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The Glastonbury Tor

Submitted by Bethany on Fri, 01/18/2019 - 10:00

The Glastonbury Tor is a large natural hill - the largest one in the area, topped by a single tower (all that remains of a larger structure) known as St. Michael's Tower. You can see the tower on top of the hill for miles around as you drive into the surrounding towns. The Tor has been a sacred site for both Christian and pagan religions over the centuries, and yesterday we set out to explore this fascinating place. 


We started by driving fairly close to the hill and finding a random side street on which we could park. From there it was a hike up a gravel driveway, then through a kissing gate onto the grassy part of the hill. We didn't really know what we were doing which became fairly evident as we struggled to find our way up the hill. We took the first path we find that went up, thinking it must be the most efficient way to get there. 

That path took us higher at first, but it soon leveled off. We could see the levels higher than us - and people walking on them - but we couldn't figure out how to get there without navigating some steep sides of the hill without a path or good footholds. It didn't seem to be the smartest option so we spent a lot of time just wandering around, trying to find a way up from the level we were on to the next one. 

Once on each level, the walk was fairly easy, if a bit muddy. However, after a while, we realized we were walking back and forth along the hill, and never really getting higher or closer to the top. After we got home I read some literature on the Tor and learned that these flattened layers that surround it still have no real explanation as to what they were for or how they were created. Some people think they were agricultural fields and others believe them to be pagan works aligning with the sunrises.

My favorite theory is that it is meant to be a three -dimensional labyrinthine path to the summit. This idea was first suggested by Geoffrey Russell in 1968, and further explored and mapped out by Geoffrey Ashe in 1979. Both claim that a path leads through the terraces in the same style of the classical Cretan labyrinth found throughout the world. Perhaps I like this theory the most because it makes me feel better about all the wandering we did - that, and the views were incredible!

Eventually, as we watched people much higher up than us getting closer to the top, we decided to figure out where they were coming from. We walked much further around the side of the Tor than we thought we needed to, taking a few treacherous paths, and finally, we came across an actual path! Well, that certainly made things easier. Once on the real path, our ascent to the summit was quick and easy. (Well, as quick and easy as climbing hundreds of stairs ever is.)

When we finally reached the top of the Tor we turned around to take in the view and it was breathtaking. The views from the top are absolutely worth the effort to get there. This next picture shows another path we could have taken to the top, as well as, in the distance, the village of Street where we are staying! 

The tower that currently stands on the Tor is an incredible structure. This single tower that survives is thought to be the only thing that remains from a monastery that used to stand on the Tor, which was built in the 1360s and mostly destroyed in the 1500s. 

The structure is about three stories tall and features two beautiful arched doorways. The architecture even on this one standing piece is incredible, and it really made me think about the effort it would have taken to build something like this. The building of a tower like this on its own would have been difficult, and to do it at the top of the Tor would have made it that much harder. 

Occupation of the Tor itself dates back even further than the still standing structure. The first significant one was in the Early Middle Ages, and remains of a 5th-century fort have been found. Sometime between 900-1100CE, a monastic community was established here, including monastic cells and a church - all of which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1275. 

For those who believe in ley lines, the Tor is a significant place as it is believed that multiple ley lines converge here. There are two energy channels that run through and circle around the Tor. The Michael line has a masculine charge and the Mary line has a feminine charge. I don't know much about what exactly this means but you can read more about it here

Today the Tor and the tower that remains are in the keeping of the National Trust which maintains the site and keeps it free and open to the public. It is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area, just make sure you bring your hiking boots and some energy! And perhaps go for those established paths first thing. 

XOXO, Bethany



Your thoughts?

I also like the labyrinth explanation. Go with it :) The views are breathtaking. 

I just realized that you are 1.5 hours from Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coast. Since you have to drive for this housesit, I recommend a side trip. The photographs you'll get are lovely and worth talking about. There are other things to see in this area too. It's on an estate that allows public access (there may be a fee to park, I don't remember clearly).  

Haha, I will definitely stick with the labyrinth explanation, yay!

Your suggestion for a side trip sounds awesome! Unfortunately, since we have two dogs at this housesit we can't really be gone for long periods of time - about 5 hours at most. A three hour round trip might be worth it since we could have about two hours there, so we'll have to see. Of course, then I'd have to convince Joel that he wants to drive that far in an unfamiliar car on the left-hand side of the road... ;)


Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:59

In reply to by Bethany

Come on Joel! It is definitely an adventure to get there and then another one once you're there. Lefty driving, lefty round-abouts, roads that may lead to military training sites... so many good stories to be made by getting left and lost.