Glastonbury is a thriving market town in Somerset, which has been a place of pilgrimage for thousands of years. The town is clustered around the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, England’s largest abbey, set in 36 acres of parkland. It is the legendary burial place of King Arthur and his Queen, Guinevere. King Arthur, dying from his wounds received in battle, was taken by boat to Glastonbury, it still being an island in the low lying Somerset Levels.
Legend also says that Joseph of Arimathea, the Virgin Mary’s uncle, first arrived at Wearyall Hill. Years later, Joseph returned and built a simple place of worship, on what later became the Abbey’s Lady Chapel.
Seen from a great distance around Glastonbury, Glastonbury Tor rises above the Somerset Levels to 158 metres. It is recognised as a holy hill. It is said that people develop profound personal relationships with it. The Tor is managed by the National Trust. At the summit is a tower, the remains of St. Michael’s Church, from where there are panoramic views over three counties.
Glastonbury is now synonymous with the annual music festival. Its official title is the, “Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts”. It is held on a 900 acre site which, for most of the year, is a dairy farm. Worthy Farm at Pilton, 7 miles from Glastonbury, is owned by Michael Eavis, who had the idea to hold a two day festival in 1970. On 19th September 1970, T-Rex performed, the ticket price being £1, which included free milk. From an attendance of 1,500 in 1970, “Glastonbury” has grown to an international event, attracting 175,000 festival goers over 3 days. Now 700 acts will perform on 80 stages. The Festival will be headlined in 2011 by U2, Coldplay and Beyonce. It is estimated that “Glastonbury” contributes £100 million annually to the United Kingdom economy.