KILWINNING Abbey is set to become a hive of archaelogical activity as the first public meeting of town's Community Archaeology Project signalled the beginning of the long-awaited archaeological dig.

Over 100 members of the local community attended the meeting to learn about the plans for the 5-week-long dig at the grounds of the Abbey's Tower which will begin on August, 18.

Five professional archaeologists will lead a crew of local volunteers in excavating, digging and recording the monument, before an oral history project kicks off in the winter, when excavated materials will be analysed by experts. With the project running until March 2012, it is hoped that Kilwinning Abbey's place as a top tourist location will be cemented.

Patrick Wiggins, Chief Executive of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, commented: "This project will enable those taking part to learn about the origin and evolution of Kilwinning through the discipline of archaeology. But equally important, the discoveries made by the project will support the future conservation of the historic aspects of Kilwinning - a key element of the regeneration plan for the town.

It's very gratifying that our support has turned a long-term aspiration of local people and the Preservation Society for such a project into reality and to see the enthusiasm of everyone involved." Back in summer 2009, Irvine historian AJ Morton kicked up a storm as he revealed that his research suggested that, not only might the Knights of the Templar have sheltered in tunnels under the Abbey Church, but also that the Holy Grail - the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper - may well be buried underneath Kilwinning Abbey. A specialist on masonic history, Morton sourced land records which showed that 30 of the 200 14th century Templar settlements were located in Ayrshire.

For the full story see this week's Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald.