The Big Dig 2019

Tuesday 21 May - Sunday 21 July, 2019

Uncover the mystery of the underground treasure that is Paisley’s medieval Abbey Drain.

The Big Dig 2019 is an eight-week archaeological dig (May 21 – July 21) trying to find out if, how and where this unique structure once met the River Cart.

Paisley’s Abbey Drain is an ornate underground passageway, around 100m long and believed to be more than 700 years old, which was discovered in the 19th century and rediscovered in the 1990s.

The intricate underground structure is believed to have carried material from Paisley’s 850-year-old Abbey to the nearby River Cart – but no one has ever established where and how it met the river.

Previous archaeological digs have revealed carved slates featuring the earliest written polyphonic music – and largest collection of medieval pottery – ever found in Scotland.

The Big Dig at Paisley Abbey

Come along and join in

The excavation will run over eight consecutive weeks on Mondays – Fridays from 10am – 4pm. Hands-on training is available with a range of tasks to suit all ages and abilities.

Weekly site talks and tours

A short talk and site tour will be given each Friday at 12.30pm to discuss progress and the results of the excavation. Meet at the site gate on Abbey Close.


Workshops and lunchtime talks

During the Big Dig, a series of free workshops and talks on various aspects of archaeological investigation will take place in the North Transept of Paisley Abbey. All are welcome – no need to book.

  • Wednesday 26 June – Human Remains & Archaeology with Iraia Arabaolaza – workshop 10am-12noon.
  • Saturday 29 June – Artefacts & The Abbey Drain with Bob Will – workshop 10am-12noon and lunchtime talk 12.30pm-1.15pm.
  • Thursday 11 July – Plant remains and Archaeology with Dr Susan Ramsay – workshop 10am-12noon and lunchtime talk 12.30pm-1.15pm.

Funding partners for The Big Dig 2019 include The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Local History Forum.


It’s incredibly exciting to think that the Big Dig might uncover the long held mysteries of Paisley’s Abbey Drain.

Riona McMorrow
Acting Head
The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Scotland

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