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LOCAL ATTRACTIONS IN GLASTONBURY

Find out more about the local attractions in Glastonbury. If you are planning a trip to Glastonbury, we have created a guide to the most interesting and attractive places to visit during your stay.

 Glastonbury Abbey

During the 14th century, Glastonbury Abbey was the second wealthiest in Britain (after Westminster) but, as with all the 800+ nunneries and friaries in Britain, it was seized by the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-41) and became one of its principle victims. 

Much of the stone was sold off as local building material but some ruins, together with duck and fish ponds and over 250 trees remain in the 36 acres of the Abbey Grounds. The site is associated in legend with Joseph of Arimathea who founded the first Christian church here and King Arthur who is buried here along with his Queen Guinevere. 

The landscape of Avalon is full of sacred sites and Glastonbury Tor is usually the first to be noticed as it rises over 150m from the surrounding meadows and can be seen from up to 20 miles away when travelling to Glastonbury. 

Chalice Well is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the famous Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Hill. 

Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary in which the visitor can experience the quiet healing of this sacred place. For over two thousand years this has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration. 

People are drawn to Glastonbury, to Avalon, from all over the world. A large number find here, in the landscape itself, the form of the Goddess and the transformation She offers. 

People coming here need a permanently available sacred space in which to study, learn, be creative and above all honour the Goddess of their hearts. The Goddess Temple, located in the centre of the town. offers pilgrims just such a sacred space. 

A key part to Glastonbury’s mystery is water. It was once an island and water rises and falls from its heart in profusion. Two springs rise within feet of each other at the base of the Tor – the holy hill of Avalon. One, tasting sweet with calcium, leaves a white trail. 

The other, tasting metallic with iron leaves its mark in red. The Well house was built by the Victorians under the base of the Tor and the White Spring water flows through it. Cavernous and set apart, in blackness or candle lit, it remains mysterious. A stark contrast to the wonderful gardens of Chalice Well of the Red Spring.


Wearyall Hill (Weary all Hill)

This is where guided tours of Glastonbury tend to start as it gives an overview of the island, its surrounding Moors, and all of Glastonbury’s holy hills. 

Legend holds that when Joseph of Arimathæa came to Avalon, he went first to Wearyall Hill, where he planted his staff in the ground from which sprang leaves and flowers. The descendants of this Middle Eastern species of tree, including the Holy Thorn, still flower throughout Glastonbury every Christmas and Easter.

The magnificent fourteenth-century Abbey Barn is the centrepiece of the Somerset Rural Life Museum. The barn and the farm buildings surrounding the courtyard contain displays illustrating the tools and techniques of farming in Victorian Somerset. Unusual local activities like willow growing, mud horse fishing, peat digging and cider making are included.

The magnificent fourteenth-century Abbey Barn is the centrepiece of the Somerset Rural Life Museum. The barn and the farm buildings surrounding the courtyard contain displays illustrating the tools and techniques of farming in Victorian Somerset. Unusual local activities like willow growing, mud horse fishing, peat digging and cider making are included.

Sited near the foot of Glastonbury Tor Hill stand two large ancient oak trees that are said to be over 2,000 years old. Known as Gog and Magog, they were once part of an avenue of oaks that lead up to the Tor. The exact age of the two remaining oaks is debated and some think they may be ancestors to even older sacred trees.

Today, it has become customary for visitors to the two aged oaks to leave them gifts of jewellery, precious stones and other offerings.


The Glastonbury Lake Village Museum

The fascinating story of the Glastonbury Lake Village can be viewed in the Tribunal, the 15th century merchant’s house in Glastonbury High Street that also houses the Tourist Information Centre.

The Lake Village Museum presents an insight into everyday life in an Iron-Age settlement, dating from around 2000 years ago, when much of Somerset’s landscape was covered by marshy sea.

 Although these marshes have long since been artificially drained, the excellent preservative properties of the peaty wetland soils in the Glastonbury area left an archaeological legacy of international importance.

Felled trees, reeds, bracken and clay brought from elsewhere had been used to create a man-made island of around 3½ acres in size, to which the settlers would have gained access by dug-out canoes and trackways of wood laid across the marshland.

From small beginnings, in about 150 BC., the settlement grew to a maximum of 18 houses and about 200 people. The occupants were forced to leave in about 50 AD., due to rising water levels caused by a deterioration in the climate.

The Glastonbury Lake Village is the best preserved Iron Age settlement in Europe and the brass bowl  found there is featured on the BBC ‘A History of The World’ website.

The current chapel built in 1444, stands on the site of its predecessor, built around the 1070s and endowed by St Margaret of Scotland from where it takes its name.

The Chapel ministered to the Abbey’s mens hospital. The monks ministered to patients by day and kept vigil in the chapel by night. After the closure of the Abbey in 1539 the hospital was divided into rooms, to be used as almshouses for the poor. 

People lived in these rooms up to the early 1960s. Known locally as the ‘Magdalene Chapel’, it takes this name from the hospital, termed The Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene.

St John’s is an Anglican parish church and is part of the Diocese of Bath & Wells. It is linked with the parishes of St Benedict’s Church in Glastonbury and St Mary’s & All Saints Church in the village of Meare as a joint benefice. It proclaims to seek to do God’s work through being:

A Christian Spiritual Centre at the Heart of the Town for everyone

St Johns Glastonbury

St Benedict’s is located near the top of Benedict Street, which continues down from the bottom of Glastonbury High Street. The church was originally dedicated to St. Benignus or St. Bennings and retained this until the middle of the 17th century. It is not usually left open, but a key is available for visitors in a nearby shop.


Bride’s Mound

Bride’s Mound is a tiny mound to the west of Glastonbury, at Beckery, just near the foot of Wearyall Hill. Legend has it that it was a gateway to Avalon where pilgrims, arriving by boat from Ireland and Wales, would stay in vigil through the night, before passing on up the processional way to Avalon.

The mound can also be said to take its name from Bride (pronounced Breed), Brigit and Brighde (pronounced Bree-dah) who was The Triple Goddess of the Celts. Unable to remove such a powerful Deity from the Celtic people, she was adapted by the Roman Catholic Church into the cult of St Brigit, who founded a religious community at Kildare in Ireland.

Excavations on the Mound have revealed the remains of an early chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene, This chapel was part of a Mary Magdalene hermitage and it was here that St Brigit lived when she came to Glastonbury from Ireland in the fifth century. 

Friends of Bridesmound

A walk around Glastonbury that will help you learn more of the history, (and discover some of the ‘hidden gems’) of the town. Starting at the entrance to Glastonbury Abbey on Magdalen Street, the route follows 20 direction markers set into the pavement. A great introduction to the town and there is always more to learn for those that know it well!

To download facsimiles of the information boards for use on your walk,

Glastonbury Antiquarians

A map of the ever-increasing display of murals around Glastonbury can be downloaded here:

Glastonbury Mural Trail

A 7.5 mile walk pilgrimage walk around the sites of Glastonbury, completed and opened in 2021. Maps are available from the Tourist Information Centre.

For further information visit:

Glastonbury UK

British Pilgrimage

PLACES TO VISIT NEAR GLASTONBURY

World Heritage Site, Bath

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Bath presents some of the finest architectural sights in Europe such as the Royal Crescent, the Circus and Pulteney Bridge. As a spa town, visitors have been coming to the town for hundreds of years; notable among these was Jane Austen and a Jane Austen museum is one of the attractions of the city centre. 

Other attractions include the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey and the Thermae Bath Spa where you can book a rooftop session, taking the waters whilst overlooking the city skline. Bath also offers irresistible shopping. 

City of Bath 

Glastonbury’s history and legends must be seen in terms of its isolated location within The Somerset Levels (or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are called less commonly but more correctly). This is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, England, between the Quantock and Mendip hills, a must-see for all visitors to the area.

Wells Cathedral welcomes visitors everyday of the year, to attend one of the regular daily services or simply wander around this amazing building. Only by visiting can you properly experience this wonderful and holy place. 

wellscathedral

The Sweet Track (named after the man who discovered it) is the oldest prehistoric trackway found in Britain. It was constructed nearly 6000 years ago by early farmers in Somerset. The workmanship is remarkably sophisticated: woods of different qualities were chosen to make a sturdy footway over the marshy lands, known today as the ‘Somerset Levels’. 

The track is made of three basic components: planks made of oak, ash and lime, and rails and pegs made mainly of hazel and alder. The separate components were prepared on dry land and brought into the wet area. The rails (long poles) were laid end to end and secured by sharpened pegs driven slantwise into the ground on either side. 

The planks were then wedged into place between the peg-tops, parallel to the rails beneath, and held firmly in position by vertical pegs. The whole track, two kilometres in length, could have been assembled in a single day from the pre-shaped units. Recent advances in the dating of wood by the study of tree-rings (dendrochronology) have enabled the construction to be placed in the years 3807/3806 BC. The Sweet Track is located at the Peat Moors Centre which lies on the road between Shapwick and Westhay. 

Megalithic


Brent Knoll

Brent Knoll is a prominent hill, once an island, in the western Levels, noticeable from Glastonbury Tor . It has some similarities to Glastonbury: a domineering hill, an upland plateau under it, and gentle slopes down to what once were the waters and marshes of the Levels. 

In ancient times Brent Knoll has clearly been safe haven to a tribe for centuries, comfortably supporting 300 people. An island from which any approaching visitors can be seen miles off.

Boat contact with the Mendips, and seaward toward Brean Down and inland along river to Glastonbury, was the only way to access Brent Knoll in prehistoric and Celtic times. It has been occupied at least since the later Megalithic period or Bronze Age, with significant occupation during the Celtic period.

Isle of Avalon Foundation:

Archaeological discoveries in Priddy area date back to 35,000 years ago. It was a busy area in the Megalithic period (Bronze Age), with a reasonably dense population (judging by the burial sites on the hill above Priddy) and facilities, such as Priddy Circles, which could accommodate quite large numbers of people.

Priddy Circles are four large henges in an approximate north-south line – circular earth rings indicated by banks and depressions in the ground. The banks were made with earth, turf and stones supported by posts and stakes. 

No finds have been made from the time of the circles’ construction in the Beaker period of the Bronze Age, in the Megalithic period around 2500 BCE. The circles are placed at the centre of the highest area of the plateau-like Mendips, at the furthest point from lowland access in any direction.

The North Hill location of two round barrow cemeteries, Ashen Hill and Priddy Nine-Barrows which are neighbours of the Circles, would seem to imply that the area to the north-east of Priddy held ritual significance into the Bronze Age. South of the village at Deer Leap is a Bronze Age burial mound and the remains of the medieval settlement of Ramspit.

Wikipedia

Isle of Avalon Foundation 

Stanton Drew Stone Circles [Stanton Drew] This huge megalithic complex consists of three stone circles, two stone avenues, a cove of stones and an outlier. The Great Circle, the second largest English stone ring after the outer circle at Avebury ,https://www.pilgrimsbb.co.uk/places-to-visit/wider-area/, is 112m (368ft) in diameter and is composed of 27 stones. 

Beside it lies the North-East Ring. It is 29.6m (97ft) across and its eight massive boulders, four of which still standing, are the biggest of the entire complex. The South-West Ring, badly ruined, is on private land but is accessible. From the two visible circles there are two avenues running eastward towards the river Chew. 

The avenue starting from the North-East Ring, composed of seven surviving stones, and the wrecked one extending from the Great Circle, if continued, would have merged into one. The Cove, in a straight line with the centres of the two accessible stone circles, consists of two huge upright stones with a recumbent slab lying between them. 

They are blocks of dolomitic breccia, while the circles’ stones are of pustular breccia and oolitic limestone. The Outlier, also known as Hautville’s Quoit, lies half a kilometer (1850ft) north-east of the circles, on a high ridge. It is a sandstone boulder, now recumbent, and it is in a straight line with the centres of the Great Circle and the South-West Ring. 

Stanton Drew website

Located just outside Glastonbury, Shapwick Heath is a major wetland nature reserve (400ha) of the Somerset Levels and Moors. The reserve is a haven for wildlife and a monument to the history and culture of Neolithic man, who came to this area 6000 years ago and made this their tribal homeland. 

The once impenetrable swamplands, abundant with fish and fowl, were accessed by our ancestors on the famous ‘Sweet Track’; built in 3806BC and still preserved today. Much of the watery wilderness has been created by the restoration of old peat workings and work continues to improve the habitats for wildlife and people. 

These fascinating wetlands are internationally important for wintering wildfowl and wading birds, and support at least 64 species of breeding birds including lapwing, grasshopper warbler, nightingale, water rail, garganey and upward of 60 pairs of Cetti’s warbler. Bittern are also regular visitors, but have yet to breed. With its complex ditches and waterways, the reserve supports a rich community of both land and water animals, and thriving populations of both water vole and otter. 

Shapwick Heath

PLACES TO VISIT ON A DAY-TRIP FROM GLASTONBURY

The Alexander Keiller Museum remains one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain.  It includes many artefacts from World Heritage Site monuments.

English Heritage

Situated in southern England in the county of Wiltshire the village of Avebury is close to two small streams, the Winterbourne and the Sambourne, which unite to form the source of the main tributary of the River Thames. Around 4,500 years ago, when the site of England’s present capital was a thinly inhabited marshland, the area around Avebury almost certainly formed the Neolithic equivalent of a city.

By coincidence this waterway has become a link between the two largest cultural centres of their day to have ever existed in the British Isles. Just as London now contains most of England’s largest buildings, Avebury is the location of the mightiest megalithic complex to have ever been constructed in Britain.

Whilst at Avebury, you should visit the Alexander Keiller Museum founded by Keiller to display his archaeological finds from Avebury and windmill Hill. ‘Keiller’s methods were ahead of their time and incorporated pioneering techniques including aerial photography. As a result, the museum now houses one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in the country.’


Swallowhead Spring

Swallowhead Spring feeds the Winterbourne Stream, down by Kennet at Fyfield Down, and is part of the greater sacred landscape of Avebury. It is found South from Silbury Hill, across the A361, forming a near alignment with Silbury and West and East Kennet Longbarrows. 

Hidden Wiltshire

One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones and sits at the centre of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. 

English Heritage

Silbury Hill is the largest human-made earthen mound in Europe and dates from the Neolithic period. Its purpose however, is still highly debated. Composed mainly of chalk and clay excavated from the surrounding area, the mound stands 40m (130ft) high and covers about 5 acres (2.2 hectares) near Avebury in Wiltshire. 

It is a display of immense technical skill and prolonged control over labour and resources. Archaeologists calculate that Silbury Hill was built about 4750 years ago and that it took the equivalent of 500 men working 15 years to deposit and shape the earth and fill on top of a natural hill. 

Wikipedia

The West Kennet Avenue connects the south entrance of the Avebury Henge to the Sanctuary one and a half miles away on Overton Hill. The avenues were the last components of the henge to be constructed at around 2400 BC. That of the West Kennet is believed to have consisted of about 100 pairs of stones spaced at intervals of 80 feet with the avenue being about 50 feet wide throughout much of its length though it may have narrowed as it approached the Sanctuary. At Overton all that remains on this enigmatic hill today are concrete markers showing the former positions of the circles.

Avebury Web

English Heritage

The Sanctuary


Durrington Walls

Although there is little to be seen on this site today, it was an impressively huge henge monument. Bigger even than the henge at nearby Avebury, (427 metres), which encloses virtually an entire village within its circle, Durrington Walls is approximately 480 metres in diameter. Its ditch, six metres deep, 16 metres wide and topped by a three-metre bank, is almost one mile around. Despite having been much damaged by ploughing and cut through by the A345 road, its tall banks are still visible.

Built about 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic era, around the same time as the first phases of construction of Stonehenge, it would have been a huge project for the people of the time. According to Time Team’s Mick Aston, ‘Most people in southern England must have been involved in some shape or form, because if they weren’t doing the building work they would have been supporting the people who were.’

Stone-Circles.org       

2015 ‘Super Henge’ find

Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located to the North of Amesbury in Wiltshire. It was originally made up of a series of concentric circles of wooden poles within a circular bank and ditch and is of similar size to Stonehenge. 

Most of the 168 post holes held wooden posts, though there is evidence of a pair of standing stones having been placed between the second and third post hole rings. The deepest holes measured up to 2m and the height of the posts they held has been estimated at up to 7.5m above the ground. 

This sort of timber would have weighed around 5 tonnes and prompted similar logistical problems as the erection of the bluestones at Stonehenge. Further comparisons with Stonehenge have been noted; both have entrances oriented approximately on the midsummer sunrise and the diameters of the timber circles at Woodhenge and the stone circles at Stonehenge are similar, making the reasons for the name more understandable. 

The positions of the postholes are currently marked with modern concrete posts which are either a simple and informative method of displaying the site or a travesty of visitor interpretation and visual amenity.

English Heritage

Megalithic.co.uk 

West Kennet Long Barrow is one of the many prehistoric monuments that are part of the Avebury complex of Neolithic sites. It is one of the most impressive and well-preserved burial chambers in Britain, as well as being one of the most visited.

English Heritage 

Wikipedia

Mysterious Britain & Ireland feature


Tintagel

Iconic 13th-century castle built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. But even before Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle, Tintagel was already associated with the conception of King Arthur. 

 Recent excavations have shown the castle location to have been the site of a high-status Celtic monastery.

English Heritage      

Waterfall at St Nectan’s Glen Sited near Tintagel in North Cornwall, this beautiful valley is hidden and is only accessible on foot. This Unique 60 ft waterfall is at the head if the idyllic wooded valley of St. Nectan’s Glen. St Nectan’s waterfall has been described as amongst the ten most important spiritual sites in the country. 

The Kieve has been a place of reverence, worship and healing since pre-Christian times. People of many faiths have walked the ancient route to the waterfall to bathe in its mysterious and therapeutic atmosphere.

Built about 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic era, around the same time as the first phases of construction of Stonehenge, it would have been a huge project for the people of the time. According to Time Team’s Mick Aston, ‘Most people in southern England must have been involved in some shape or form, because if they weren’t doing the building work they would have been supporting the people who were.’

St. Nectans Glen       

Tintagelweb


We hope this guide to the local attractions in Glastonbury has ben useful to you. If you are planning a visit to Glastonbury, we offer a welcoming bed and breakfast perfectly located to se all the local sights. Find out more about booking a room with Pilgrims B and B by following the link below.