Glastonbury Abbey was originally founded by Joseph of Arimathea when he fled the Holy Land carrying the Holy Grail. When Joseph arrived in Britain, he thrust his staff into the ground to mark the spot where he would build his community. The staff took root and on that very spot grows the Glastonbury Thorn.
The owner also told me that the bones of King Arthur and his Guinivere were found in the abbey. The bones showed that Arthur was unusually tall, he said. (I've heard they always say that about kings.) Arthur and his wife were reinterred within the abbey.
With such wonderful stories, I had to go and see this abbey for myself. In the pouring rain, I reached the lovely ruined abbey of Glastonbury. Grass grows beneath the stately columns and graceful arches, and there is little shelter. The only building still intact is the Abbot's Kitchen, a large, beehive-shaped building. I had seen a replica of it already, at St. Michael's Mount, so this building has been famous for a long time. It seems the abbot ate extremely well.
I saw the site of Arthur's original grave. It was simply a grassy spot, and I felt no magic there. The place where Arthur and his wife were reinterred is marked only with a simple plaque.
I saw also the Glastonbury Thorn, and encountered a woman there, another Walding perhaps, who was gazing at the thorn with rapt attention. She told me that the Queen of England is sent a cutting from the Glastonbury Thorn every year. The thorn blooms at Christmas and Easter. Certainly it is a holy and perhaps a magical thorn. We all know that the magic at the heart of England is based on oak, ash, and thorn.
The Walding woman and I talked of climbing up Glastonbury Tor, but the rain drove us back. In the end, we each went our separate ways, and I headed back to my wagon and off towards the plains of Salisbury.
I tried to follow the main roads, but it was the start of the holiday season in Britain and the roads quickly became so crowded that it would have been faster to ride a turtle. I began to travel through the countryside instead, until finally, as it started to get dark, I came to a place called Norton St. Philip.
I stopped at the George Inn, which was built back in 1227. The main pub area was very crowded, but the innkeeper suggested that I eat in the dungeon. At first I thought perhaps he was too well acquainted with Waldings, but then I found that he was referring to one of the other dining rooms. I enjoyed an excellent supper in The Dungeon, but I could not stay the night, for they had no rooms to spare. The innkeeper said that, with the holiday season starting, everything in the area had been booked for weeks now, but that I might go over and see if they would let me stay at the gatehouse to Farleigh Castle.
I wasn't sure whether to take the suggestion seriously, but it was getting late, and there was nowhere else to go. I followed the innkeeper's directions and found a lovely stone building, a miniature castle, just off the main road. A very friendly man answered my knock, and asked if I had come to spend the night. I was amazed, but thankful that I would have somewhere to lay my head.
I was not too surprised to be led out to a small building behind the gatehouse, but when I saw the room I was being offered, I was humbled. The room was astonishing, accommodations fit for a king! The man told me that he and his wife had been given the job of converting the gatehouse into an inn called the Bath Lodge Hotel, and I think they have done a marvellous job. I slept better that night than perhaps any other night so far on my trip. It was a thrill to sleep in a real castle, and this one was so comfortable and friendly.
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A new friend in Britain told me about a road travel reporting site that might help if you're trying to avoid traffic.