St Margaret’s Chapel and Almshouses – A Quiet Spot in Glastonbury
Lots of people come to Glastonbury for the events and gatherings, when the town becomes even more vibrant and colourful and a wonderful place to meet up with old and new friends. Sometimes it can all get a bit noisy and overwhelming, as you may find (depending on the time of year) that the High Street is full of Goddess worshippers, Fairies, Hari Krishna’s, zombies, UFOlogists, occultists, bikers, Fun Runners, Carnival watchers, buskers, coach loads of elderly ladies from Macclesfield or French schoolchildren. You can see them all on my helpful tourist map.
A Good Thing
I generally think of all this as A Good Thing, but what if you just want a moment of peace and quiet in the town, but away from the crowds? It’s hard to think where to go – there’s Glastonbury Abbey (the quietest spots being the lovely herb garden, the seats around the duck pond and the wildlife sanctuary with its massive badger setts up towards the Abbey House), but if you don’t have a season card you’ll have to pay to get in, and even there you might find a musical or theatrical event going on, or a Medieval Fayre, or a Pilgrimage weekend, or the Glastonbury Extravaganza, or…well, click here for the Abbey event guide and you’ll see.
If you carry on down Magdalene Street, past the abbey entrance and then, on the other side of the road, past St Mary’s Church and the Pump House , you will come to a narrow alleyway with a handrail down the middle. Head on through the arched doorway and you have found the most peaceful spot in town.
The first thing you’ll find is a Finger Labyrinth. You may want to stop for a moment, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and then trace the labyrinthine path with your finger to the heart at the centre.
Now you are feeling more centred (or wondering why you’d just spent 10 minutes doing something that feels a bit silly), carry on and you’ll find the doorway to St Margaret’s Chapel on your left where you can light a candle and spend a moment in reflection in this peaceful place. Outside you will find a well-tended garden facing the remaining almshouses. The interior of one of the almshouses has been recreated to give an idea of the monastic simplicity of life when these small rooms still housed the poor and needy. Another of the almshouses is home to an exhibition which gives you a sense of the history of this special place.
There’s no admission charge, but you are welcome to make a donation towards the upkeep and to ensure that there is always a quiet space to retreat to in the centre of town. You’ll find more information about the history of the Chapel and Almshouses, including opening times, on the St Margaret’s Chapel Website.
I loved this painted stone at the entrance to the chapel, which gently reminds you why you are here.
This article originally appeared on the Middlewick Holiday Cottages Blog. Wonderful places to stay in the countryside on the edge of Glastonbury, with a farm shop and occasional events and gatherings.
All photos and text copyright Vicki Steward.
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