Festival season has started but for some reason I've never managed to blog about my past experiences. Glastonbury is one of my favourites but I've decided to forgo it for the considerable future because I've started to find it too big. These days I'm a fan of smaller, intimate festivals but despite that I still have excellent memories of Glastonbury and I definitely do hope to return one day.
To make up for never blogging about my previous 5 trips to the festival I thought I'd put together a little post about why I love it there so much.
1. There is so much to do
The thing I love about Glastonbury is the sheet amount of things you can do. Over the years I've realised that the fewer bands you want to see the better. The very first year I went to Glastonbury my friends and I were so determined to see all the bands we loved that we spent most of the festival running from stage to stage (which is extremely difficult in knee high mud) that we didn't have much time for anything else.
There are a ton of different areas to explore from the circus to the green fields to the park and not forgetting about the south-east corner where all the night time antics happen. Yes, there's an abundance of great bands to see (the park, the other stage and John Peel tent are normally my go to spots) but I'm almost more interested in the arts and crafts and holistic therapies. I love checking out the different tents in the healing fields and the permaculture space is a lovely, quiet spot for some down time. The Greenpeace area has a brilliant children's section that's come complete with a giant pirate ship climbing frame and cat in the hat cafe. I also love the little library and Dr Who style telephone box. Around the rest of the site there's a cinema, a circus and so much more on offer that I can't even begin to mention it all here. The festival is so large that even after 5 days on site it's easy not to see everything available. I hear this year they're even opening a new woods section.
Glastonbury really is the place to throw off the shackles of the everyday grind and go completely mental. There are so many different party places that will cater to whatever sort of mood you're in.
There's the Dance Village where DJs spin their records until the early hours. Revellers dance away with their glow sticks all night long without a care in the world. The south-east corner is probably the busiest place at the festival to be once the sun goes down and it's easy to understand why. With lots of different areas from creepy freak shows to an NYC underworld this is an all night mad house that transforms itself once the night sets in. I love checking out the different themed bars and joining the revellers as the wonder around aimless, enjoying the music and watching the many different dancers and light shows. Embrace your inner hedonist and go with the flow as you join the masses and party the night away. I really love The Park which is slightly more chilled out compared the other venues but still has a ton of options from the silent disco to the underground Rabbit Hole bar. Plus Arcadia is a must visit one night to watch enormous robots dance and breathe fire.
One of the most famous aspects of Glastonbury is the stone circle, found in the far south of the festival. This is where everyone congregates to watch the sunrise and chill out before heading back to their tents to catch a few hours sleep. There's a great fireworks display here on the first night and the atmosphere is always mellow with a slight buzz. The familiar sound of laughing gas canisters pierces the sky every few minutes and the distinctive smell of hand rolled cigarettes permeates the air in a constant haze. I love it here, it's a great place to unwind and really take in everything that makes this festival so special. Plus it's one of the highest points on the site so the views are terrific, especially at night when the entire festival twinkles in a magical light.
3. The Park
The Park is my very favourite area in the entire festival. My number one location to camp is Pennard Hill which is pretty central in terms of the festival site. You're right next to The Park and Other Stage plus the Stone Circle and green fields are close by as well. Because of the optimum location it's one of the most popular places to camp which means you have to arrive at the crack of dawn to secure a camping spot here. As for The Park, the area next to the hill, there's loads going on including one of the major festival stages, the beautiful ribbon tower, the famous Glastonbury sign and lots of great bars and food stalls.
As I said in the previous section, I really like The Park at night. There's a great party vibe without it being too hectic. There's a really big silent disco and quite a few different bars including the mysterious Rabbit Hole which really does feel like an Alice in Wonderland dream world. The thing I love to do most in The Park is to lie back on the hill when the sun it out, listen to whatever band is on the stage and chill out big time. This is my normal go-to plan after having a wild Friday night.
Apart from the iconic Glastonbury sign up on the hill, the other big attraction is the beautiful ribbon tower. There's always a bit of a queue to climb it but it's really worth it for the terrific views over the festival site. I think it's open 24 hours and whilst I've never been up it at night I can definitely vouch for a day time visit as the views are impressive, especially on a sunny day.
4. All the food
Glastonbury is huge which means there needs to be a lot food for sale. In recent years I've definitely scene a shift in catering for more optimum street food vendors but due to the absolutely enormous size there's no avoiding the smell from the crappy burger vans and Chinese noodle stalls. That being said you definitely don't have to eat there as there's so many other terrific options to try.
These days some of my favourite festival food trucks include the 24 hours crumpet shack, Anna Mae's Mac n Cheese, The Cheese Truck for toasted sandwiches, any sort of Mexican joint (Luardos does great burritos), Grillstock or Smokestack for pulled pork, anywhere that sells halloumi and falafel wraps, Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company for lobster, Goan Fish Curry, and Pieminister or Square Pie for pies, duh.
There's probably even more amazing food options available since I was last there as well. I love to spend the days grazing and trying as many different food options as possible. You need something to soak up all the sweet cider after all.
5. The Noise
It might sound silly but I love the sound of Glastonbury. It's the festival that never sleeps and even at 6am there's a slight buzz in the air. By this time the programmed music has normally stopped but you can here people walking back to their tents, chatting away, playing music from their phones or signing a drunken ballad or two. Soon after that the birds begin to sing and it isn't long until The Pyramid stage begins to sound check and the buzz from the breakfast food trucks start to increase.
There's is always some sort of sound in the air and I absolutely love it. I love hearing the music from the hundreds of different acts, I love hearing the laughs from the comedy stages, I love hearing the passionate monologues from Billy Bragg's Leftfield stage, I love the sound of gas canisters, I love the sound of sizzling food, and I love hearing the brief stories of last night's antics from the people who walk past you on the paths.
When it's all over and I'm at home, clean from a bath with freshly washed hair, I realise how much I miss the sounds of 100,000 people crammed into a field. I sit on by bed listening to my ears ring, aching in every inch of my body but actually wishing I could be back in that field and listening to all the joyous sounds one more time.