Secret Landscape Tours takes you on a 10 day tour of Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
We visit many special places, including Stonehenge and Avebury, Glastonbury, Cadbury Castle, Tintagel, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. We will be experiencing stone circles, standing stones, stone rows, holy wells, fairy glens, ancient trackways and many other powerful places.
This tour takes you to the main sacred sites in the west of England. We will experience some stunning and hugely evocative landscapes.
You have the chance to experience these special places either with a friendly group of like-minded people or by yourself or perhaps with a friend.
The maximum number of people on this tour is 15. We like to keep our tours reasonably small.
DAY 1 - Picked up from Castle Cary station and taken to Glastonbury and your accommodation. Free late afternoon and evening.
DAY 2 - Tour of Glastonbury.
DAY 3 - Tour of Stonehenge, Avebury and nearby sites.
DAY 4 - Wells Cathedral, Priddy Nine Barrows, Burrington Combe, Aveline's Hole, Stanton Drew Stone Circles, Cheddar Gorge.
DAY 5 - Leave Glastonbury. We visit wild and beautiful Dartmoor, to explore some evocative ancient sites. Arrive at our accommodation at Penzance in Cornwall.
DAY 6 - We visit Boscawen-un stone circle, St Just and little-known Bosca's Well and fogou. amongst other sites.
DAY 7 - We explore the stone circles, standing stones and holy wells of the West Penwith area of Cornwall, near Penzance.
DAY 8 - Stopping off at Bodmin Moor to visit some prehistoric stone monuments, we travel to Tintagel and St. Nectan's Glen. We stay in Tintagel for the night
DAY 9 - We leave Tintagel and travel to Cadbury Castle, possibly the ancient Camelot. We then return to Glastonbury, where we stay the night.
DAY 10 - We are driven to Castle Cary station for our train to London or other destinations.
Our tours normally start at 9.30am and finish at 5.30pm.
DAY ONE - We pick you up in the morning from Castle Cary railway station, the nearest station to Glastonbury. We take the 20 minute drive to Glastonbury, where you can drop your luggage off at your accommodation. We visit historic St. John's Church where we see a stained glass windon depicting St. Joseph of Arimathea. The tomb beneath the window is said by some to hold the bones of St. Joseph. We have lunch in the town and are given an orientation of the main places of interest. The afternoon is free time to visit the shops, relax and enjoy the special atmosphere of this unique place.
DAY TWO - Our day begins at 9.30am. We visit the holy sites of Glastonbury, starting with Wearyall Hill, where grows the Glastonbury Thorn, inexorably linked with Joseph of Arimathea. We then visit Chalice Well, a place of healing and vision and linked with the Grail mysteries. From the well garden, we can see Glastonbury Tor looming above and we walk the path up this atmospheric hill, place of Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the fairies. After we have descended the Tor, we disperse for an hour for lunch and a quick look at the shops in the town.
After lunch we explore the Abbey ruins, an extremely early Christian place of worship, with probable Pagan antecedents. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea founded the earliest church here, on land already sacred.
The inspiration behind the building of abbeys and cathedrals can partially be found in the natural world, particularly in trees and it is to trees that we travel to next - Gog and Magog, the two ancient Oaks, that were thought to be part of an ancient processional route to the Tor. These two mighty trees, thought to be over 1,000 years old, have a strong presence, despite Gog now bearing no leaves.
For our final destination, we travel three miles out of Glastonbury, onto the Levels and to the site of the Old Sweet Track. This Neolithic trackway, set in wooded, swampy land similar to those early times, was found by accident by a peat-cutter, Mathew Sweet, hence the name. Most of the trackway was re-buried after archaeological investigation, and we can actually walk on it, a foot or so under our feet!
This tour ends around 5.30pm and we are free to spend the evening as we wish - perhaps a relaxing supper in a pub, or a meal in one of Glastonbury's many restaurants.
DAY THREE - Today we visit Stonehenge, Avebury, West Kennett Longbarrow, Silbury Hill and The Devil's Den.
We start our day visiting Stonehenge, a drive of approx 90 minutes.
After an hour or so at Stonehenge, we drive to Avebury where we can walk amongst and touch the huge stones, one of which weighing over 50 tons! Peter will lead us to the sacred centre, where there was, up until the late 18th Century, a hugely tall Obelisk. Here we will gently attune with the stones.
After lunch at the pub in Avebury, we travel to a nearby Crop Circle (providing there is one!).These strange and mystifying structures are often centered in the Avebury area.
The West Kennet Longbarrow is visited next. This structure pre-dates Avebury and was a place of burial and ritual during early Neolithic times. We can actually enter this site and Peter will help us commune with the Ancestors.
Silbury Hill is our last site. This unique man-made hill is a hugely mysterious structure and a prominent feature in the ceremonial landscape.
DAY FOUR - We start our day with a visit to Wells Cathedral, based on the site of a Roman mausoleum. The first church was established here in 705 by King Ine of Wessex and was dedicated to St Andrew. The only remains are some excavated foundations and the baptismal font in the south transept.
The cathedral dates from the late 12th century. Wells cathedral has been described as "the most poetic of the English cathedrals". We spend a couple of hours in Wells, exploring not only the cathedral but also the Bishop's Palace, surrounded by a moat and the pool in which rise the springs which give Wells its name.
After Wells, we travel up to the Mendip Hills which rise above the city. We travel through the small village of Priddy, where an annual sheep fair and Gypsy horse fair is held every August. Just outside Priddy are the Priddy Nine Barrows, Bronze Age tumuli. These are a crescent of burial mounds, built to honour the leading members of a local tribe. We then stop for lunch at a nearby pub.
Burrington Combe is a beautiful gorge set deep in the Mendips. Here we visit the cave called Avelines Hole, where human bones were found, the earliest burial site in Britain, dating from Mesolithic times. Nearby is The Rock of Ages which inspired the famous hymn.
Stanton Drew Stone Circles, a 30 minutes drive, is our next site. Dating from around 2000BC, there are three stone circles at Stanton Drew, the Great Circle being one of the largest in the country.
Recent discoveries have found the remains of a highly elaborate pattern of buried pits which probably held timber poles, arranged in nine rings. This was an important ritual site, yet unlike Stonehenge and Avebury, is rarely visited. We will give ourselves time to attune to this special place. We end our day with a drive through spectacular Cheddar Gorge, one of the natural wonders of Britain.
DAY FIVE - We are picked up from our accommodation at 9.30 and we say our goodbyes to Glastonbury, for now we will be travelling on our trusty coach to the vibrant coastal town of Penzance in south-west Cornwall, where we will be spending the next few nights.
Our route takes us through the county of Devon and our first stop is at the market town of Ashburton, full of antique shops and art galleries and some lovely old buildings. We have an hour's free time here and then we all meet up at a wonderful tapas restaurant for lunch.
After lunch, we drive up to nearby Dartmoor. This wild, elemental and atmospheric area is full of ancient sites and legends. We travel to Dartmeet, a meeting place of rivers and one of the most beautiful areas of the Moor.
We visit the famous stone rows of Merrivale, enigmatic spirit paths, thought to date from late Neolithic times. We stop for tea in Tavistock, an ancient town with some wonderful old buildings.
We then drive through some beautiful country into Cornwall and arrive at our accommodation in Penzance Our evening is free for us to settle in and have dinner in one of the plentiful restaurants and pubs in this exquisite coastal town.
DAY SIX - We start our day with a visit to Boscawen-Un stone circle, still used for rituals today and thought to be one of the most powerful stone circles in Cornwall. We stay here for a while, communing with the energies of this sacred place.
We then visit the beautiful bay of Cape Cornwall and the Minack Theatre, carved from the cliffs. Near here we visit the Church of St. Levan and the split rock in the churchyard, a pagan sacred object. We have lunch in the charming town of St Just. Our final stop today is little-known and only recently re-discovered Bosca's Well and Fogou which we visit after a beautiful coastal drive. A fogou is a short underground stone-lined passage, thought to have been used for ritual purposes. We return to Penzance and have the rest of the day to explore the old streets and buildings of this vibrant community, perhaps relaxing in the tropical Morab Gardens.
DAY SEVEN - Today we visit Sancreed Holy Well, descending the steps down to the well chamber to commune with the waters. In the nearby ancient church are some fascinating ancient stone crosses dating from pre-Norman times. We then visit Carn Euny Iron-Age village site where we explore the stone ruins of the hut circles,fogou and holy well. Our next visit is to the Merry Maidens, a late Neolithic Stone Circle. This is amongst the best preserved of the Cornish stone circles consisting of 19 stones, with an entrance in the east. We also see The Pipers, two standing stones. We have lunch in Penzance.
We then travel a couple of miles to Madron Holy Well, one of the most visited wells in Cornwall, as can be seen by the large amounts of rags or clouties, tied to the branches of nearby trees. These represent petitions or wishes for health. Here we also see the 4th century baptismal chapel.
Lanyon Quoit is a dolmen or burial chamber. In the 18th century the structure was tall enough for a person on horseback to stand under, but in 1815 it was torn down by a storm and one of the uprights broken in half, so there are only 3 uprights today. However, before this collapse, this dolmen was seen to be aligned with the cardinal directions, which gives people to believe that ritual activity was important here.
We move on to the famous Men-an-Tol holed stone, which consists of 3 upright granite stones: a round stone with its middle holed out and 2 small standing stones to either side. There is said to be a fairy guardian here and local legend ascribes healing, if one passes through the hole. The circular stone aligns exactly with the centre stone of Boscawen-Un stone circle and St. Buryan church. This is just one of the many aligments of Cornish sacred sites, which posits intentional positioning and knowledge of the movements of the sun and moon and the planets.
.DAY EIGHT - We pack our bags and start the day by travelling through part of Bodmin Moor, a wild area of outstanding beauty. We visit the three great circles known as The Hurlers, which date from the early Bronze Age. Local legend has it that the stones represent local people who were turned to stone for playing the game of hurling on the Sabbath! These circles lie in a remarkable ceremonial landscape of stone rows, standing stones, cists, barrows and cairns. The numerous alignments apparent in this area suggest that the Hurlers may have been part of an ancient processional route. To the south-west are a pair of standing stones known as The Pipers. These may act as a "portal", giving access to The Hurlers from the west.
Having completed our explorations of this special area, we travel to north Cornwall and the small town of Tintagel, on the Atlantic coast, where we have lunch. Tintagel and Tintagel Castle, which we visit after lunch, are linked with King Arthur. The medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth cited Tintagel Castle as the birthplace of Arthur, who was conceived due to the machinations of the wizard Merlin. Merlin's Cave is situated on the beach below the castle. Archaeological discoveries discovered that an early Celtic fortress did exist here. Tintagel Castle is situated on one of the most dramatic sites in the whole of Britain. Situated on a rocky headland, with the sea crashing on the rocks below, this is a site of immense wild beauty.
We conclude our visit with a visit to St Nectan's Glen and Waterfall. St Nectan built a small sanctuary beside the Trevillitt River around 500AD. Just below his simple hermitage, of which little remains, is a waterfall and a rock basin, known as a "kieve" in the Cornish language. Here, at the foot of the waterfall, surrounded by high rocky cliffs, is a place of huge spiritual ambience. There have been many photographs of "orbs" at this special place, so bring your digital cameras!
The two small carved labyrinths at Rocky Valley are thought to date from at least 300 years ago and possibly even from the Bronze Age. They are an enigmatic emblem of our journey through life. We retire to our accommodation in Tintagel.
DAY NINE - We pack our bags and are picked up from our accommodation at 9.30am. We travel to the county of Somerset, to visit Cadbury Castle, another site linked with King Arthur, who was believed to have held court here. The earliest settlement was in Neolithic times and the site was also occupied in the late Bronze Age and throughout the Iron Age. The castle was first a hill fort built around 400BC. It was re-fortified at least five times during the following centuries
Evidence shows that there was a battle during the Roman times, around AD50. Local tradition, first written down by John Leland in the early 16th century, tells that Cadbury Castle was King Arthur's Camelot, meaning "land by the River Cam".
There was a Great Hall at Cadbury during the 5th Century AD and it is thought that Cadbury was close to Arthur's eastern frontier and thus would have been a strategic site.
From Cadbury, we travel to back to Glastonbuy and our accommodation for the night.
We join together in the evening for dinner, where we can share and evaluate our experiences over the last nine days and reflect on the memories given to us by some of the wonderful places visited.
DAY TEN - We are picked up from our accommodation and taken to Castle Cary station and go on to our various destinations, enlivened by our recent adventures. Safe journey to all!