- Somerset is the place to go if you want to get away from it all. Although only 3 hours from London and 2 hours from Birmingham, the two busiest cities in the country, this rural idyll seems so far removed from all the hustle and bustle of city life, that you could be in a different country. The stunning scenery with rolling hills and green pastures is picture box perfect in every way. When you drive down the sleepy meandering lanes with the pink thatched cottages and country cottage gardens you actually feel like you are in a different era, one of simpler times when life moved at a much slower place.
This is the home of cider making, the Glastonbury festival and hill walking, a place of myth and legend with the tales of Arthur all around. This is a place where people come to find a spiritual connection and where people come to escape and relax, a place to be quiet and reflective and a place to have a good time.
Having a good time is something you will certainly do in Somerset, in fact you can’t fail to have a good time because there is so much to see and do and something for everyone, it is without doubt one of the UK’s best holiday destinations.
Glastonbury Sightseeing in Somerset
Glastonbury Town and Monastery
Most people will identify Somerset with Glastonbury and especially the festival held here for that frenetic week in June each year, but Glastonbury is much more than thousands of revellers descending down on it to have a good time. Glastonbury is the home of one of the most mystical sites in the country and is one of the counties main draws.
The sleepy, hippy town of Glastonbury itself is a delight to walk around. Quirky and individual, it is so unlike any other town across England as it really does its own thing. You won’t find all the big high street names here and cool coffee shops and eateries, what you will discover are shops selling crystals and joss sticks this is a place for religious tourism as much as anything else.
Spiritual healing and all things mystical abound the small streets of this charming and alternative town. There are several landmarks within the town centre with at least 170 buildings being listed. Sights such as The Georges Hotel and Pilgrim’s Inn that date back to the late 15th Century give you some idea as to how important the area has always been for pilgrimage as this used to be the place that would accommodate visitors to the Abbey.
Right in the centre of the town is Glastonbury Abbey itself. These grade 1 listed ruins are a major visitor attraction even today. The Abbey was founded in the 7th Century and was then destroyed by fire in 1184. It was rebuilt though and by the 14th Century it had become one of the most powerful and one of the richest monasteries in England. During the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1541 the monastery was seized by the Crown.
The area of Glastonbury has always been associated with the Arthurian legends and the Tor was proclaimed to be Avalon by the monks of the monastery. Christian belief has it that Joseph of Arimathea actually founded the monastery in the 1st Century.
The monastery has a grave that claims to be the burial-place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s though you will have to make up your own mind as to the authenticity of the site when you go. Myth and legend or history and fact? Who really knows but a thrilling tale anyway.
A visit to the Abbey will give you plenty to think on and reflect about whilst in this magical area. This fascinating abbey provides tranquility and sanctuary and as well as the ruins to explore you can also walk around the grounds with 36 acres of parkland to explore.
The other major tourist attraction in the area and one that really does impart a feeling of mystery and spirituality on you when you climb it is the Glastonbury Tor. For those who want a good walk you can park on one of the lanes surrounding the town and have a very pleasant walk through some lovely countryside before you climb up to the Tor. For those less able, then during the summer months there is a bus that will drop you off at the bottom of the Tor.
Which ever way you choose to get there the result is the same. A feeling of mystical wonder and awe, at the sheer scale of the building at the top as you walk up, the breathtaking views of the stunning countryside around and the history that surrounds the place.
The Tor is topped by the roofless St Michael’s tower which has also a grade 1 listed building status. The area of inhabitation around the Tor dates back to the Iron Age and Roman times and during the Saxon and Medieval times several buildings had been constructed on the top of the Tor. Now though are just the remains of St Michael’s.
Where St Michael’s stands now a wooden church used to but this was destroyed in 1275 by an earthquake. The building of St Michael’s dates back to the 14th Century it is believed that this site of St Michael’s is a daughter house to Glastonbury Abbey. The church survived until 1539 and the dissolution of the monasteries though the only part left standing was the tower which remains today. It was on this site that the Abbott of Glastonbury Abbey Richard Whitting, was hanged, drawn and quartered after the dissolution of the Abbey.
The Tor does attract a lot of visitors due to its relation to the Arthurian legends and so be prepared to have a lot of people sharing the visit with you. That said when I have climbed it I have always found there to be a silence and peacefulness even with so many people around probably because of the atmosphere that is generated at the Tor itself.
For anyone interested in legends and folk tales this is a trip that is not to be missed, whether for its connection to the legend of King Arthur, Goddess worship or Celtic Mythology.Even if you have no interest in the legends you should still make the climb as when you reach the summit at 515 feet above sea level you will be treated to the most amazing views over the Summerland Meadows that it will be a walk that will stay in your memory for a long time.