Discover the spiritual town of Glastonbury
The town of Glastonbury is famous for two things. The Tor and the spirituality that surrounds it and a giant open-air rock concert. The Tor or hill is an odd cone shape with a flat top which rises 518 ft (158 m) from the flat landscape around it. You can see why people have found it fascinating for thousands of years.
Over 200,000 people per day attend the Glastonbury Festival. The first 'Glastonbury' took place in 1970 and attracted only 1,500. So it has grown somewhat.
Glastonbury Abbey was a premium place of pilgrimage in the middle ages. The monks claimed the Abbey housed the tomb of King Arthur, the legendary knight. The monks also told a tale that suggested that Joseph of Arimathea founded the Abbey when converting England to Christianity in 60ad. The town, Abbey and Tor are wonderful to visit, here is our suggested Glastonbury and Wells Tour from London.
A brief history of Glastonbury
Long, long time ago
Back in the mists of time, the Glastonbury region was a focus of mythology. The strange 500ft Tor is what generated it all. Two thousand years ago, the sea used to wash right up to the Tor's base, creating what would have been a mysterious island in a vast lake. Celtic tribes settled on the lake's edge and called it Avalon or Avalloc the name of a demi-god who ruled the underworld. They believed where the sea met the land was the meeting place of the dead. The hills, the coast, rivers and trees were important in ancient Celtic culture. Celtic art features natural tree-like shapes and motifs.
You can see why fantastic stories and legends of the Isle of Avalon persist today. Over time it seems that tales about magical cauldrons or a grail became interwoven with a special vessel of spiritual nourishment. Here is where the connection is with Christ and the Last Supper. So here is the story; Joseph of Arimathea, the man who placed Christ's body in the tomb, received the grail as a gift and memento of Christ. He travelled to England burying it on Chalice Hill, near Chalice Well. This story connects with King Arthur and the knights of the round table and their grail quest. The power of the tale drew people to Glastonbury like a giant magnet, in the same way, people want to see a film location or a famous cathedral.
Chapel on the Tor
A chapel stood on the Tor's peak in the Middle Ages, later to be destroyed by an earthquake and replaced by St Michael's chapel that you see today. Great numbers of people visiting the chapel stayed in the valley below, near the site of an old cemetery. The present Abbey grew up around the cemetery, that was jam-packed with tombs. Monks said that King Arthurs tomb lay amongst them. Suppose you remove the made-up stories of Arthur and stuck to the real history. In that case, you have an effective warrior king or leader that defended Britain from the pagan Saxons of Europe. You can now see the appeal of having such a revered Christian warrior buried in the heart of the Abbey. We will never know the true historical fact about King Arthur; maybe it should remain a legend.
The great Abbey at Glastonbury rose during the late 12th and 13th centuries and became one of the richest in the realm. The legends had paid off. Glastonbury became a town that welcomed thousands of spiritual visitors. Accommodation for pilgrims lined the main street, remarkably The George and Pilgrims Hotel survives in its 15th Century form today. Kings and high-ranking persons would have stayed in the Abbey. Other wealthy pilgrims would lodge in the main street in pilgrim style accommodation much like The George.
In 1536, there were 800 or so monasteries, nunneries and friaries in Britain, by 1541 there were none. The religious upheaval is known as the Dissolution-of-the-Monasteries, was a way of increasing revenue for the Crown and disbanding inefficient and corrupt religious houses. Besides, ministers thought that the monastic houses would work against King Henry VIII newly created Church of England. Most Abbots took pensions, moved to other clerical positions, but others resisted, and government henchmen became brutal.
The authorities dragged the old and frail Abbot Whiting of Glastonbury Abbey up the tor and beheaded him. His two loyal monks were decapitated too. The remaining forty or so monks were driven out of town. The government sold off the Abbey's valuables to the highest bidder, and the church became a local quarry which supplied the townsfolk with building material. But, the myths endured, and people still visited.
Today Glastonbury town is a happy place with visitors searching for well-being and answers to their questions about life.
Glastonbury music festival
Nearby is the location of one of the world's largest music festivals. It is a five-day event hosting contemporary music, dance, comedy, circus and everything in-between. Over 200,000 people attend each day. Please contact us for further information; we can provide advice and connect you with an authorised ticket seller.
We all love independent shops, individual items for sale and great customer care. Glastonbury has an abundance of family-run retail. The offering is items relating to myths and legends, well-being, alternative clothing, art and sculpture.
There are cultural shops with the art of Celtic and Viking origin. Acquire vintage clothing or buy a fairy, a candle, or a piece of serious art. There is something for everyone in Glastonbury, but you must realise it is all about letting yourself go, and you must become a mystic, just for the day at least - it is all a bit of fun.
Touring and accommodation
You can tour Glastonbury in a day from the City of Bath. Our suggested Glastonbury and Wells day tour from London works with staying overnight and departing and returning to Bath. The City of Wells is a delightful historical gem with old bishop's palace and a much-admired cathedral. Other day tours from Bath include Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and the stunning landscaped gardens at Stourhead.
Stay overnight at the Royal Crescent Hotel, and we can have one of our driver-guides take care of you for a few days while you tour the area. Glastonbury can also be a stop en-route to Cornwall and Devon. Contact us, and we can create a tailor-made tour of England for you. There is a wide choice of accommodation in the UK; Cottages, Manor House Hotels and traditional Guest Houses.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
The Spiritual Heart of England
Visit a happy place, climb the tor and see the tomb of King Arthur
- Learn about Local Myths and Legends
- Climb the Famous Tor
- Indulge in Retail Therapy
- Visit Glastonbury Abbey
- Enjoy Lunch at a Country Pub
St Michael's aloft the Tor
The local shops are a joy
The 'Tor' has attracted people for thousands of years
Independent Shops with Spiritual Items
Glastonbury Tor on a Windy Day
The Challenge of Climbing the Tor
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We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.