley Central Road and Gilmour Street every 30 min, taking 15 min by a zigzag route; you could almost walk it in that time by following Inchinnan Road straight along the White Cart riverbank. Glasgow has flights to many European and UK cities and to the Hebrides. That's why faraway places like Tiree and Islay have Paisley postcodes: their mail flies out from here.
You're unlikely to arrive via Prestwick Airport (PIK IATA) 40 miles to the south, as this only has Ryanair flights to Med holiday destinations. But if you do, simply take the train from the airport towards Glasgow, which runs via Paisley, and see Prestwick page for discounts on this route.
Britain's unluckiest canal
The canal, designed by Telford and opened in 1810, was built from Glasgow through Paisley to Johnstone, where the money for construction ran out. Nevertheless the completed section was busy with freight and passengers. Some weeks before it opened, the poet Robert Tannahill drowned himself in it. He was just starting to make a name for himself, and is best remembered today for Will ye go, lassie, go?, but was disheartened by publishers' rejections. Then in Nov 1810 a barge overturned at Paisley under the weight of passengers: the water was only six foot deep but cold and hemmed in by embankments, and 85 people drowned.
The canal was made obsolete by the deepening of the Clyde to enable ships to reach Glasgow, and by the advent of the railway, which followed the same route as the canal. The railway also closed in 1983 but reopened as far as Paisley in 1990; the route west of town became a cycleway.
Trains from Glasgow Central run every few minutes to 2 Paisley Gilmour Street, taking 10 min. The first is at 06:00 and the last shortly after midnight. These trains continue to Paisley St James, Greenock and Gourock (for ferries to Dunoon), to Inverkip and Wemyss Bay (for ferries to Bute), to Irvine, Troon, Prestwick and Ayr, and to Ardrossan (for ferries to Arran). Gilmour Street station is central in town; St James station is northwest next to St Mirren football ground.
3 Paisley Canal station is half a mile south of the centre. This is the terminus of a separate line from Glasgow Central, running every half hour and taking 20 min via half a dozen places in the southwest burbs of Glasgow (but not Gilmour St). Is this Britain's most evocatively named railway station, snatching the title from Bristol Temple Meads?
The M8 motorway passes Paisley on the north side near the airport. Exits 27, 28 and 29 of the M8 motorway take you to the north-east, north (airport) and north-west of the town. The M77 passes a few miles to the south east of Paisley. This route connects to Kilmarnock and other locations in South Ayrshire. The A737 connects Paisley to Northern Ayrshire.
First Glasgow Bus 9 runs daily 06:00-00:20 from Glasgow Buchanan station via Central railway station, Ibrox stadium and Bellahouston Park to Paisley, taking 50 min. Peak times it runs every 10 min.
Night Bus N9 runs a similar route in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday, from Dalhousie St and Central station roughly hourly 00:20 to 03:20. Otherwise take a taxi for £15-£20. A third option is to take the bus to Glasgow airport, which runs 24 hours, then a taxi from the airport - this won't be cheaper, but might spare you a wait in the rain if taxis in the city were hard to find.
McGill's Bus 38 runs every 30 min from Glasgow Hope St to Paisley in 40 min, continuing to Kilbarchan.
McGill's Bus 17 runs every 30 min M-Sa from Glasgow Renfrew St via Partick and Govan, taking an hour to Paisley and continuing to Johnstone.
McGill's Bus 757 from Paisley to Glasgow Airport continues north via Erskine to Clydebank, taking an hour.
McGill's Bus 904 runs hourly from Paisley to Largs, 80 min.
- The central sights, campuses, amenities and football stadium are all within walking distance.
- Bus: see above for buses to Kilbarchan, Partick, Govan, Erskine, Clydebank and Johnstone. In addition, McGill's Bus 21 / 22 runs from Paisley to Renfrew, where the 21 turns east to Braehead bus station, while the 22 winds west through Inchinnan and Erskine to Rashielee.
- Taxis: private hire cars are white and have wheelchair access. There are ranks outside airport arrivals and Gilmour Street Station. Uber taxis ply in Paisley.
- Lots of car hire firms are based near Paisley, as they're serving the airport. Look for independents that may undercut the on-airport well-known franchises.
- 1 Paisley Abbey, Abbey Close, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 10:00-15:30. In the 12th C abbeys and monasteries were set up across Scotland, including Paisley. King Robert II of Scotland was born here in 1316 when his heavily pregnant mother fell from her horse nearby; she did not survive the Caesarian delivery. In the 16th C Reformation the abbeys were smashed, but Paisley's was already in such poor condition that the reformers hardly bothered with it, though the monks were disbanded. The west side remained in use as a church but the east was a ruin until the 19th C when it was restored, so what you see today is mostly Victorian. It's now a Church of Scotland parish church, entry on Sunday is only for services. Note the royal tombs, stained glass windows, choir and organ. The star attraction is only open on special occasions: lots of old churches have holy relics, but Paisley has a wondrous drain of the 14th C. It's 90 m long, 2 m tall and 2 m wide, and normally flooded, though you can take a virtual tour. Some of what they found within it is on display in the abbey, but not everything, fortunately. Suggested donation £5.
- Paisley's Museum and Galley is closed until 2022 for a major re-vamp, along with the Coats Observatory. The Central and Heritage Libraries and the Town Hall are likewise closed; the new building will incorporate all of these. (The independent Thread Mill and Sma' Shot museums are not affected). The museum collections are in a temporary home at 9 High Street. You can view what they're calling "The Secret Collection" by free guided tour (M-F 10:00-16:00), which needs to be booked a week in advance online or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +44 141 618 5129.
- 2 [dead link] Sma' Shot Cottages, 15 Shuttle St PA1 2HG, ☏ . Apr-Sep W & Sa 12:00-16:00, F 13:00-17:00. "Sma' shot" is a reinforcing fine thread in garments, invisible in the finished product. These 18th and 19th C dwellings housed weavers during the "cottage industry" era, when they were independent artisans who owned and plied their own looms. Later came the mills, with powered looms and mass production, and a division into wage-earning labourers and wealthy mill owners that changed society as much as it changed the textiles. The three cottages are furnished to different styles across this era. (They're not affected by the re-vamp of the main museum.) Donation.
- 3 Thread Mill Museum, Abbey Mill Business Centre, 12 Seedhill Rd PA1 1JS, ☏ . W & Sa 10:00-16:00. Small museum (not affected by the re-vamp of the main museum) depicts the thread industry in Paisley. Park in the Business Centre but register your car immediately with reception. Donation.
- St Mirin's Cathedral (RC) is a 1931 neo-Romanesque building at the junction of Incle St A726 with Glasgow Road A761.
- 4 Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, High Street. Closed until spring 2020. Thomas Coats founded the multi-national company J & P Coats, makers of sewing thread, zip fasteners and other sundries. He contributed to many local initiatives including restoration of the abbey, and after his death in 1883 his family built this impressive church, almost as large as the abbey. It's of red sandstone in neo-Gothic style. It's now closed as a Baptist church and is being refurbished as an event space. So you can admire the exterior but the interior will probably be fenced off as a hard-hat zone until spring 2020, re-opening date not yet announced.
- Several other buildings are worth a quick look from outside but you can't go in. Notable are:
- Russell Institute, Causeyside St next to the Arts Centre, is a 1930s Art Deco building now used as a clinic.
- John Neilson Institution, built 1852 on Orchard Street West, became part of Castlehead High School but is now private housing.
- Blackhall Manor from 1160 is Paisley's oldest building. It's along Barrhead Rd A726 a mile southeast of town and is now a private house.
- Fountain Gardens is a pleasant green space just north of the centre.
- The tondo memorial at the junction of George St A761 and Maxwelton St B775 commemorates the handiwork of Christian Shaw (1685-1737), a weaver who brought Dutch techniques into the area and effectively founded the textile industry in Paisley. But her fame arose at the age of 11, when she reported a servant for theft of milk, the servant cursed her, and Christian developed mysterious fits. She also brought out of her mouth hair, straw, coal, gravel, chicken feathers and cinders. She blamed this on the servant, and on others, and still others, till 35 people were arraigned for witchcraft. Seven were convicted: one hanged himself, the others were hanged then their bodies burned. Their remains were buried at these crossroads and a metal horseshoe nailed over to prevent their unclean spirits arising. This horseshoe was stolen in the 1970s, as was its replacement, but the modern tondo incorporates a horseshoe.
- 1 Paisley Arts Centre is on New Street, with a regular programme of events. It's within the former Laigh (ie low) Church of the town, built 1738. Notable ministers were John Witherspoon, who signed the US Declaration of Independence on behalf of New Jersey, and Robert Burns who campaigned for government measures to relieve urban poverty, which by the 19th C was far too great for local effort. The Arts Centre building needs a major upgrade and is expected to be closed from summer 2020 for a year.
- 2 Lagoon Leisure Centre, Christie St PA1 1NB, ☏ . M-F 06:00-22:00, Sa Su 08:00-18:00. With a leisure pool (the "flume" is just a conventional slide) plus sports hall and gym. Pay and display parking which you can redeem if using the centre.
- Watch football ie soccer at 3 St Mirren FC, St Mirren Park, Greenhill Road PA3 1RU, ☏ (enquires), (tickets). They play in the Scottish Premiership, the top tier of Scottish football. Their home ground (as of 2019 named the "Simple Digital Arena"), capacity 8000, is north of town centre near Paisley St James railway station.
- Walking Tours on Wheels, ☏ , (mobile). Tours that you can do in a mobility scooter or at zimmer-like pace, taking in some of the town's many sites of historical interest. It's all a voluntary effort as-and-when, so enquire ahead to see what's on, but Saturday mornings are the usual time, starting from the abbey. Expect some banter if you roll up on a Segway.
- 4 Glenifer Braes Country Park, four miles south of town, is a mix of moorland, woods, and grazing pasture. Paths follow the crest of the hill as far as Barrhead and Johnstone.
The University of the West of Scotland is geared for adult education and offers many short courses. Campuses are in Paisley, Hamilton, Ayr, Dumfries and central London.
West College Scotland likewise offers short courses. The Paisley campus is the former Reid Kerr college on Renfrew Road; the others are in Greenock and Glasgow Clydebank.
- The Farmers Market is held at Paisley Cross on the second and last Saturday of every month, stalls are open 09:00-13:30.
- Usual fast-food outlets in town centre, eg Domino's Pizza. Homesick Canadians will head for Tim Hortons at the foot of Renfrew Rd.
- Antica, 4 Silk St PA1 1HG, ☏ . Tu-Su 12:00-22:00. Spanish restaurant does tapas, paella and pasta; townsfolk call it "a hidden gem".
- Cardosi's, 4 Storie St PA1 2AR, ☏ . Tu-F 12:00-14:00, 17:00-21:30, Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 17:00-21:00. Small Italian restaurant with good food, great value for the price, and it looks like none of what you pay is getting frittered away on the decor.
- Kwang Tung, 41 George St PA1 2JY, ☏ . Tu-Th 12:00-14:00, 17:00-22:30, F Sa 12:00-14:00, 17:00-23:00, Su 16:30-22:30. Chinese restaurant, popular with students as it's just south of the campus. Consistently good reviews for food and service.
- 1 Koh-i-Noor, 40 New Sneddon St PA3 2AZ, ☏ . Daily 17:00-23:00. Former manor house converted into an Indian restaurant, does buffet and a la carte. Some reviewers find it a bit bland, not much variation between dishes.
- 2 The Mirage, 59 Broomlands St PA1 2NH (A mile west of centre, corner of Broomlands and George Street.), ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-22:30, F Sa 12:00-23:30. Indian food, gets good reviews for quality and service.
- Thai Siam 2, 25 Lawn St, Paisley PA1 1HD, ☏ . Tu-Sa 12:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00, Su 17:00-22:00. Good Thai food, friendly service. Their original outlet on St James St has closed.
Most of the night clubs and restaurants are to be found around Shuttle Street, New Street and Storie Street.
- Abbey Bar, Lawn Street PA1 1HA. Su-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00. Small traditional pub, sometimes has live entertainment.
- Club 69, 40 New Sneddon Street PA3 2AZ. F Sa 23:00-03:00. Night club with Techno and House music.
- Gabriels, 33 Gauze St PA1 1EX. M-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 12:30-23:00. Belhaven pub with spacious modern bar, food served to 20:00.
- Lord Lounsdale, Lounsdale Road PA2 9DU (Near Royal Alexandra Hospital). M-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 09:00-01:00, Su 09:00-00:00. Bar with grill, food served until 22:00, £9 midweek gets you starters for two.
- Last Post, County Square PA1 1BN (south side of railway station), ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. JD Wetherspoon pub in the former main post office. Good beer and food, curry on Thurs, and you can order ahead by mobile app.
- Vienna's & Blur Nightclub, 20 New Street PA1 1YB. F Sa & bank holiday Su 22:00-03:00. Dance club with three spaces: Vienna is contemporary and classics, Blur is 1990s retro, and the Attic is the quieter area upstairs.
- Bull Inn, 7 New Street PA1 1XU. Su-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00. A Paisley institution, founded in 1901. A good atmosphere and some private rooms for larger groups.
- Canal Station Bar, 1 Stow Brae PA1 2HF, ☏ . Su-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-00:00. This is in the original Canal Station building 100 yards west of the new one. Does Med food noon-21:00, the bar has disco.
Near the airport
- Holiday Inn, Glasgow Airport, Abbotsinch PA3 2TE (Facing terminal), ☏ . Great location less than 100 yards to check-in, good reliable hotel and decent food. Check ahead for parking fees and deals, it won't be cheap but may undercut the airport short-stay car park. Double (room only) £50.
- Holiday Inn Express is 200 yards east, other side of the parking lot, similar quality and price.
- Courtyard by Marriott Glasgow Airport, Marchburn Drive, Abbotsinch PA3 2SJ (At M8 jcn 28), ☏ . Mid-range, only 5-10 min walk from terminal. Parking deals may be available. B&B double £50.
- Travelodge, Marchburn Drive, Abbotsinch PA3 2SJ (At M8 jcn 28 next to Courtyard by Marriott), ☏ . Budget hotel 10 min walk from terminal. B&B double £52.
- 1 Premier Inn Glasgow Airport, Whitecart Road, Abbotsinch PA3 2TH, ☏ . Good budget hotel ten min walk from terminal. Double (room only) £45, breakfast £10 pp.
- There's another Premier Inn five miles east at M8 jcn 25A.
- 2 Glynhill Hotel & Leisure Club, 169 Paisley Rd, Renfrew PA4 8XB, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Mid-range hotel with leisure club, often does functions and live entertainment so check ahead for noisy nights. Extra charge for dogs. By jcn 27 of M8 so airport is a two min drive: you can't walk or bike there as river bridge is motorway. Free parking for residents, and they have park & fly deals. B&B double £100.
- 3 Normandy Hotel, Inchinnan Road, Renfrew PA4 9EJ (2 miles northeast of airport, free shuttle), ☏ . Decent mid-range place 5 min drive from GLA. Rate includes 15 days free parking. Double (room only) £40.
- 4 Scotia Airport Hotel, 91 New Sneddon St, Paisley PA3 2BJ, ☏ . Midway between town and airport, a mile to each and a taxi could be £10. In grubby industrial area off Love St. A bit basic for the price, and has a reputation for overbooking. Double (room only) £50.
- 5 Ashtree House Hotel, 9 Orr Square, Paisley PA1 2DL, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Pleasant 15 room hotel, scores well for comfort, food and service. B&B double £75.
- 6 [dead link] Muirholm Bed & Breakfast, 4 Calside Avenue, Paisley PA2 6DD, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Gorgeously decorated B&B in Victoria villa a mile south of town. Jun-Oct two nights minimum stay.
The Central Library at 5a High Street has public internet. It's open M W F Sa 09:00-17:00, Tu and Th 09:00-20:00. These are temporary facilities while the main library building along the street is refurbished.
Swerve clear of damnfool drunks late at night. They're blootered enough not only to pick fights with streetlamp pillars, but to mistake you for one.
- Glasgow city centre is less than 15 minutes by train.
- The "Costa Clyde" is a string of small resorts in Ayrshire. Ayr has Robert Burns' birthplace in nearby Alloway.
- The three Clyde islands of Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae are easily reached from Paisley.
- Reach Ireland via Stranraer, which has ferries to Belfast.
|Routes through Paisley|
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