Wells and Glastonbury Day Trip from London: A How-To Guide
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I’m a little bit in love with Somerset – there’s something about the rolling hills and tranquil villages of this county that instantly relaxes me. Not to mention the fantastic character that Somerset has – Bristol, on it’s Northern border is, after all, the most charismatic place I’ve ever known, and there’s plenty of quirky towns and interesting fables that make this historic area wonderfully unique. There’s so many options for days out in Somerset, Wells and Glastonbury being a perfect example.
Wells and Glastonbury have both been on my constantly expanding and never to end ‘to visit’ for a while, and now I’ve seen them I’m wondering why on earth I didn’t go sooner. They’re both wonderfully historic cities, revelling in the very best that the region has to offer.
Wells retains its marvellous medieval atmosphere, as many of the buildings lay unspoiled. The current standing cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and it has been a prominent British cathedral for centuries. Wells Cathedral has been described as both “unquestionably one of the most beautiful” and “the most poetic” of English cathedrals. With largely gothic architecture, well preserved secular buildings and fantastically maintained stained glass windows, the cathedral is a wonderful place to visit.
Vicars Close is known as the oldest residential street retaining all its own buildings in Europe, and Bishop’s palace has been the home of the Bishops of the Diocese of Bath and Wells for 800 years. The whole city is a charming bubble filled with old-world charm and fascinating history and is the perfect place for history lovers to visit.
Glastonbury is equally as intriguing in a different way. A hotbed for myths and legends, the town was supposedly the birthplace of Christianity in England, and it is a popular pilgrimage site. It has since become a popular destination for non-Christian visitors, who come to revel in the spiritual atmosphere of the town and drink the healing water at the Chalice Springs.
Glastonbury Tor has connections to ancient Pagan fables and has always been a place of Christian worship. King Arthur and the knights of the round table are also rumoured to have visited the Tor. Glastonbury Abbey was never fully restored after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and has since remained in ruin as the town centre has sprung up around it. The high street is, nowadays, eerie yet magical. Instead of the usual Sainsburys Locals and Boots the Chemists lining the streets, it is full with shops with hippy clothing, buildings offering tarot card reading and community buildings offering meditation classes. It’s the perfect place to go to get in touch with your inner zen!
Wells and Glastonbury Day Trip from London: Suggested Itinerary
Firstly, I must say that it’s expensive to do a Wells and Glastonbury day trip from London just using public transport. An option is to take a train from London Paddington to Castle Cary, and then a taxi from here to Glastonbury Town Centre. You could also take a train to Bristol Temple Meads and then transfer to a bus to Glastonbury – but this takes much longer. Buses connect Glastonbury and Wells.
The best option is to rent a car for the day or a little longer, or if you don’t want to rent a car (driving the M25 is a cultural experience in Britain though, trust me!), to spend 2-3 days in the area. Bristol and Bath are well worth checking out as well.
Hertz is a great car rental company, offering competitive rates and with branches all over London. Remember you’ll have to pay congestion charge and probably parking fees if you’re staying in Central London – if you stay somewhere more ‘neighbourhoody’ out of the charge zones you should be able to park for free. Read my where to stay in London guide for more information.
I’ll base this guide on presuming you are hiring a car. If you decide to do an alternative route, edit accordingly.
6:30am leave London
It should only take 2 and a half hours to drive from London to Glastonbury, but this is the UK – I promise we don’t complain about traffic for no reason ;). Still, sitting in standstill traffic on the M25 is a British experience kinda worthy of your UK bucket list. You’ll finally see where we get our famous British characteristic of talking about the traffic all the time from!
In all seriousness, leaving at 6:30 should hopefully get you into Glastonbury for 10am – as long as you aren’t vising during Glastonbury festival, then you’ll never get there.
10:00am arrive in Glastonbury town centre
Free parking can be had on the roads around Glastonbury town centre; some of it is time restricted, but you’ll only be spending an hour here anyway.
Part of the draw of Glastonbury as a town is just walking around and taking it all in. It’s got a wonderful hippy vibe, with people dressed in bright clothes, greeting each other in the street, lots of notices about community yoga classes and the most fantastic shops. Most of your time in Glastonbury centre will be spent marvelling at these shops, where you can purchase anything spiritual and natural.
It’s an experience just going into these shops, marvelling at the clothes and reading signs and books about spirituality. Try to have a who can spot the most mystical name competition, too!
There are lots of free things to do in Glastonbury, but the abbey isn’t one of them; it’s also hidden behind a wooden fence, making it difficult for peeping toms to get a glance. It’s £8.25 to purchase tickets at the gate or £7.34 to pre-book tickets online. The ruins are really beautiful, with a lot of history – worth it if you don’t mind paying the entrance fee.
11:30am Chalice Well
Either walk or drive up to Glastonbury Tor area. It’s only a 15 minute walk, or a short drive and there’s free parking on Ashwell Lane.
Before you start the trek up to Glastonbury Tor, you’ll want to stop at Chalice Well to stock up on water. These natural springs produce the clearest water, which supposedly has healing properties! There’s a white tap and a red tap – make sure to refill from the white tap (the red water has lots of iron in and tastes a bit like blood – although is worth trying just to experience!). If they’re open, the caves are well worth a look in. A spiritual place for centuries, they are where the springs were formed and are now a significant site for bathing and self-cleansing. If they’re not open, try them again on the way back down.
12:00pm Walk Up Glastonbury Tor
Time to trek up the hill! It doesn’t take too long (about 20 minutes) and there are steps most of the way. Enjoy the views all over Somerset as you ascend higher and higher, and make sure to snap an iconic photo with St Michael’s Tower at the top! There’s a compass dial the other side which tells you where to look and how far away various towns and cities are. I couldn’t quite make out Bath or Bristol, but could see a lot of local landmarks.
We originally planned to have a picnic at the top of the Tor, but it’s extremely windy. There’s lots of more sheltered areas where you can sit and enjoy your food. We had the picnic lunch of kings – sandwiches, olives, sundried tomatoes, vegetable sticks and hummus and strawberries and flapjack for afters! Absolutely delicious (sorry, I’m bragging)– but of course, for a picnic, whatever you can grab is just as great. It’s all about the experience after all.
Remember to check out Chalice springs on the way back down, if you couldn’t before!
13:30pm Leave to go to Wells
It’s a 15 minute car ride from Glastonbury to Wells. If you don’t have a car, buses leave every 20 minutes and costs just £3.50 for adults.
14:00pm Arrive in Wells
Free parking can be had on the edge of the centre – Wells is actually England’s smallest city, so it’s just a short walk into town.
Walk up to Bishop’s Palace. The gardens are free to enter until a certain point, where you have to pay to go any further and enter the palace itself. But the grounds and ruin of the building, as well as the moat and wall around the area, is pleasant to stroll around and admire. It costs £8.05 to enter the palace.
14:30pm Wells Market
Stroll to the cathedral through the farmer’s market. There’s lots of West Country produce here, which is a great experience if you’re just visiting the area. You can even nab some free samples if you flutter your eyelashes and smile sweetly!
15:00pm Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral is an absolute masterpiece and needs some time to be taken in fully. The exterior is gloriously well designed and sculptured, with plenty of significant details. I always find it baffling that it was made so long ago!
Entrance to the cathedral is done on a donation basis, so you don’t actually have to pay – but it’s important to retain the upkeep of the cathedral. The interior of the building is just as fascinating as the outside. There are different areas to pray for different things – such as a justice and peace area, where we sent a few vibes off to world peace. There’s also a very touching section dedicated to the men of Somerset who lost their lives in WWI. With choral music echoing round and fantastic architecture and stained glass windows to marvel at, an hour soon passes in the cathedral.
16:00pm Vicar’s Close
This road claims to be Europe’s oldest solely residential street, with all of its original buildings surviving. Without the cars, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported straight to another era.
There’s cobbled streets and fascinating medieval buildings. The wonder of this street is that people still live there (not the original inhabitants, of course), going about their daily lives in this legendary and beautiful location.
If you are driving back to London today, I’d recommend grabbing dinner in Wells and driving when it’s a little later – unless you fancy some more rush hour traffic, of course! If you are planning on spending some more time in Somerset, check into a hotel in Wells and head to Bath or Bristol the following morning.
You could also head back to Glastonbury to stay there and spend some time. If you have an extra day on your south west England itinerary, definitely check out Stonehenge and Avebury – this tour takes you to both.
Have you explored much of Somerset? What are your favourite cities and towns?
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