The villages occupy an east-west ridge within the Somerset Levels, with Hitchings Moor and Salt Moor to the north, and Curry Moor adjoining the River Tone to the south. The ridge falls to the east, ending at Athelney Hill near the confluence of the River Tone and River Parrett at Burrowbridge.
East Lyng is on higher ground towards the west of Athelney. Archaeological research suggests East Lyng was a medieval settlement, and was an important fortified burh during Saxon times, hence the usage of the East Lyng burh and Athelney by King Alfred the Great and his army.
By the time of the Domesday census completed in 1086, Lyng was described as a small rural settlement. In 1267 a charter for a market was granted, but is no longer recorded by 1349. Despite this the settlement at East Lyng retained burh status and was recorded as such in 1498-1499.
The current church at East Lyng, which is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew, is thought to have been built by the monks who were displaced from Athelney Abbey when it was dissolved by King Henry VIII of England in 1539. The ornate three-stage tower is of lias with Ham stone dressings supported by set-back buttresses connected diagonally across the angles of the tower on the bottom 2 stages, these terminate as diagonal pinnacles on shafts at the third stage. The paired 2-light bell-chamber windows have Somerset tracery flanked by attached shafts and pinnacles, with quatrefoil grilles. There are similar single windows on the stage below.
The ridge across the Somerset Levels has always been important for transport links. Today it carries the A361 road from Taunton to Street, and the Great Western Railway London Paddington to Penzance main line. The railway originally cut through the ridge just west of East Lyng, and traversed Hitchings Moor, but after years of being blocked by winter floods, the railway was diverted south of the ridge to join the line from Bristol at Cogload Junction.