Glastonbury is Not Just a Festival!
Stephanie reveals her 7 favourite things to do do in Glasto
Whenever I tell people I’ve been to Glastonbury, most people assume that I’m talking about the festival, but it just so happens that the town of Glastonbury itself is one of my favourite places in England; it’s where I go if I need a peaceful and nourishing weekend away from London.
It’s a sweet and friendly place and full of things to do to replenish the soul; with its ancient myths and magical nature, I can’t help but feel completely Zen whenever I’m there. Refreshing walks, pretty gardens and shops that sell incense, crystals, jewellery and books make it a pleasant place for a wander. And at night, the town has its own fun with local bands playing live music in pubs and late license cafes.
Fun and interesting at anytime of the year but particularly best in the spring and summer, here are a few things to make sure you do during your stay:
1. Climb the Tor
If you’ve got the lung capacity and a good sturdy balance against rushing winds then climbing the Tor can be an exhilarating little hike. The air up there is invigoratingly fresh and the view of the Somerset countryside is well worth the trek. I once watched the sun come up, sitting on a bench about three quarters of the way up and at that time of the morning, the air was still and calm. After watching the red sky melt into gold above the horizon, I continued to the top to marvel at the stonework of the Tor itself. It is difficult to not feel the magical history of the place, standing on the peak of the Isle of Avalon.
2. Take a walk around the Abbey grounds
The Abbey’s history goes back to the 7th Century and was once the richest monastery in England sometime after the 1066 invasion. In 1184, it was destroyed by a fire and the medieval monks moved elsewhere. Some of the church still remains in ruins that are scattered across the grounds like stone shards jutting out of the grass. Entrance fee to the Abbey is £6 for adults and for those interested in the deep history of the Abbey would get their money’s worth in the museum but I personally enjoyed spending a good few hours walking through the cider orchard, the herb garden, the badger boardwalk (yes, there are badgers!) and unwinding by the duck pond.
3. Find the 2,000 year-old trees, Gog and Magog
At the town hall you can pick up a map that helps you find these very well hidden ancient trees, it is an adventure quest. The ramble in itself is a very exciting walk as you begin the trail around the base of the Tor and head up into the fields behind. Good walking shoes are needed for this as the pathways turn off into muddy tracks but the tunnel of plants that grow up and into an arc indicate that what’s at the end of the trail is worth the find. Minding the cows in the field and passing through stiles, you’ll find the old trees, Gog and Magog (names originating from Hebrew, Arabic and Persian myths) give off such a majestic presence that it almost feels like if you touch them, you feel the 2,000 years of their history in one instant. Unfortunately, one of them has died and is turning white, but the power and beauty of it can still be felt. I often sit by them when I want to feel like the rest of the world has fallen away and all that’s left is magic, wonder and timelessness.
4. Visit the Chalice Well Garden
The Chalice Well is like walking into The Secret Garden; flowers, streams, butterflies, trees and hidden pathways make this place very special. The entrance fee is £4.00 and that counts for the whole day so you are free to come and go in that time. On nature festivals like Spring/Autumn Equinox, Solstice and other season holidays, the entrance is free and is well worth visiting during these times as there are workshops to attend which are a lot of fun. On some evenings, candlelit poetry and music events are held there. The Chalice Well in the spring and summer is the most bountiful and colourful garden to spend time in, either reading or sipping tea on a bench; little winding paths lead to love seats and rosebushes and stone statues and there are plenty of spots to hide in. What’s special about this garden is that it is built around one of the oldest wells in Britain; for 2,000 years people have been gathering here to drink from the well where the iron-rich water never ceases to flow.
5. Visit the White Spring
The White Spring is the cave sister of the Chalice Well. Spring water flows freely into this cocooned well where often people fill bottles of water to take home with them; said to have healing properties, it is probably the cleanest and freshest water I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The White Spring is tucked away on a small winding road at the bottom of the Tor and is free to enter. The cave is lit by candles and there are a few benches to sit on as often people like to sit down for a while and take in the beautiful acoustics of the cave while playing guitar or drums. It’s a very quiet, womb-like space that’s perfect for feeling completely harmonised.
6. Sit and relax in the Goddess Temple
For those who enjoy mediation, the Goddess Temple is located in the town centre in what is almost a tree house and is the cosiest place to sit. Like a spiritual hiding place, you walk into a room that smells like incense and flowers, the soft and gentle music lulls you into a state of peace as you sit down on the cushions that are scattered across the floor. There are statues of goddesses and shrines dedicated to the Divine Feminine (goddess energy) and all you feel while sitting in this space is warmth and love. You can read a book here, write, or do some drawing with the paper and colouring pencils that are available to use, or spend the time reflecting and being still. Sitting in here for twenty minutes is as nourishing as having an hour long massage. The entrance is free but donations are welcome.
7. Listen to live music at The King William pub
I’ve spent some of my liveliest nights in Glastonbury and especially in The King William pub, located at the bottom of the high street by the clock tower. After a laidback day of soaking up nature, I’ve often headed into town hearing blues rock or soul bouncing out of the doors and peered through the windows to see locals swaying together and tapping their feet. Not being able to resist the cheerful atmosphere and the uplifting music, I usually stop in for a drink and a dance. Every Saturday night, bands play great music and the punters are always chatty and upbeat. I met Suzi Quatro’s daughter in there once; she was giggling away with her friends and striking up conversation with everyone at the bar before getting up on stage to sing a few Aretha Franklin numbers.