There are so many amazing things to explore in Paisley with its natural scenic beauty, proud historic and industrial past and the second highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland.
But Paisley is also a fantastic gateway to lots of other great attractions and stunning outdoor locations in the Greater Glasgow area – and all within easy travelling distance.
Take a look at these great places we love in and around Paisley.
The spectacular Paisley Abbey is truly a sight to behold. Located right in the heart of Paisley town centre, the 12th century building boasts stunning architecture and is steeped in history. The Abbey was also a centre of learning and it is believed that a certain Sir William Wallace was educated by the monks at the site. When visiting, be sure to try and spot the Alien gargoyle inspired by the popular 1980s sci-fi film. It was designed by one of the stonemasons who helped refurbish the abbey in the 1990s who decided to have some fun.
See tens of thousands of items from Renfrewshire’s museum collection on display at Paisley: The Secret Collection. The treasure trove is the first publicly-accessible museum store on a UK High Street – and it’s right here in Paisley. Many of the items have been unseen by the general public for decades and includes some of Paisley’s world-famous textiles, a mix of ceramics, world cultures, social history, art and sculpture, natural history and local archives. Paisley: The Secret Collection is also the place to see the stunning items formerly housed at Paisley Museum as the site is currently undergoing an exciting £42m project to transform it into a world-class visitor destination. Tours of Paisley: The Secret Collection must be booked in advance – book your place here.
Take a trip back in time and find out what life was like as a weaving family in the 18th and 19th centuries at Paisley’s historic Sma’ Shot Cottages. Visitors can learn about two distinct periods of the town’s rich textile history by exploring the 18th century weaver’s cottage – which was originally built in the 1750s – and the foreman’s house of a nearby mill in the mid-19th century. Local guides will be on hand to provide a fascinating insight into life during this period and the origins of the Paisley’s Sma’ Shot Day celebrations – held annually on the first Saturday in July. Plus, no visit is complete without stopping by the coffee shop for a delicious cake and a cuppa!
Escape the city and make your way to Clyde Muirshiel – Scotland’s largest regional park. Spot wildlife on one of the stunning nature trails with facilities perfect for walking, jogging and cycling. If you’re keen on water sports and have your own equipment, there is kayak and sailing access at the nearby Castle Semple Loch. A wide range of equipment is also available, along with fully qualified instructors who offer a variety of courses to suit all skill levels. Plus, enjoy BBQ or picnic sites along with a visitor centre showcasing local wildlife and local history exhibitions.
Adventure seekers should visit Soar at into Braehead for an action-packed, exhilarating day out. Enjoy the Climbzone aerial assault park, the UK’s tallest indoor slide, Paradise Island Adventure Golf, Laserstation, the UK’s largest ball pit, Odeon cinema, favourite family restaurants and much more. Soar at intu Braehead is also home to Snow Factor – Scotland’s only real indoor snow slope and the longest in the UK at 200 metres. Take to the slopes to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, sledging and the ice slide. Then kick back with a cold drink in the refreshing Alpine-themed bar, Bar Varia, and the Ice Bar.
Just a 30-minute drive from Paisley is the entrance to Scotland’s first National Park. Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park covers a total area of 1,865 km2 and includes 21 Munros (a mountain in Scotland over 3,000 feet). The park is also home to many walking routes where you can take in the most spectacular scenery and a range of wildlife, including over 200 species of bird. The park is extremely popular with tourists with approximately four million visitors per year.
Across the Erskine Bridge from Paisley is the famous Dumbarton Castle. The castle is situated on a volcanic rock overlooking the River Clyde and is steeped in history. It was one of Scotland’s greatest strongholds in the ancient capital of Strathclyde and was also an important royal refuge, once sheltering Mary Queen of Scots. Conquer the more than 500 steps to the top to enjoy examples of 18th century Georgian military architecture and spectacular views of Renfrewshire and Inverclyde from the White Tower Crag.
Also part of National Park site is Loch Lomond Shores – a stunning visitor destination located right on the banks of the famous loch. The attraction boasts beautiful scenery with shopping, leisure and retail facilities, including Jenners (House of Fraser department store), boat tours, water activities on the loch, Tree Zone, Loch Lomond Bird of Prey centre and more. It’s also home to Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium where you can explore an amazing underwater world, take a journey to the depths of the ocean through seven themed zones and get up close to over 5,000 creatures. The nearby Balloch Castle Country Park, which spans over 200 acres of stunning woodland, is also a great place to enjoy nature trails, children’s play facilities, and great views of Loch Lomond.
Calling all whisky lovers! Auchentoshan Distillery is a Lowland Distillery that sits on the banks of the River Clyde and is only a short drive over the Erskine Bridge from Paisley. Find out all about Scotland’s national drink with exciting tours and whisky masterclasses. The distillery uses a unique triple distilled process to create a delicate, smooth and light single malt whisky.
The West Highland Way is one of the country’s best loved long-distance walking routes and begins (or ends depending on what way you’re walking) at Milngavie Town Centre – just a 30-minute drive from Paisley. The challenging 96-mile route stretches from Milngavie to Fort William and can take around a week to complete. However, if you’re looking for a day trip closer to Paisley then the 12-mile first section from Milngavie to Drymen is perfect for you. This is a relatively flat journey with a footpath and a good warm up for the rest of the route, but still offering stunning views along the way.
Make the short trip from Paisley to Glasgow’s West End to see one of Scotland’s most popular free attractions. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum features 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries with 8,000 amazing objects on display. See wide-ranging and internationally significant collections, including natural history, arms and armour, art from a range of movements and periods of history and much more.
Travel down the water from Renfrewshire to Inverclyde before climbing to the top of Lyle Hill. Your reward? Stunning panoramic views over the River Clyde, the Cowal Hills and, on a clear day, even the Isle of Arran. At the top of the hill you’ll also find the Free French Memorial monument, built in the shape of the Cross of Lorraine (the emblem of the Free French), combined with an anchor. It was raised as a memorial to the Free French naval vessels that sailed from the Firth of Clyde to take part in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.
Heading slightly further afield to North Lanarkshire is the spectacular Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life – just 40 minutes from Paisley. The museum is based around the site of a 19th century ironworks and is a great day out for all the family. Enjoy interactive exhibits in the main hall describing the industrial processes along with vintage trains and trams. Visitors can also see how people lived from the 1840s to 1980s by travelling on a real tram and visiting the miner’s cottages before taking a trip down a real recreated mine.
Located on the same side of the River Clyde and only 20 minutes from Paisley is the spectacular Pollok House. The ancestral home of the Maxwell family since the 13th century can be found among the beautiful surroundings of Pollok Park, on the outskirts of Glasgow city centre. Pollok House is famous for its striking Georgian architecture, luxurious Edwardian furnishings and world-famous art collection, including masterpieces by El Greco, Blake and Murillo. The house is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland – and if you’re an NTS member, why not visit the 300-year-old Weaver’s Cottage in the Renfrewshire village of Kilbarchan and explore a hands-on museum showcasing the area’s rich textile heritage?
Rouken Glen Park is another beautiful green space just a short hop from Paisley. The East Renfrewshire park dates back to 1530 and has lots to offer, including ranger organised activities, an adventure playground, stunning waterfalls, a wide range of woodland trails, wildlife spotting and regular events.