Learning by Being There: Glastonbury Legends & Myths

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

King Arthur, man or myth? If you visit Glastobury there's no mistaking what the locals believe. There are references to the legendary King Arthur everywhere.

We started our Glastonbury day trip with a visit to Glastonbury Tor, a place that's worth visiting for the views alone. It is a National Trust Site but free to visit, although there isn't a designated parking spot. There's plenty of side streets to park up though for free, although mid week might be a lot quieter than the weekend.

Be prepared for a steep climb to the summit of the Tor, a place that many believe has ley lines (lines of energy) running through it. There certainly is a feeling of mystique about the place, and wherever you look, there are signs of worship of some sort or another, as people from Christians to Pagans celebrate this place filled with secrets and stories untold.

The world of myth and religion collide here. It is said there is a hidden cave beneath the hill through which you can pass in to the fairy realm of Annwn. There dwells the lord of the Celtic underworld Gwyn ab Nudd with the Cauldron of Rebirth. On the flip side legend has it that the Holy Grail was brought here by Jesus’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The Cauldron and the Grail were both the object of quests for King Arthur and his knights.

We stopped half way to the top and ate our packed lunch, enjoying the breathtaking, panoramic views. Looking at the lonely Tower, it was hard to imagine this had once been a 14th century church of St. Michael. There are seven terraces you can just make out in the hillside, as you climb and to the this day, nobody really knows what they were used for. For me, this was a great place to teach my children about myths and legends, to encourage them to question and use their imaginations to explore what might have happened here, what the terraces might have been, and to query their own beliefs.

Once you climb back down to the bottom, and your legs have stopped shaking, you must visit the Chalice Well Peace Gardens, also known as the Red Spring. According to legend the Chalice Well is believed to have sprung from the ground at the location where the chalice (the Holy Grail), that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and in which drops of His blood were caught during the Crucifixion was placed.

Here in the beautiful gardens you are invited to switch off your phones and enjoy a time of peace and reflection. It's a bit like being in a library, an unspoken rule of whispering immediately follows you as you make your way through. There are people meditating, doing yoga, some reading or just sitting quietly with their eyes closed. Being here seems to bring to life the legends of the Tor, giving a more spiritual essence to the entire place.

Yet again, religion and spirituality collide here, as some come for the so-called healing powers of the iron-rich water that runs from the well, whilst others come to tase the rusty liquid that is said to bare the taste of the nails used in the crucifiction of Jesus Christ. There are two places you can enjoy the healing properties of the water. One from the Lion's Head well which you can take sips from, and another area you can bath your feet in. No matter what you believe, the experience is something to savour. My children enjoyed immersing themselves in the magic of it all, bathing the bruises they've gathered from playing football and climbing trees.

The fees for Chalice Well are:

Adults - £4.60

Children (5 to 17 years) - £2.30

Concessions - £3.80

Once you leave Chalice Well Gardens, head into Glastobury town and walk down the eclectic street towards your final destination, Glastonbury Abbey. The spiritual vibes are evident and jump at you as you walk past shops selling tie-dye T-shirts, incense and King Arthur related trinkets. Pass by historical buildings and have a drink in the George and Pilgrims, the oldest purpose built pub in the South West of England. Dating back to the 1400s where you will find even more references to King Arthur and Lady Guinevere.

Glastonbury Abbey is well worth a visit. Not only for the amazing ruins but also the museum and the wildlife walk. It's no surprise that the link between myth and legend, spirituality and religion, continues at Glastonbury Abbey, this time, bringing us closer to King Athur and Joesph of Arimathea. Since Medieval times, the abbey has held legendary status as the earliest Christian foundation in Britain linked to Joseph of Arimathea and the burial place of King Arthur.

It is said that Arthur was taken to the Isle of Avalon to die, although the whereabouts of Avalon were not known. In 1191 Glastonbury’s monks announced that they had found a lead cross in a grave with two bodies, that of a tall man and a woman. The cross was inscribed “Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur, with Guinevere his second wife, in the isle of Avalon…”.

The style and wording of the lead cross inscription convinced medieval people that this was the grave of Arthur. It is now believed that the cross was a forgery of an earlier artefact. Similar crosses with this style of writing have been found in 11th-century monks’ graves at Canterbury.

When Joseph arrived in Britain he is said to have landed on the island of Avalon and climbed up to Wearyall Hill (sometimes called Wirral Hill). Exhausted, he thrust his staff into the ground and rested. By morning his staff had taken root (see the picture of the Holy Thorn). With his twelve followers he established the first monastery at Glastonbury and built the first wattle church; in one version of the story Christ himself travelled with Joseph from the Holy Land and helped in the building work. Finally it was believed that Joseph had been buried somewhere at the abbey.

Glastonbury, like Tintagel in Cornwall, South Cadbury in Somerset and Caerleon in South Wales, is linked by tradition to King Arthur. Glastonbury Abbey is said to have been his final resting place. What do you think? Make this Glastonbury Myths and Legends day out part of your bucket list and decide for yourself what you believe, fact or fiction? Myth or reality?

Admission Prices:

From May 17th admission* to the abbey will be:

Adults: £11 Over 60s: £9.90 Students: £9.90 Under 16s: £6.60

Kids go free this summer! From May 17th each paying day ticket adult may bring two children with them free of charge. Please ensure you book your child tickets when placing your order.

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