This week’s dream: Southwest England’s mystical appeal
For anyone who went through a youthful King Arthur phase, a journey to southwestern England “may feel like a homecoming,” said Rosie Schaap in The New York Times. Legend has it that King Arthur was born in Tintagel and buried in Glastonbury— ostensibly once Avalon, where the sword Excalibur was forged. “Epic and romantic, the stuff of myth and mystery,” these towns and their surrounding countryside attract more than wannabe Knights of the Round Table. Mystic seekers of every stripe, including New Age acolytes and self-described witches and wizards, are all drawn to the region. Planning an itinerary that would include stops in Glastonbury and Dartington, Totnes and Padstow, Tintagel and Boscastle, I had to wonder: “What strange spell would it cast on me?”
In Glastonbury, nearly every shop sells crystals, incense, and divining cards, and “the coven-commerce vibe was a little depressing.” Within a day, though, the town entranced me. At “strikingly serene” Glastonbury Abbey, where Arthur is purportedly buried, I walked among ruined walls and ancient trees, feeling the strong tug of some unseen charm. In Totnes, after a “hallucinatory” and “dizzying” trip through the Timehouse Muzeum, I unwound with some strong cider (a Devonshire specialty) in a pub’s back garden, warmed by the locals’ openness of spirit. “This, I think, is the region’s most potent magic.”
Perched on a cliff above the cove where the wizard Merlin may have lived, Tintagel Castle looks epic regardless of whether the stories are true. “The sight of the sea made me stop and be still: The water is palest aquamarine, lapped by darker greens at the coastline, framed by rock and ruin, indelible.” Just outside of town, the woods and waterfalls in St. Nectan’s Glen are “equally enchanting.” An innkeeper there told me, without elaborating, to watch out for magical orbs. No orbs crossed my path, but “I felt the same enveloping peace I’d known at Glastonbury Abbey. I started to wonder if I, too, were being guided to stay.”
At the Covenstead, a Glastonbury B&B (covenstead.co.uk), rooms start at $65.