Rising above the surrounding Somerset Levels, the hill of Glastonbury Tor has been a site of cultural significance for over a thousand years. And
Glastonbury itself has much to offer visitors, far beyond the concentrated activity of the Glastonbury Festival.
The area has many self-catering holiday cottages, homes and apartments, and is an ideal location for exploring the immediate area and rural Somerset.
The Tor and the Abbey
The National Trust has designated the whole site of Glastonbury Tor a national monument. It comprises the hill and, atop it, St Michael’s Tower, a Grade I listed building.
The Tor may date back as far as the Iron Age. It had several buildings built on its summit over time, from the Saxon to early medieval periods, including a wooden church destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. St Michael’s Tower remains from the stone church built in the 14th century.
As a location, Glastonbury Tor’s spiritual significance spans many historical eras, from pre-Christian, pagan worship, to its Christian settlement. There was renewed focus on it from the 19th century onwards with a growth in interest in Celtic mythology.
Glastonbury Abbey is one of England’s oldest abbeys, originally dating from the 7th century, expanded and improved over time by the Saxons, then the Normans, before falling into disuse following Henry the Eighth’s Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
The ruins of the abbey sit in 36 acres of parkland in the centre of Glastonbury town. In the grounds you’ll also find the Holy Thorn tree and the supposed burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.
There’s also a wildlife area, Badger Boardwalk, a cider orchard and a picnic area for visitors.
As a market town, Glastonbury has a unique character, informed by the history of the area and its continuing focus for alternative lifestyles and spiritual interests.
Consequently, the town is full of individual, idiosyncratic shops selling crafts, charms and crystals, alongside antiques, books and clothing. There’s also a fine selection of cafes, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants.
A good way of exploring the town is to follow the Millennium Trail, a circular walking route that takes you around the town and provides information about its architecture and heritage, including the Pump House, St John’s Church Tower and the town hall.
The Avalon Marshes
At the heart of the Somerset Levels lie its wetlands, the Avalon Marshes. Its combination of marshland and low lying green pastures give it a unique, picturesque quality, complementing its mystical heritage.
The nature reserves here are of national importance, home to the marsh harrier, bittern and the great white egret.
You can visit great open expanses of water, but also fenland, heaths, woodland and grasslands. This is great country for exploring and walking in; and Glastonbury has its own, special aura which seems to hang over the whole area.