Glastonbury: from ancient religious heritage to a contemporary performing arts festival

Glastonbury is dominated by the silhouette of the Tor towering 170 meter above the town. With a population of nearly nine thousand inhabitants it is not a large town, but despite it’s size it is believed to be the place where Christianity originated in the United Kingdom. Apart from this religious heritage Glastonbury is well known for a famous music and art festival that attracts thousands of enthusiasts to the rolling hills of this Somerset town. But there is more.

The Tor Glastonbury

View on the Glastonbury Tor | © The Old Oaks Touring Park

The Abbey

The old town of Glastonbury – situated 45 miles south of Bristol – has a very rich history that goes back to the early times. In the centre of the city you will find the remains of the old abbey that dates back to 63 A.D. Around that year it is believed that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury. That story makes the town very important in the British and even western European Christian community. Even today the town is a place of pilgrimage for both Christians and supporters of esotericism. And that’s an interesting mix to begin with.

Even the ruins of the Abbey will fill you with awe and admiration for the comprehensive complex it once was. It shows that Glastonbury at some point was the richest and most powerful religious centre in Britain. The many stories and legends add to the atmosphere of this place of mystery. Some of the stories relate the Abbey to the mythical island of Avalon and the kingdom of King Arthur. Today the remains belong to the Anglican Church. If you are planning to visit Glastonbury make sure the Abbey is on your to-do list.

Glastonbury Tor

A visit to the Abbey is not complete without a walk to the Glastonbury Tor. This tower is all that remains of St. Michaels Tower and is sitting on top of a steep hill just outside the town. The church used to dominate the view of the town in the 14th century. According to esoteric visitors the spiral path leading up to the top relates to an old labyrinth. It is one of many stories of which the town is so rich and that make the town popular a centre for esotericism. The many small shops and the scent of incense in high street further add to the flower power atmosphere of Glastonbury.

Chalice Well

The park around the Chalice Well is certainly worth a visit. It´s a perfect spot to relax and escape the modern rat race. Research in 2009 showed that the well is fed by an aquifer that is situated under the Pennard Sands. The park itself has losts of nooks and crannies that invite to sit down, let the mind wander or even meditate. Not far from the park you will find the Rural Life Museum and close to High Street in the town centre the Glastonbury Lake Village Museum.

Glastonbury festival

But the town is firmly grounded in the present as well. Every year The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts draws a crowd of around 150.000 visitors. The first edition took place in 1970 and one of the artists on stage was Marc Bolan. Today this large open air music festival is mostly known for rock and pop concerts. But the festival is not limited to music alone. Its also a platform for dance, cabaret and circus.

While you’re in Glastonbury you might as well take your time and spend some days exploring the area. Here are some suggestions about sights you also might want to visit:

Clarks Shoe Museum in Street

Close to Glastonbury lies the town of Street. If you have ever at some point in your life had Clarks Bushacre Shoes on your feet – that probably would have been in your thirties – and have good memories of that period, you should visit the Clarks Shoe Museum. Clarks still has it’s headquarters in Street.

Mendip Hills

The limestone Mendip Hills are often overlooked when visiting Glastonbury. This landscape of hills and gorges offers a wide variety of wildlife and is perfect for a day’s hike.

Wells

Another town in the vicinity is the Wells with its own cathedral. Because every place in Great Brittain with a cathedral has the right to call itself a city, Wells is the smallest of all cities in the United Kingdom. The exterior of the cathedral is defined by the gothic style.

Montacute House

This Elizabethian House is a masterpiece of architecture and design. It has featured in many films and series including the 1995 version of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility. Now this magnificent house is managed by The National Trust.

Place to stay: The Old Oaks Touring Park

The Old Oaks Touring Park is a very well-equipped camping near Glastonbury. It is a perfect destination for the more demanding campers. It is located north east of the Tor in the relaxing Somerset landscape. This 5 star adults only camping and caravan park makes for perfect camping in all seasons and weather conditions.

the old oaks touring caravan park & campsite

Spacious pitches and great views | © The Old Oaks Touring Park

 

The park spreads over 10 acres, actually looks and feels like a park and is divided into six different parts. From The Walnut Circles with 12 super large pitches and great views on the Mendip Hills to The Orchard with it’s classic grass pitches. Most of the pitches are hard standings that guarantee a good spot in all weather situations.

The Old Oaks Touring Park is dog friendly and has a half-acre course fishing lake sitting beneath the campsite. If you like walking and hiking this park is the perfect base for making day trips. From the campsite a footpath leads you through the fields and across Paradise Lane into the centre of Glastonbury.

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