An Insiders Guide to Glastonbury - Somerset town of myths and legends

PUBLISHED: 12:51 04 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:14 20 February 2013

An Insiders Guide to Glastonbury - Somerset town of myths and legends

An Insiders Guide to Glastonbury - Somerset town of myths and legends

Myths and legends have attracted kings, bishops, saints, archaeologists, hippies, pilgrims and your average punter. They still keep coming, and why not? When there is also now a chocolate love temple! Words by Malcolm Rigby

Simple Pleasures...

People watching. It may appear rude in other Somerset towns, but in Glastonbury its kind of expected, like an obligatory sport. Trust me, if you wear purple you want to be seen. Take a good location such as one of the open-air cafs near the Market Cross. Two men walk by, one in a thick long leather coat and the other bare chested. Two more go by, one holding a small baby the other with a guitar. Glastonbury men are musical, in touch with their feminine side and dress impervious to the weather conditions. Best not draw conclusions, just watch.

Bored with that? Then take a short stroll down the High Street to capture the atmosphere of this oddly contradictory town. Starting at the top by the Methodist chapel and the fountain where a public notice is engraved into the wall: "Commit no nuisance." Theres a Chocolate Love Temple and a beauty salon and no ordinary one, but an inner beauty salon. Colour-wise the walk is enhanced in the summer because the Glastonbury folk go big on their hanging baskets. The real delight, however, is how the alternative shops selling spiritual happiness in the form of incense, buddhas, CDs, books and clothes, intermingle with the more prosaic banks, hairdressers, take-aways, post office and other necessities. Enjoy the imagination of the names: The Gothic Image, The Goddess and the Green Man, HSBC, and my particular favourite, The Psychic Piglet.

Architecturally, within the space of just a couple of hundred yards, there is so much to take in. Like the imposing
St Johns church that boasts the second highest parish church tower in Somerset, inside there are Italian-style paintings, stained-glass windows and a very fine wooden ceiling. Theres the Tribunal, thought to be the Abbey courthouse but apparently it wasnt, and a 15th century town house with early Tudor faade the panelled interiors are now home to possibly the cutest Tourist Information Centre in the country. The George and Pilgrim Inn, built for visitors of centuries ago and still retaining that atmosphere. Tucked away are the Assembly Rooms, built in 1864 to house the Literary Institution and the countys social balls it was also the site for the original Glastonbury music festivals between 1914 and 1926.

Perhaps the greatest form of gratification in Glastonbury is an unaffected march to the top of the Tor. Test those cardiac capabilities in the ascension, marvel at the brilliant 360-degree panoramic views at the summit, then retreat from the weather to the respite of the St Michael tower, all that remains of the 13th century church.

Hidden Treasures...

Not so well hidden now are the artefacts of the Glastonbury Lake Village Museum, located above the TIC. The collection tells the story of Arthur Bulleid, an amateur archaeologist who at the turn of the last century discovered an Iron Age settlement in what would have been marshland. The preservative properties of the local soil meant that his findings, which included items of pottery, wood, iron and bronze, were all in a remarkably good state.

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