"Glastonbury - not just for hippies" Top 5 Page for this destination Glastonbury by Spincat
Glastonbury Travel Guide: 136 reviews and 434 photos
The first time I saw Glastonbury, I understood why it had such a dramatic mythical 'history'.
The Tor rose up at us out of the flat Somerset Levels, an area known romantically as the 'Summerland Meadows', and had a very mysterious look to it. It looked even better
... and even stranger
... than I had imagined!
There are, in fact, many of these odd looking mound-like hills in Somerset, Barrow Mump being another ('Tor' is a Celtic word for 'conical hill'). The curious thing I find about Glastonbusry Tor is that it has a knack of looking very different each time you see it. This is, I think, something to do with the extraordinary light in the area, which adds such drama to the place!
Now, in Glastonbury there is a tussle between mythical history and 'history-history'. So bear this in mind while reading on...
The Britons called the area 'Ynys yr Afalon', and it is widely believed, in mythical history, to be the King Arthur's Avalon. For many 'Pilgrims', the area also has associations with the ancient Celtic goddesses, with Christian history, paricularly the story of Joseph of Arimathea and Christ's Chalice (see my Abbey tip). Not to mention ley lines and UFOs. There are ancient stories which suggest this was always a 'borderland' in many senses - and, indeed, it was once lapped by sea. The celtic legend of Gwyn Ap Nudd and his realm of Annwn, or fairyland/the underworld, is one such.
One of the problems in writing about this place is that people divide fairly sharply into the two camps: those who lap up all the myths and legens and those who are sceptical. An example of this is the debate over the apparent terracing on the Tor. Some believe that this is the remains of an neolithic, sacred labyrinth. Others attribute the terraces to strip farming organised by the monks from the Abbey.
The monks, incidentally, seem to have been very canny in reviving the fortunes of their Abbey after fire destroyed many of its building in C12th. Excavations were undertaken shortly after the disaster, whereupon the graves of Arthur and Guinevere were found, very fortuitously. And, of course, pilgrims flocked to the site again.
Once upon a time you could row a boat to Glastonbury. The Levels are reclaimed land, and remains of a Lake Village have been found here dating to about C3rd BCE. The fascinating book 'Sweet Track to Glastonbury (Bryony & John Coles) documents the discovery of a 6000 year old elevated road that ran for about two kilometres across the Somerset swamps.
For more infomation about the ancient history of the region, have a look at:
Peat Moors Centre
Useful websites about the town are:
Glastonbury town and local area
and for the 'mythical' history angle!%L
Glastonbury is a good base for exploring this strange and beautiful part of England. There is plenty of Bed and Breakfast accommodation in town, and some very good, though eccentric, shops.
In town, there are the splendid ruins of the Abbey to visit, a number of good local museums, some lovely gardens and the chance to have your fortune told and your aura re-tuned!
There are a couple of great pubs, like the Rifleman's that I mention in my tips, and some good breakfast places. However, I have not yet discovered anywhere really fantastic to eat out at night: there's a very good fish and chips takeaway though and an Italian restaurant (said to be excellent, but which always seems a little dull and expensive to me). Lunchtimes, there are a number of excellent 'wholefood' cafes open (if you like that sort of thing).
There are many great spots for a picnic though: not least the top of the Tor with its wonderful views, and the lovely Chalice Well Gardens. Plenty of good food shops in town to shop for ingredients: 'Burns the Bread' for cakes, pies and loaves, and a very good deli-cum-cheese shop that also sells a gourmet range of strong local cider. Both are in the High Street.
There are a great many lovely spots to walk and picnic: local bookshops, such as 'Gothic Image' have guides to both 'sensible' and 'crazy' walks in the area!
The beautiful Wells cathedral, the Quantock Hills and the elegant gardens of Stourhead, Wiltshire, with its exotic little kiosks, are all within driving or cycling distance.
A good, but weighty, novel to read while staying at Glastonbury is John Cowper Powys's 'A Glastonbury Romance': possibly the only novel I know written from the point of view of the Divine Spirit!
Once you've explored Glastonbury itself, you'll find it is also a superb West Country base. For those without a car, a... more travel advice
You can see why there are so many extraordinary beliefs and legends centred on Glastonbury. The Tor looks quite amazing... more travel advice
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