Two GPL Librarians in England, Post #6: Avebury, Glastonbury Tor, Bath, and Tintern Abbey

Prehistoric Avebury

It’s a long trip by car — about four hours — from Haslingden to the region around Bath where we headed next.  Leaving first thing in the morning following our wonderful excursion the day before into the Yorkshire Dales, Gareth had to navigate through the snarls of traffic around Manchester and then Birmingham — the two largest cities in England after London.  Our first destination was to be the stone circle at prehistoric Avebury, where we arrived about midday.

Avebury is of course less well-known than Stonehenge, but I had heard from more than one person that the latter site was a disappointment, mostly because visitors must view Stonehenge from a distance.  At Avebury, on the other hand, the stones are located right, smack in the middle of a little village, and you can go right up and touch them if you like — and I made sure to touch a bunch of them!

Please refer back to this post for a couple of Greensboro Public Library’s holdings on stone circles, if you’re interested.

We lunched in Avebury at an ancient tavern with a thatched roof called The Red Lion.  The lovely barmaid had one of those perfect peaches and cream complexions the English ladies are so famous for.

Glastonbury Tor

After Avebury, we headed for Glastonbury — the famous site associated with Arthurian legend.  Though we had lovely weather, this time of year the days are unfortunately quite short — it was getting dark by 4:00 or 4:30 — and we needed to make it to our bed and breakfast destination near Bath by sunset if at all possible.  Glastonbury was a bit of a detour and Gareth had to endure countless roundabouts to get us there while there was still light, but get there we did and I managed a few nice snaps of the Tor.

I can’t say why I’ve long been so fascinated by Glastonbury Tor.  I’ve frankly never been particularly interested in Avalon, King Arthur, etc., though these are familiar stories from the time I was a tiny boy.  Sometimes I think my interest in the Tor stems from a resemblance to North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain, though of course the tower on the Tor is manmade and the hill has been terraced.  The Tor also dominates the landscape for miles around as you approach Glastonbury, much as does Pilot Mountain from Highway 52. 

If you want to read more on King Arthur and Glastonbury, Greensboro Public Library has got just the book:  Geoffrey Ashe’s King Arthur’s Avalon; The Story of Glastonbury.

By nightfall we had reached our final destination for the day:  Bathford (just a few miles outside Bath) and a mid-18th century manor called “Eagle House,” which presently serves as a bed and breakfast. 

Armistice Ceremony at Bath Cathedral

Next morning, after a light breakfast, we took a taxi into Bath.  Our first stop was a spa that Heidi and Gareth had read about.  While they enjoyed a two-hour treatment, Frank and I wandered about town and were fortunate enough to happen upon the Armistice Day ceremony at Bath Cathedral.  Every year of course, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day (the traditional ending of World War I) the English honor their veterans, just as we do on our own Veterans Day.

Meeting back up with Heidi and Gareth, we spent the rest of the day walking about Bath, enjoying especially the fantastic Georgian architecture — most notably the Circus and the Royal Crescent. 

I also got to visit the home of the famous astronomer Sir William Herschel, whom I remember reading about so much as a teenager, when astronomy was an interest of mine.  Herschel was one of the greatest astronomers of his age.  The discoverer of the planet Uranus, he also excelled in telescope making and succeeded in building Newtonian reflectors which were unprecedented in optical excellence and size.  

Greensboro Public Library has lots of books on the history of astronomy, if you’d like to read more about Herschel.  Try The Age of Wonder:  How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes, or Michael D. Lemonick’s The Georgian Star:  How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos.

Tintern Abbey

Following a second night at Eagle House, it was back on the road:  our next goal the splendid ruin of Tintern Abbey, known to many perhaps from William Wordsworth’s famous poem, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.”  The site is actually located just inside Wales in the gorgeous Wye Valley.  Though the situation is not as picturesque as Whitby Abbey’s locale on the edge of a North Sea cliff, Tintern Abbey is better preserved.  In fact, about all that seems to be missing is the roof.

By the way, if you need a travel guide to England and Wales, Greensboro Public Library has usually got some copies of Fodor’s England on hand.

After Tintern Abbey and the Wye Valley, we made our way back to Haslingden.  Next day, we were to catch a train at Piccadilly Station in Manchester for a day in London.