Ten Glastonbury tips from a 23-year veteran of the festival

The National's Tim Knowles first went in 2000. Here, he shares words of wisdom about packing, camping and embracing the inevitable rain

Glastonbury is one of the world's best-known festivals. Tim Knowles / The National
Powered by automated translation

From the point of view of a seasoned visitor, Glastonbury Festival is like no other.

But for anyone about to embark upon a weekend of music, art and muddy (or sunny) creativity in Worthy Farm for the first time, there are a few need-to-know details before you pack your wellies and embark upon the fun.

First off, the hard work is pretty much over. Successfully buying tickets for the festival is not easy, but it should be smooth sailing from there.

The first time I went to Glastonbury Festival was 23 years ago in 2000 and it has certainly changed a lot since then. That was before they installed the “super fence” in 2002, which stopped people from breaking in. Back then, people were camping outside the grounds and walking in and out freely. To say the vibe was a little gnarly would be an understatement.

But those were different times and we had David Bowie headlining, so all was right in the world.

It's fair to say I caught the Glastonbury bug and have now attended 10 times. Here are 10 things I have learnt for festival survival.

1. Make a playlist

This may sound arbitrary, but hear me out.

Stumbling upon new music is one of the treats of the festival. So to prepare, I like to go through the line-up to create the ultimate Glastonbury playlist. It puts you in the mood and will be part of the whole experience when you’re back at camp.

My only rule is to only feature songs by acts playing the year you go, and try to include at least one song from every act.

2. Making your way there

This depends greatly on where you live but most people are likely to either drive or get a train, and hopefully, most have made plans earlier than festival weekend.

But my advice is, if you're getting the train, avoid Castle Cary station in South Somerset – the one and only time I went there with my friends it took 30 minutes to get off the train (the platform was still full from the previous train), then three hours to get from the platform and onto a shuttle bus to the site, carrying all of our things for four nights of camping.

3. Embrace the rain

This year, the festival is shaping up to be a sunny one, with some rain showers on Sunday. But as a general rule, don’t be upset if it’s set to rain all weekend. Embrace it.

One of my best Glastonbury experiences was a washout because it brought everyone together. It also forced us to stay on our feet, which is more energising than when it’s hot and dry, and all people want to do is lounge around on the ground. Just make sure to plan for mud (and lots of it!), which brings us nicely to …

4. Pack sensibly

While it is possible to turn up at the festival with nothing but the clothes on your back and get everything you need there, it's a very risky move.

I try to be guided by the weather forecast but pack for all eventualities, especially warm clothing for when it gets cold at night.

A few must-haves include a head torch, for when you're walking back to your tent after dark; rehydration tablets, pop one in your water bottle every morning; battery pack, the days of hunkering down in a charging tent for an hour are long gone; and an air bed, for obvious comfort.

5. Where to camp

Nowadays, there are a good few glamping or camper van options available, but in my opinion, a Glastonbury experience isn't authentic if you aren't camping in a tent.

I have one unbreakable rule and that is to never camp by a path.

After that, you don't want to be too close to a stage or at the bottom of a slope – we have spoken about the risk of inclement weather.

The ideal spot is far enough out so it’s quieter and the grass is longer and softer, but not so far out that it’s a long trek to get into the thick of things.

You also want to be close, but not too close, to a good set of toilets and a breakfast van.

Just never camp by a path. It bears repeating.

6. The app is there to help

Download the festival’s app.

It contains a fairly accurate map so you can see where you are and how to get to places (the site is huge so you will get lost, trust me). But more importantly, it contains the full schedule and allows you to favourite what you want to see – highlighting the inevitable clashes. Essential information.

7. Make a meeting point

If you are part of a large group, decide on a universal landmark to meet if you get separated. For example, my regular crew has what we call “Rock Station Zero”, which is just to the right of each sound stage as you’re facing the stage. Find yours and lower the risk of getting separated from the group.

8. Alone time is OK

That said, don’t be afraid to do your own thing.

Some of the best times I have had at the festival have been when I wandered off on my own to see a band no one else was interested in.

It’s very easy to meet people and tends to be very safe.

9. Plan for the unplannable

Remember, Glastonbury Festival is huge and offers far more than you could possibly take in regardless of how long you’re there for. So don’t be down on yourself if you don’t tick everything off on your to-do list.

It’s basically impossible to have a bad time at the festival, no matter what you do or what kind of Glastonbury it is. So, enjoy. You will.

10. Next time, try to get there on Wednesday

A tip for future visitors: get there as early as you can.

Sure, the music starts on Friday but why wouldn’t you want to get there two nights before? It means two nights and one day of fun even before the music has started.

It takes stamina but is completely worth it and a great way to orientate yourself and see other parts of the festival you’re likely to miss, like a sing-along showing of The Greatest Showman in a cinema tent.

Updated: June 23, 2023, 6:02 PM