A day out in Glastonbury

The summit of Glastonbury Tor (c) Blackbeck / Getty Images

The summit of Glastonbury Tor (c) Blackbeck / Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We run through how to make your day in Glastonbury truly perfect.

What do you think of when you hear 'Glastonbury'? Probably in the first few thoughts will be the festival, King Arthur, and a big hill. All of these are true and yet the town is so much more. So much in fact, that it can be hard to decide what to do on your visit or how to plan your time so you can see as much as possible. 

If you want a relaxed but fun-packed day trip to Glastonbury, we recommend trying our guide below.

First things first: parking

In the off season, you shouldn't experience too much traffic on your way into Glastonbury. It's best to get there early to ensure parking so you don't have to waste time wandering around the car park looking for that elusive empty space. The roads can be pretty tight so you won't find a huge amount of on-street parking near the centre. But don't stress, there are plenty of reasonably priced car parks scattered around the High Street including St Dunstan's which is right next to the Abbey and has lots of bays.  

Quick coffee

Before you get into the swing of things, why not take a moment and have a sit down. Along Magdalene Street you'll find a host of options for you caffeine boost including the Lazy Gecko and the Tin Pot Pasty Co. who also have some delicious snacks and breakfasts to go with your coffee or tea. 

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Stretch your muscles

Now that you've got the car journey out of your system and feel ready to start the day, it's time for a brisk walk. It wouldn't be a trip to Glastonbury if you didn't head up the Tor to take in the view. Its only a short walk to the bottom around two sides of the Abbey grounds. There are two routes up the Tor but the south-west path is a lot less steep and pretty well maintained. There's plenty of sign posts to help you find your way if you need them.

The walk is not too arduous and is a relatively relaxed incline for much of the way with steps at the tough spots. You'll also probably see sheep grazing the area and in spring there will be lambs so dogs must be kept on leads. The National Trust maintain the area although you will not have to pay to enter.

Its often surprising to think that the Tor is completely natural and was not 'built', given how it rises out of the Somerset Levels so strikingly. This is one of the reasons there's so much mysticism around the hill and it made for a good pilgrimage spot centuries ago. Rising out of the Tor is St Michael's Tower, a 14th century stone structure which is now a Grade I listed building. It incredibly survived the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 when the rest of the church and the abbey below were destroyed. You'll see a plaque inside the tower which tells you a bit more about the Tor's history, including how the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was executed on the mount.

Touch of history

As you'd expect, there is so much history and legend surrounding Glastonbury, much of which can still be explored today. On your way back down the Tor and towards the town centre, you'll pass The Chalice Well. This place is well worth the ticket entrance as it is a four acre garden with a much older secret. Running through the garden is a natural spring that is said to have healing powers. Depending on the version you hear, the spring either miraculously sprung from nothing, or appeared when Joseph of Arimathea washed the Holy Grail on that spot. 

Either way, it is a truly peaceful and magical place with exceptional flower beds and paths. Visitors are asked to keep their phones on silent and twice a day a bell is rung to encourage a minute of silent reflection. We recommend buying a small glass bottle from the shop as one of the spring's outlets can be drunk from. Alternatively, you can rest your feet in the healing waters at one of the other pools. 

Glastonbury, the plaque recording the onetime resting place of Arthur

Glastonbury, the plaque recording the onetime resting place of Arthur - Credit: Archant

Glastonbury Abbey is another obvious choice on your visit and is sure to not disappoint. The ruins are incredibly atmospheric and enough of the original building has survived to give you an idea of the layout and lifestyle of the people who lived there. The site of Abbey at this location dates back to the 7th century, although legend tells of a holy settlement as early as 63CE. Sadly a great fire destroyed much of the original structure in the 1100s and an immediate rebuild was organised - the ruins of which can be seen today.

Possibly the most famous aspect of the abbey is its supposed link to King Arthur and Lady Guinevere. In 1191, the monks announced that the bodies of the great king and queen had been located and were reburied in the grounds of the abbey. Sadly we will never know if this was the truth or not as the dissolution by Henry VIII eventually claimed anything of value from the building and grounds. 

You can learn more about the site and what's on here.

Lunch time

By now you should have worked up quite an appetite from all that walking and history. So why not head back to the town centre and find somewhere to eat. Glastonbury has many delicious options including the Abbey Tea Rooms which does excellent Afternoon Teas all through the day as well as many savoury options. 

Alternatively pop around the corner to the George Hotel and Pilgrim's Inn which is one of the best historical pubs in the county. It's an amazing place to sit with some homemade grub and a fine selection of local ales to replenish you after a busy morning. 

George Hotel and Pilgrims Inn, Glastonbury (c) Christian Mueller / Shutterstock

George Hotel and Pilgrims Inn, Glastonbury (c) Christian Mueller / Shutterstock - Credit: Archant

Shopping

The afternoon is all about treating yourself and what better way than to explore of incredible boutique and independent shops along the High Street. They've got everything you would expect a place as mystical as Glastonbury to have, from crystal shops to palm readers, handmade clothes to incense. It's hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere so why not let go and fully embrace the unusual products on offer - yes, you do need that scented candle and pack of Tarot cards!

One highlight is Courtyard Books who stock an array of antiquarian tomes you'll struggle to find anywhere else. There's just too many others to choose from but make sure you don't miss The Gauntlet either. If you parked in St John's Car Park you may have already passed through it and the thoroughfare is full of incredible and unusual shops for your enjoyment.

The Gauntlet, Glastonbury

The Gauntlet, Glastonbury - Credit: Archant

Laden down with bags and wishing you'd stayed for dessert at lunch, there's just enough time to pop into Burns the Bread and pick up a delicious loaf to go with dinner before you go. They also do an array of savouries, cakes, and pastries if you have a long drive ahead of you.  

Ultimately, Glastonbury is a day trip like no other with very friendly people and amazing sights to see. You'll find yourself wishing you had more time, but it will always be there for another trip one day.