View Full Version : The abbey at Glastonbury

09-11-2011, 06:30 PM
Anyone ever been? I need the setting for a brief part of my Arthurian book, and I've found photographs, but I really need to know:

a) what the area outside the Abbey looks like;

b) what kind of security there is (if any). Is it gated? Would my characters have trouble accessing the site at night?

09-11-2011, 06:56 PM
This link may help: http://www.glastonburyabbey.com/grounds.php?&dx=1&ob=3&rpn=visit&sid=0237f901a5280087e23f07b1e548be1f

Also, check out the PDF itself for a map of the grounds: http://www.glastonburyabbey.com/resources/glastonbury_abbey_map.pdf

You could always email the official site? Explain that it's for a novel and you need simple details.

For the surrounding area outside the Abbey, you may have to research Somerset and/or the Glastonbury Tor: http://www.glastonburytor.org.uk/leymap.html

For Glastonbury itself, you might find something at: http://www.glastonbury.co.uk/pages/site.php?pgid=434 or at http://www.iknow-somerset.co.uk/tourist_information/central_somerset/glastonbury/glastonbury_tourist_information.htm

ETA: More Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somerset_Levels (first image in the top right: the County from the Tor)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glastonbury (images of Glastonbury itself, not just the Abbey)
http://blog.iknow-somerset.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/glastonbury-abbey.jpg (Grounds at the Abbey)
http://www.walkthemendips.com/mendips.html (walks in Somerset)
http://www.theaa.com/walks/westhay-peatland-reserve-420957 (walks in Somerset)
http://www.thewookeyhouse.co.uk/#/outdoor-places-to-visit/4549331322 (scroll down till you hit "Glastonbury"; there's a Flash video there. Not sure if that'll help, since it won't play for me.)
http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/details.asp?prn=11113 (1 x photo, lots of text description; this isn't strictly outside the Abbey, but may give an idea of what Somerset County is like in terms of landscape)

Further Suggestions
The search string "Somerset geology Glastonbury abbey" (as written) turned up a lot of those links.

You might also try searching for "nature walks in Glastonbury" or "equine tours, Glastonbury" in Google's image search. It might offer more photos, etc.

Hope some of this helps; good luck!

09-11-2011, 07:06 PM
The abbey isn't that old. There was a church there since the second century CE, but the abbey was established in the 7th century.
There are photos on the website:


09-11-2011, 07:18 PM
I've been! pause Just fished out my diary from 1981! Went there on August 7 - and this is some of what I wrote:
Went in the afternoon to Glastonbury Abbey. It was crawling with people, no atmosphere to speak of. Just large lumps of stone of a once great building. The only reason we had for going was its' association with Arthur - who was supposed to be buried there. I suppose that past associations could give some atmosphere yet I somehow feel that not only was the Abbey devoid of atmosphere but so was the town. It seemed not to be bothered about its' ruin. The town could survive without its' ruined Abbey*. The romance of the Arthurian legend seemed remote from the modern town, almost out of place. Some of the shops tried to 'cash in' on the past selling mystical boks on witchcraft and wizardry and such like rubbish.

We had tea there and later in the diary I wittered on about the town and Abbey seeming not to be in the same time warp.

I took some photos and now, some thirty years later, the ruins seem impressive. There were benches and some railings - wood and iron - for safety reasons.

* that is it would survive without the tourists, not dependant on them.

09-11-2011, 10:13 PM
Ah yes... the 'bodies of Arthur and Guinivere' that were miraculously discovered mere days after the Abbey realised it was losing revenue. Lucky for the monks of the time that they found those bodies and could then charge to let people look at them :) More than likely the bodies of some local Saxon or Briton nobility.

It's been many years since I went to Glastonbury for a holiday but the place is pretty much a typical English Heritage Abbey site. There is a hut near the entrance with a shop and ticket sales in it, most of the place is ruined (I can try to find the photos I took if you like) and there are info panels all over the place. From what I remember it is fairly well walled in so casual break ins are unlikely to happen but I think a determined person with a good reason could get in there easily (wire cutters on the fence, for example - I seem to remember there being a lot of chain link fencing).

09-11-2011, 10:18 PM
Some of the shops tried to 'cash in' on the past selling mystical boks on witchcraft and wizardry and such like rubbish.

Not some... a lot... I remember the owner of the guest house we stayed in who had lived there all her life. She told us that there were a lot of shops and cafes which came about because some hippies went to Glastonbury on a spiritual quest, wanted to stay and decided that a cafe would be easy to run. None of them being any good at business management or anything related to running a cafe... She reckoned that if someone moved there who actually knew how to run a business to a profit and how to make a decent cup of tea, they'd clean up in no time.

Like most British towns with a tourist link, you actually find a lot of shops and places with links to the tourist thing. In Glastonbury that means lots of Arthurian stuff and new age shops and the like.

09-11-2011, 11:05 PM
It's the Tor not the Abbey that would be the big pull for real Arthurian fans. The Tor is old enough - dating back to the neolithic age - and would have been an island until ~2000 years ago when according to this site (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/glastonbury-tor) the town was on the sea. The New Age connection comes froM the intersection of major ley lines (http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/leylines.htm) on the town - the same lines which intersect Stonehenge and Avebury, none of which really helps with your Arthurian novel!

I know the town pretty well - I grew up close by (although it's about 15 years since I was last there).

The Abbey is a pay to enter site, so not that easy to break in, although you could probably leg it over the wall on the North side if you really wanted to. The Abbey is in the heart of the town surrounded by new age and tourist shops. Lots of them. You'll often see buskers (street artists) out on the streets in summer performing.

You can see the town (and Abbey) layout very well on Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Glastonbury,+United+Kingdom&hl=en&ll=51.146483,-2.716305&spn=0.002305,0.006539&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=47.349227,107.138672&vpsrc=6&t=h&z=18) - there's street view as well if you want to get a feel for the surrounding town.

09-12-2011, 01:05 AM
I've always thought the easiest way would be to go in as a tourist, and just not leave. Not been to Glastonbury, but I would probably use that method with Dover Castle. For my characters, I hasten to add!

09-12-2011, 01:10 AM
Makes sense... though finding a place to hide may be difficult as it is not a complete building...

09-12-2011, 03:30 AM
Thanks for all the info, guys! Wow, this was my first time posting a question in here and I can't believe how helpful it was. Much appreciated!

I've always thought the easiest way would be to go in as a tourist, and just not leave. Not been to Glastonbury, but I would probably use that method with Dover Castle. For my characters, I hasten to add!
That is what one of my characters is doing. He's such a scoundrel. :p

09-12-2011, 05:10 AM
Wanted to jump in here because I've loved Glastonbury Abbey for a long time. Went with my parents when I was 12 and it made a huge impression on me. I thought it was very atmospheric, with the big crumbling ruins. There's definitely access to everything. There's parts of the abbey that are built over older structures, including the site of what legend (not history) says to be the oldest church in England. I personally found it to be a very spiritual place, both when I was 12 and when I visited again at 17.

Another location right near there that might be of interest to you is the Chalice Well (really more of a stream) at the base of the Tor. Legend says that's where Joseph of Arimathea stuck the grail and now the water runs red and has healing powers because of it. Also kind of a fun place to visit and splash around in the water.

I did my big senior project on Arthurian and Christian mythology in Great Britain and visited Glastonbury and a number of other sites specifically to do research on it, so if you have any other questions in relation to that stuff I'd be happy to give it a shot. Feel free to PM me!

Smiling Ted
09-12-2011, 06:33 AM
I used Glastonbury in my riff on Arthur and Excalibur.
Since it's a low-lying valley surrounding the hill (tor) in the center, you will occasionally get fogs that fill up the vale, with only the hill and the abbey tower poking up out of the clouds. Very dramatic.

09-13-2011, 02:41 PM
Dover Castle has scads of places to hide. I've often thought about it.


I imagine they'd scout the place out first to find a hiding place. Also, warm clothes will be needed, which could attract attention in summer.