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Did you know there is currently a £2 single fare cap on the no.77 Buses of Somerset route? The bus starts at Yeovil bus station and finishes its journey in Wells, stopping at places in Ilchester, Somerton, Compton Dundon, Street and Glastonbury. To the delight of my vehicle-loving two year old, we took a family bus adventure for a day out around the colourful, mystical town…
Most people have heard of Glastonbury festival, it’s beamed into our homes every year (although I must admit I can never watch – especially if it’s sunny, as the FOMO just takes over!), but how many know the sleepier, mystical – yet no less whacky – Somerset town?
Steeped in legend, mythical folklore permeates almost every facet of the town, captivating hordes of visitors throughout the centuries, and making it one of the most intriguing destinations in the county. Having devoted a significant portion of my younger years longing to be a hippy, Glastonbury very much speaks to the yin and yang loving, tie-dye floaty, rainbow colour-appreciating parts of me. I often take my crystal-obsessed daughters to scour the shops there, much to their delight.
In addition to its boho soul, Glastonbury is an extremely picturesque spot, full of fascinating buildings and rural heritage, set against the backdrop of the iconic Tor. Whether you’re following ley lines or searching for the Holy Grail, seeking historical ruins or sensational views, looking to entertain the kids, or just after a vibrant day out, Glastonbury’s eclectic, non-conformist environs offer a unique Somerset adventure. Once you’re in the town, much of it is walkable and handily, it’s well-connected to Yeovil, Wells and Bristol by bus.
Here are some of the best things to do in Glastonbury:
What to do in Glastonbury
1. Climb Glastonbury Tor
Climbing the iconic Glastonbury Tor is a Somerset must-do activity and makes an exciting adventure for families. The conical hill – whose spiritual connections are linked to Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail, leyline energies and Jesus himself – rises dramatically out of the flat Somerset levels, with a 14th century church tower at its peak.
It’s a steep, short climb to the top, where you’re rewarded with sweeping 360 degree views over Somerset’s green and pleasant lands. Or, you can extend your walk further, and take a circular route up from the town via Dod Lane, following sign posts past Avalon Orchard, to a zigzagging path up the ‘back’ of the hill.
This way, you get the return journey down the main path, with what feels like the whole of Somerset laid out before you.
2. Drink the water at Chalice Well
Located at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Well – also known as the Red Spring – is a spiritually significant spot that makes for a peaceful peruse.
One of the UK’s most ancient wells, people have been coming here for over two thousand years to drink the waters of this natural spring – sample some yourself from the lion head fountain.
According to Christian mythology, Chalice Well marks the site where Joseph of Arimathea hid, buried or washed (depending on which story you read) the Holy Grail that caught Christ’s blood, and as a result, the waters flowed red (the iron content of the water gives it a distinctly reddish appearance).
Whether you believe the legend or not, it’s a beautiful sanctuary, with flower-filled gardens that are separated into ‘rooms’, and copper-red spring waters flowing throughout.
3. Seek out over 50 murals on the Glastonbury street art trail
If grey UK skies have left you feeling in serious need of an injection of colour, Glastonbury provides a vibrant antidote. As well as its quirky buildings painted in a rainbow of colours, the town has a mural trail, with over 50 (and counting) visual masterpieces by local artists in its outdoor gallery.
Not only is it fun to seek out the eclectic collection, but you’ll no doubt discover some weird and wacky corners of Glastonbury you’ve never seen before.
4. See the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey
The extensive 12th century ruins of Glastonbury Abbey sit within 36 acres of parkland in the centre of town. As with many sites here, the history surrounding the abbey is enshrined in ancient myth, more so than any other abbey in England.
Since Medieval times, it has held legendary status as the earliest Christian foundation in Britain linked to Joseph of Arimathea, and is thought to be the burial place of King Arthur.
According to the story, Joseph of Arimathea came here with the chalice, or Holy Grail from the last supper, possibly accompanied by Mary Magdalene or Jesus himself – and wearily planted his staff in the ground on what is now Wearyall Hill. The staff grew into the Holy Thorn Tree that now has venerated offspring across the town, including inside the abbey grounds.
This tale, which also gave rise to the Jerusalem’ hymn, connects through Holy Grail themes to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, whose ‘burial spots’ are designated within the abbey.
Kids’ admission is free at Glastonbury Abbey – each paying adult can bring two children free of charge. Check their website for events and activities that take place all year round.
Bus tip: the no.77 bus stops at Glastonbury Town Hall, right outside the entrance to Glastonbury Abbey.
5. Browse Glastonbury’s quirky shops
The abundance of crystal, witchcraft and New Age shops scattered throughout the old market town streets adds to Glastonbury’s enchanting aura. With chalk mandalas etched on the ground and a whiff of incense in the air, the main high street and its eccentric alleyways are particularly fun to explore.
Shop windows brim with technicolour clothing, vintage finds, gemstones, dreamcatchers and floaty hippy attire, with names like The Wonky Broomstick, Fairyland Aromatics, Goddess Temple Gifts, ‘Man, myth and Magik’ above the door. And barely a chain store in sight.
6. Check out Somerset Rural Life Museum
Located just below Glastonbury Tor, Somerset Rural Life Museum examines the rich social and agricultural history of Somerset from the 1800s onwards. Delve into the county’s heritage to learn more about the landscape, food, farming, working life and rural crafts, then explore the cider orchard and magnificent 14th century Abbey Barn. During school holidays there are often family arts and crafts activities to get involved with.
7. Set your eyes to the skies at RSPB Ham Wall
Between November and February, mesmeric starling murmurations can be seen nearby above the RSPB reserve at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath’s Avalon Marshes. Murmurations are when starlings gather in their tens of thousands, then swoop and dive in unison like a shoal of fish, creating mind-boggling aerial choreography.
Find out where they roosted the night before by calling the Starling Hotline on 07866 554142. But be warned, there is no guarantee they will be visible there on the night you visit. Murmurations can start an hour or so before sunset, so wrap up warm and arrive early – RSPB Ham Wall advises getting there by 2pm to spot other birdlife on the reserve beforehand and beat the crowds.
If you’re visiting outside of these months, there’s plenty of wildlife to spot thanks to the care that is taken to create the ideal conditions for animals, minibeasts and wetland birdlife. Visitors will find over 3 miles of trails, viewing platforms and hides, a children’s playground, plus a variety of habitats – reedbeds, open water, woodlands and grasslands conceal otters, water voles, a third of the UK’s population of bitterns (of the heron family), kingfishers and more.
The main track is wide, with a raised hard surface, and is a local cycle path. Ham Wall Loop: 2 miles (3 km), takes about 1.5 hours, circular walk from the car park following a scenic trail along Glastonbury Canal. Other trails include Walton Heath: 1 mile, Loxtons Marsh Trail: 0.75 mile and the Boardwalk Trail: 200 m circular boardwalk.
- Getting here: Free admission, car park £3 for non-members.
- The nearest bus stops are: Meare – 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away – 668 service, Ashcott – 2.5 miles (4 km) away – 75 or 29 services. The walk to the reserve from both villages is along fast single-track roads with no pavements.
8. Cycle the Bittern Trail
Running through the Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall nature reserves between the town of Glastonbury and the Avalon Marshes Centre, The Bittern Trail is a family-friendly, mostly traffic-free cycling and walking trail through four miles of the Avalon Marshes.
9. Pop to Wells on the bus
The number 77 bus picks up passengers outside Glastonbury Town Hall and along the Old Wells Road, and can deposit you in the medieval city of Wells in around 15 minutes for a cost of just £2 (kids under 15 go free).
There you can marvel at the famous 850-year old Wells Cathedral – a sight to behold inside and out, travel back in time at Vicar’s Close, a cobbled cul-de-sac containing 27 650-year old, intact Grade 1 listed houses, wander through the gardens of Bishops Palace and potter through its age-old streets.
It’s a really affordable, convenient and fun (especially if you’re a toddler!) way to travel between these two deeply historic places.
10. Go to the park
Ok, not necessarily one of THE main reasons to go to Glastonbury, but if you’re visiting the town with kids it’s handy to know there are a couple of lovely playgrounds near the town centre and the Tor.
Abbey Park Playground is, as the name suggests, close to Glastonbury Abbey and has the ruins (albeit over the top of the fence) as its backdrop. Another, on the temptingly titled ‘Cinnamon Lane’, is looked over by the Tor and is not far from the main path that leads up the famous hill.
11. Walk the Glastonbury Way
The Glastonbury Way has been developed to include places of pilgrimage, countryside and key parts of the town centre. Totalling around seven and a half miles, the route can be taken on by experienced walkers looking for some serious rambling, as well as those after more gentle exercise, or simply wanting to explore the town. The walk can be done in one day or in sections over a number of days.
A map leaflet is available at the Glastonbury Information Centre for £2 or you can download The Glastonbury Way App.
12. Experience a wassail
Wassailing has its origins in Anglo-Saxon traditions, originally taking place on Twelfth Night (originally the 17 January, before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752). Rooted in pagan practices, the centuries-old ritual aims to ‘awaken’ the apple trees from their winter slumber. The ceremony involves blessing the orchards, reciting incantations, dancing, singing traditional songs and clattering pots and pans to scare away evil spirits, ensuring a plentiful apple harvest in the coming autumn.
As Somerset is apple/cider country, and pagan rituals are familiar territory for Glastonbury, there are of course several places to take part in a wassail in the town.
Check out Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury Abbey (Abbey Cider is made from apples grown in the orchard here), Alfred Gillet Trust, Street.
13. Attend Glastonbury Festival
The famous festival doesn’t really need any explaining, but I can’t not mention the world’s largest greenfield music and performing arts festival. Everyone should go at least once. If you can get tickets that is! You’ll need to be registered well in advance to be in with a chance of getting tickets, and then several devices being refreshed continuously when the ticket sale goes live.
Glastonbury Festival is not only a music lovers’ paradise, it’s also a 24-hour city of entertainment, with everything from cinema to circus, art and performance on offer for five days straight.
Getting to/around Glastonbury on public transport
Buses of Somerset operate 40 bus routes around the county and this winter, they are encouraging locals to say SAY BUS!
The no. 77 bus starts at Yeovil bus station and finishes its journey at Wells Bus station, stopping at Ilchester, Somerton, Compton Dundon, Street and Glastonbury. In Glastonbury, the bus stops right in the town centre and is a really convenient, not to mention great value way of travelling around Somerset.
As part of the Help for Households initiative, there is currently a £2 single fare cap on this bus route (more details here). The deal extends into the whole of Somerset – get a single ticket anywhere in the county and it will cost you just £2. It’s an absolute bargain given the price you’d pay for petrol or parking.
The no. 376 bus (otherwise known as The Mendip Xplorer) connects Glastonbury with Bristol and also has a £2 single fare cap on the route – outstanding value!
Want to explore more of Somerset by bus?
If the sound of cheap bus fares to get you round the county sound dreamy, you should also know that in the Taunton town zone, all single tickets are now just £1 (!) per journey.
The £1 single fare can be paid on buses by contactless devices (bank card, smartphone or smartwatch). If paying by cash and to help bus staff, it’s appreciated if the exact fare is tendered.