Avalon is the place where Arthur is said to have been taken when he was dying. There are lots of theories as to where Avalon might actually have been. Some say it was not a geographical place, but a euphemism for the otherworld. The first writer to mention Avalon is Geoffrey of Monmouth. In his "Historia Regum Brittaniae" he refers to it twice, calling it "Insula Avallonis". In his later "Vita Merlini" he calls it "Insula Pomorum" (Island of Apples) and states that it lies somewhere in the western sea. Celtic legend has a magical isles known as "ablach" which was "rich in apples", a variant of which may have been the root of the Avalon theme.


   Of those that claim Avalon to have a modern geographical equivalent, the most usual claim is Glastonbury. This belief has several supporting arguments. Avalon was often called the Isle of Avalon and in Malory, a barge arrives to carry Arthur over to it. As Glastonbury was once surrounded by marsh and sea, it can be said to be an isle. During the Norman era in 1191, the Glastonbury monks were in need of funds for rebuilding after a major fire destroyed much of the sites buildings. Fortunately, or one might say divinely insured, they turned up the graves and relics of many important personages including the grave of Arthur. The supposed authenticity is written of in a letter at the Abbey of Margam in South Wales and was verified by Gerald of Wales but nothing remains of the grave except a marker of the site. The cross disappeared and the bones found were removed and put on display by Edward I and later re-interred before the High Altar in the abbey church but  disappeared by the sixteenth century. The changing story and the luck that the discovery was made when the abbey most needed funds have often cast doubt on the claim. (See the Glastonbury cross section).

However, Glastonbury is not the only contender. Other contenders with staunch supporters are the Scilly Isles off Cornwall's coast, Isle of Man, Iona, Aballava near Camboglanna, Isle Aval in Brittany, and Appledore in Cornwall.

Emain Ablach

   Our earliest reference to Avalon, found in an Irish text, links a place called Emain Ablach with the god Manannan mac Lir. Because Manannan's name is often linked to the Isle of Man, this island is sometimes identified with Emain Ablach. Norma Goodrich took up this theme in her treatment of the "historical" Arthur.


   One candidate for Arthur's Avalon is Burgh-by-Sands in Cumbria at the west end of Hadrian's Wall. The Romans called the fort Aballava, a name which derives from the same "apple" word found in Avalon. Aballava is very near both the Eden River and the Solway Firth. One of the sites selected as Camlann, the Roman Camboglanna just to the east on Hadrian's Wall, is on a tributary of the Eden. But others believe that Avalon is in Britanny, as in Ile Aval below or as Geoffrey Ashe depicts for Riothamus, his contender for Arthur, the small French town of Avallon in Burgundy and the last known sighting of Riothamus during his retreat.

Ile Aval

   Judy Shoaf in Arthurnet wrote that the only known island to actually bear the name of "apple" is Ile Aval just off the coast of northern Brittany, not far west of where Chanao's (an Arthur contender) last battle was fought. In Rich's and Begg's 'On the Trail of Merlin', Ile Aval is briefly discussed. Beyond being Avalon in Michel Rio's book 'Merlin', there appears to have been an ancient causeway constructed to link the island with the mainland. Also, there is a megalith enclosed by drystone walls. "At one corner of the wall stands a [stone] cross. There are "fallen menhirs" and a "double alignment in the vicinity", all indicating that this was "once an important [sacred] site".

Appledore in Cornwall

See August Hunt's Quest for Avalon short essay discussing some of the alternatives and why Appledore should be considered.