7 great reasons to live in... Glastonbury
PUBLISHED: 12:40 18 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 February 2013
Glastonbury is a town of energy and charm that has been a place of pilgrimage for millennia, but as Diane Scully discovers, it doesn't stand still and constantly re-invents itself
Today, thousands still come to experience the history, the myths and legends, to seek the spiritual or just to be modern-day tourists. Whatever the reason for being here everyone feels the town is unique.
But its not only the much celebrated landmarks that make it distinctive the town is full of historic buildings, including beautiful medieval town houses, and its the friendly, open-minded people which make Glastonbury the atmospheric
town it is.
Myths and legends
Glastonburys famous features are not only steeped in history but in fantastic myths and legends. Was the Tor a centre for fertility rites based on the legends of the great Mother Earth goddess? Was it home to Gwyn ap Nudd, God of the Underworld, who presides over the passage of the dead between land and sea and the place where fairy folk live? Was Avalon a centre for ley lines and routes for spiritual energy? Did a young Jesus travel to Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea?
The legendary burial place of King Arthur and his Queen, Guinevere, is at the Abbey, perpetuating scholarly debate on whether he could have existed, whilst film, theatre and books continue to keep the story alive.
Westhay, Meare and Shapwick Somerset Levels
I love the diversity, the tolerant community and the village feel. Were all held together by common themes.
Bridget Wilkinson, Rainbow End Caf
Right on Glastonburys doorstep, dominated by water, with its rivers, meadows and reed beds, is the ancient landscape of the Somerset Levels. Its big skies, mists and evidence of habitation through the ages add a mysterious air to the empty acres. This area of wetland is one of the most significant in England with high numbers of breeding otters and nesting bitterns as well as many other species. Over the winter months thousands of water birds move onto the flooded meadows and the now famous starlings return to fill the sky before overnighting in the reed beds at Meare and Westhay. Enhance the experience with a bird-watching weekend, from 3-5 December, with ornithologists Mike Johnson and
Charles Martin. Call 01179 9532545
for further information.
I find Glastonbury a very attractive place its weird and wonderful and full of interesting people looking for something.
Martin Mudie, Retired Priest
In the heart of the town are the remains of the once magnificent Glastonbury Abbey. Set in peaceful parkland, lakes and wildlife areas you can bring a picnic and take in the romance of these evocative ruins. Once the grandest and richest abbey in England, its widely believed to be the earliest Christian sanctuary in Britain and archaeological records show it was an important place for Christian pilgrimage being dubbed the Second Rome. Its rich history points to significant visitors, including St Dunstan, who was educated here and introduced the Benedictine Rule to Glastonbury and then to England. The Abbey remains date from 1184-1539, when King Henry VIII ordered its seizure during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Abbots Kitchen is still complete
and St Patricks Chapel has been beautifully renovated.
The symbol of Glastonbury and of Somerset the Tor is recognisable to millions, countrywide. Visible for miles around, it rises out of the Somerset Levels and has been regarded as a holy hill for millennia. Now looked after by the National Trust, thousands still come to climb the Tor for many different reasons. The remains of St Michaels Tower stand on top from where you can enjoy spectacular views across Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire but for many the Tor is a place of pilgrimage, where some come to walk the maze, or labyrinth, believed to be a Neolithic ceremonial way and which takes around five hours to navigate. Although much speculation continues to surround the Tor, its special nature is not disputed.
It has a great live music scene and the other thing I like is the fact people come here for different reasons.
Steve Henderson, Local Butcher and Musician
Glastonburys streets bustle with life and colour. The towns focus is the Market Place, and the streets which radiate from it are full of interesting, eclectic shops and cafs. Brightly painted and adorned shop fronts lure you into the Glastonbury experience with a cornucopia of books, crystals, clothes, jewellery and spiritual guidance for all faiths. But you dont need to grow a beard or wear a flowing skirt to be happy shopping here; jostling with the extravagant displays are top-quality delicatessens, butchers and bakers. A Farmers Market is held every month, and every Tuesday in the Town Hall is the Glastonbury Country Market, where you can buy local produce, crafts and cut flowers. But if you do need to buy a didgeridoo, you can!
Lake Village Museum and Museum of Rural Life
One of Europes most famous archaeological sites is the Glastonbury Lake Village, a prosperous Iron Age settlement about a mile from the town. The preservation of the site and number and quality of finds enable the museum to tell the fascinating story of Iron Age life here. Glastonburys other great museum is the Rural Life Museum. Housed in Abbey Barn and in the courtyard there are tableaux and displays showing the tools used in rural life, such as mud horse fishing, peat digging and cider making. The Abbey Farmhouse shows the social and domestic life of Victorian Somerset in themed rooms, and another exhibition follows the life of a farm worker, John Hodges. Forthcoming events include Tudor-style spinning and weaving, and the ever popular Wassail Evening in January.
Its a lovely town with everything its history and uniqueness. Its not too big and keeps a strong community feel every day here is different. Linda Smith, Tourist Information Centre Manager
This Christmas the Queens breakfast table will be decorated with sprays of blossom from the Glastonbury Thorn. The winter blossom is cut by the Mayor in a ceremony which began in Queen Annes reign to show the towns loyalty and respect. Often called the Holy Thorn, as the species is found in the Middle East, it can only be grown by grafting it onto a native hawthorn and it flowers to coincide with the grandest of the Churchs celebrations Christmas and Easter. A tree flowering in winter time was considered miraculous. Legend says it originally grew from Joseph of Arimatheas staff, which he placed in the ground on arrival at Wearyall Hill. Glastonbury Abbey grounds, St Johns Churchyard and the Chalice Well Gardens all have specimens.