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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Paisley Abbey

As the crow, or the seagull, flies, Arran is not many miles from Glasgow, yet the waters of the Clyde make it seem worlds away with its peace, wild beauty and quirky island traits. This is not to say that there are not many interesting places to stop and explore on your journey to Arran through the urban sprawl of the Central Belt.

Last weekend I visited Paisley for the first time. It’s close to the M8 and Glasgow Airport, and, though famous for its beautiful patterned shawls manufactured in its mills in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is not mentioned in many tourist guides. I particularly wanted to visit Paisley Abbey. Its origins go back to 1163, making it steeped in the Scottish past.

Once inside the Abbey I was fortunate enough to coincide with organ practice. Several local volunteers were devotedly cleaning and polishing, and just being available to share their knowledge of the abbey’s history. In Scotland’s formative years as a nation, the abbey was close to the pulse of power and politics. It was founded by Walter Fitzalan in 1163, who was the first hereditary High Steward of Scotland. It’s also more than likely that William Wallace was educated at the abbey.

Like many old churches, it has a palpable sense of suspended time. As you tread softly from the west end of the nave to the east window you walk through ecclesiastical architecture from 1163 to the present day. Daylight streams colourfully through the gorgeous stained glass windows and there is so much fine detail in the wooden carvings and sculptured stone that it must be difficult to focus attention on a sermon!

On my return home I googled Paisley Abbey for more information. I was somewhat taken aback to discover that even churches get star ratings out of five on the Internet these days! It seems to me that a grander scale is required for a beautiful building that has stood for almost 900 years, survived religious reformation, and held so many human hopes, loves and griefs within its ancient walls.

If you pay Paisley Abbey a visit, it’s easy to find parking spaces nearby and you can have a break in the cafĂ© in the cloisters. The Abbey is also the venue for many musical events throughout the year.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me at Paisley Abbey. Instead, here is a picture of Lochranza’s little Kirk of St.Bride’s which celebrates its 300th anniversary this year.

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