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County of Somerset, England: King Arthur's Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury Tor and Abbey and the Pop Festival

Updated on November 18, 2020
annart profile image

I love to investigate the history and geography of my home town, my area and my country, England, as well as other parts of Britain.

Glastonbur Tor

A steeply rising mound of earth, topped by an ancient church tower, the Tor is the highest point of the ancient Isle of Avalon. It was truly an island, surrounded by the waters of the Severn Estuary before an irrigation system transformed the land into the fertile ‘levels’ which exist today. The inhabitants of Avalon lived in houses of timber construction, on tall poles lodged in the water. They moved around in boats and are sometimes referred to as lake dwellers.

Glastonbury Tor dominates the countryside for miles around. From the Polden Hills (a ridge between Taunton Vale and the Somerset Flats), from the Mendips, from wherever you are in that area, look to the east and you will usually see it, sometimes reaching through a mist echoing Arthurian legend.

A good walk to the top gives you amazing views over the Somerset countryside, North to the Mendips, the city of Wells beneath them, round to the east to Pilton (site of the Festival), to views of the coastline south along to Brean Down at the end of the Mendips. At your feet are the towns of Street and Glastonbury itself.

Glastonbury Tor

The Tor on a Winter's Day
The Tor on a Winter's Day | Source

Glastonbury Tor and Surroundings

Mystery and Legend through the Trees
Mystery and Legend through the Trees | Source
Through the Tower
Through the Tower | Source
New Year's Eve on the Tor - Cold!
New Year's Eve on the Tor - Cold! | Source
View to the West
View to the West | Source

Church Tower and Surrounds

The tower atop the Tor is all that’s left of a church. Reportedly, there were three attempts to build a church on the spot but all fell or were destroyed. It was decided that fate was against them so no further attempts were made and just the final tower remains.

Let your imagination go, soak up the mystery. Sometimes on an Autumn day, mists hide the wider vista and you can imagine King Arthur riding through them to set right a wrong. Sunny days make you glad to be alive as you survey the miles and miles of beautiful panorama.

You can attain the summit by several paths, depending on how strenuous a climb you can tackle. The hill and steep steps to the east are my favourite. It’s an easy initial walk but gather your strength for the final climb; the broad steps are deceiving but a few benches on the way offer you a chance to catch your breath. If you have the opportunity to make this walk, take it! You will not be disappointed.

The Abbey

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Abbey RuinsInside the Main Abbey WallsDetail of the InteriorDovecoteAll that's left of the Rest!Plaque standing by Arthur's Tomb (transcript below)
Abbey Ruins
Abbey Ruins | Source
Inside the Main Abbey Walls
Inside the Main Abbey Walls | Source
Detail of the Interior
Detail of the Interior | Source
Dovecote | Source
All that's left of the Rest!
All that's left of the Rest! | Source
Plaque standing by Arthur's Tomb (transcript below)
Plaque standing by Arthur's Tomb (transcript below) | Source

Glastonbury Abbey

The Abbey sits sheltered at the foot of the Tor, and forms the focus of the town. The site of King Arthur’s tomb, the history of which you can read below, is part of the Abbey. What a shame we can no longer see the original tomb.

There remain only ruins of the Abbey, though the main chancel walls rise high, better preserved than the rest. The foundations, marked by low stone walls, give you an idea of the form and size of the whole site, sitting at the foot of the Tor, sheltered and forming the focus of the town.

The site is beautiful, wooded and tranquil. You can sit in peace and survey the sacred site, wondering at the history it holds.

Transcript of the Plaque

History of Arthur's Tomb
History of Arthur's Tomb | Source

Joseph of Aramathea and the Glastonbury Thorn

Joseph of Aramathea is connected to the Abbey. He purportedly sailed across the flooded Somerset Levels and planted his staff in the ground where the abbey now is. From his staff a thorn tree grew. One story says he brought the young Jesus with him on his travels.

The original tree was hacked down but cuttings had been taken and this tree is said to be one of the cuttings. It is known as the Glastonbury Thorn.

The Glastonbury Thorn

A Cutting from the Original
A Cutting from the Original | Source

The Town

Glastonbury itself has the local reputation of being ‘ethnic’. Walk along the main street and explore shops selling crystals, dream catchers, healing potions and colourful, flowing garments. You’ll rub shoulders with many hippies, young and old. There is a hint of heady substances in the air. That’s a slight exaggeration but you get the picture. It has a laid back air. Myths and legends are always close by.

Guinevere, King Arthur's Queen

Guinevere (The Leicester Galleries loans to The Speed Art Museum)
Guinevere (The Leicester Galleries loans to The Speed Art Museum) | Source

Legends of King Arthur

‘King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’; those words evoke stories of mystery, legend and daring-do. Several sites around Somerset purport to be the original Camelot, the castle and court of King Arthur.

Arthur is buried at the Abbey, alongside his Queen consort Guinevere, lover of Sir Lancelot who was a Knight of the Round Table. Their love affair was said to be the cause of Arthur’s downfall. So many stories have been woven around this larger than life character. There is no proof that he existed as a King although there was a leader of the southern area of England, covering an area from present-day Kent to Cornwall, who was revered and respected. His Round Table was wisely devised so that no knight had an exalted position at the table, making each equal to any other.

Tales of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur, and of the magician Merlin, many based in Wales and in Tintagel, Cornwall, tantalise our imaginations. Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, fulfilling a prophecy which said whoever could do this would be a future king of England. The sword, Excalibur, which had magical powers, was later thrown into the waters of a lake by Arthur and received by the Lady of the Lake, her hand emerging from the depths.

The so-called original Round Table hangs in Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, so it appears Arthur’s fame is fairly widespread. Such is the stuff of legends.

The Pyramid - photo by Paul Holloway from Birmingham, UK
The Pyramid - photo by Paul Holloway from Birmingham, UK | Source

Glastonbury Festival

Nearly every year since 1971 the Glastonbury Festival has taken place at Worthy Farm, Pilton. A local farmer, Michael Eavis, opened his fields and invited popular bands to play for the weekend. He sold tickets and it was popular. So much so that it has grown into an internationally renowned festival, tickets sell out within minutes of issue and the sea of tents can be seen from the top of the Tor, covering eight or more fields. Thousands of people arrive each year.

The weekend of sound can be heard over a wide area too! Well known musicians mix with local talent and everyone has a great time. You can also have a ‘Sunday Only’ entry ticket which is cheaper of course but the prices are all relative.

Traffic, Security and Enjoyment

Roads are blocked when people arrive in their camper-vans, with their tents, or just with what they stand up in. Locals are allowed an allocation of tickets. The spirit of the festival is astounding even though some locals are not too keen as, unfortunately, there are always visitors, albeit a minority, who abuse the local environment and town in various ways.

The security is phenomenal; huge temporary metal fences are erected to surround the grounds. Traffic is policed. We locals make sure we travel the back roads in order to get to work or appointments on time. Otherwise we can be stuck for hours!

Glastonbury Festival itself spans four days, Thursday to Sunday, but people start arriving mostly on the Wednesday and don’t start to leave until the Monday. The roads can be affected from Tuesday to Tuesday!

It is a time of revelry, muddy camping and high spirits in every sense of the word. Well known and more obscure musicians contribute to an eclectic mix of tastes. In 2014 Dolly Parton wowed the crowds and boosted her record sales. We’ve had the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and many more musical bards over the years.

It seems it's even more fun in the mud!
It seems it's even more fun in the mud! | Source


The short period of the festival aside, I love this area for its tranquility, beauty and varied landscape. The people are gentle, the landscape is beautiful and the sea plays an important, if not fickle, part in its history. Indeed, there is history a-plenty with churches, castles, peat moors and ancient tracks across the moors.

You cannot fail to find something to please.

© 2014 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much, Jackie! Yes, this is preserved well although not much remains of the Abbey. However, the tourists flourish!

      God bless you this Christmas day and I hope you have a wonderful 2016.


    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from the beautiful south

      So beautiful Ann and thanks so much for sharing it. It makes me think of all the places now like this being destroyed in other part of the world to never be seen again. Such a tragedy and historic loss. May your part of the world be spared any of that.

      God bless and Merry Christmas!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      aesta1: That's interesting; you must have had a good tour as there's so much history all over our lovely country. Glastonbury has that mystery as well as the connection with the young Jesus. Glad to bring back memories of your travels! Thank you so much for reading and for your input.


    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We visited this place when we drove from the south to the north of England. We stayed a while because my husband was keen on his heritage. and both of us have History as our major in university. I happen to be reading Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles and enjoying it so much. Your hub made me want to read more on this.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for your visit, Swisstoons. Only a bit?!!

      Glad you enjoyed this. Glastonbury is very close to where I live and the countryside is wonderful. History is one of my favourite subjects too; there's always so much to learn about one's home area so, wherever I live, I try to delve into its past.

      Appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      I love history and am a bit of an Anglophile, so I really enjoyed this hub!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hi, John! Thanks for your lovely comment and for the votes. It is indeed a lovely part of the world; there's so much going on and the history and legends never fail to fascinate and inspire.

      Have a great day!


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Ann, I found this a very interesting and easy to read hub. Very good pics of this delightful part of the world. The legend of King Arthur alone is a good draw card, but I have also heard of the famous Glastonbury Festival. Well written. Voted up.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Wow, Frank, what a great comment! Thank you so much. I'm glad it stirred your curiosity. I appreciate your visit.


    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      what a great for someone who is not a history buff.. I found it wildly entertaining and hit stirred curiosity in me to goggle more about it.. great Hub Annart..bless you

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      FlourishAnyway: Thank you for your lovely comment. You're right that things are just meant to be. I guess they got fed up with trying to build on top of a mound where they were constantly exposed to wind and often to rain! It took so much longer to build anything in those days!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      travmaj: Thanks for your lovely comment. Shame your hub is no longer featured - try adding a poll or just a little something, that usually works to restore the featured grade.

      Give me your link and I'll add it myself at the end of this.

      Best wishes,


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      always exploring: I'm glad you enjoyed the tour. You must come to visit some time; it's well worth the journey! Thanks for reading and commenting.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you very much, Manatita. Yes, the films are varied but all great stories. There are so many legends and versions to draw from. I appreciate your visit and kind comment.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      AliciaC: Glad you enjoyed this. This area is photogenic in the extreme. I just don't have enough time to document it all!

      I appreciate your visit and kind comment. Thanks. Ann

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Wonderful hub -- the history, personal photos, and your description of the farmer opening his field annually for that outdoor concert. i think they were right to have given up building the church after three failed attempts. Some things just are nit meant to be.

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      Hi Ann, a lovely and informative visit to Glastonbury, it is a fascinating place to visit with outstanding history and tales of intrigue. Your photos were a delight and documented the piece perfectly.

      (I suddenly wondered why my take on Glastonbury didn't come up in related hubs. Now I see it's not featured now - Grrrr.) Voting Ann and thank you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I would love to visit England. The scenery is beautiful. The surroundings spectacular. Enjoyed the tour. Thank you...

    • manatita44 profile image


      6 years ago from london

      You have done a great job here, Annart. Beautiful, romantic, and yes, with a bit of mystic, without which Glastonbury will not survive.

      Nice tales you tell. Have seen a few versions of the films. All very nice. Night.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very enjoyable hub, Ann. I loved exploring Somerset by reading your informative article and looking at the interesting photos.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Mylindaelliott: It is an interesting place, full of charm, atmosphere and beauty. Glad you liked the photos and thank you for your visit and kind comment.


    • mylindaelliott profile image


      6 years ago from Louisiana

      It looks and sounds like an interesting place. I wish I had traveled more. I love seeing the pictures.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, DDE. I love taking photos of all the areas around me. Thanks for the visit and comment. Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Ann you have such lovely photos! I like the way you summed up his hub. A very interesting and informative hub.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, bill, and thanks for yet again being the first to arrive. Your support is so appreciated. I'm honoured.

      It's funny but we get the same comments from our friends in Oz and NZ. I can't quite get my head around the fact that our history is so much longer than yours! We do have some wonderful buildings and for the most part they are carefully preserved and cared for.

      Glad you liked the tour round the Tor! Hope your weekend is going well too, bill.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You know, we have beautiful scenery here in the States...mountains that would leave you breathless...but nowhere do we have the architecture that you have. We can't even come close to the awesome buildings you have, the history you are surrounded by....I would be in heaven over there.

      Thank you for another wonderful tour. Wishing you a superb weekend.



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