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.

The findings will shape potential future development of this hidden gem as part of the wider regeneration of Paisley town centre.

Abbey Drain

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.

Community activity planned for during the Big Dig will include a series of short films and a documentary made by students from the University of the West of Scotland, school visits, volunteering opportunities, and free talks and workshops for the general public.

We’ll have more details about these activities soon … watch this space!

Abbey Drain markings

The drain itself won’t be accessible to the public during the dig – but there will be a chance for you to go inside it, as in previous years, during Doors Open Days in September.

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

Cookies are pieces of personal data stored when you browse the web. These let our website know when you browse the site again. Read our Cookie Policy

Hide announcement