The Paisley Abbey is one of the most prominant landmarks in the entire town. It is the only remaining part of the town's Clunic Monastary that can be seen above ground, as all of the other buildings were destroyed during or after the Reforemation in the 16th Century. The Great Drain, which serviced the monastery, was rediscovered in 1992, and research into the actual route of the drain will hopefully highlight where other monastic buildings may have once stood.
The history of the Abbey can be traced back to 1163, when a priory was founded in Renfrew, by Walter Fitz Alan. 15 years later, the prior was moved to Paisley, and within 100 years of the orignal founding of the priory, it was promoted to the position of monastery. The monastery was one of the most influencial and powerful in Scotland, especially through its connections to the Bruces and the Stewarts. William Wallace is also meant to have been educated in the monastery. The connections between the monastery and Robert the Bruce were that strong, that the Abbey church was partially destroyed by the English during the Scottish Ward of Independence. It was rebuilt, but at about the time of the Reformation, it partially fell into ruin, and the nave was sealed off from the rest of the building and used as Paisley's parish church. This allowed for the east end of the church to be used as part of the graveyard. That is why when you go in today, the east end (choir) of the church is higher up than the nave.
In the 19th and 20th Centuries, a number of restoration programmes were carried out on the Abbey. That is how the Abbey, as we see it today, came into being. It is open Monday-Saturday from 10am until 3.30pm all year round, and it is free to visit, even though donations are welcome. It is closed to visitors on Sundays, as it is still a working church that is now part of the Church (Kirk) of Scotland.
This is a place that I would really recomend for a visit, even over the nearby Glasgow Cathedral. The architecture is beautiful, the history is brilliant and it is a direct link to Scotland's history.