Nothing quite warms my heart like a Bronte pilgrimage to Haworth in Yorkshire where the Bronte sisters spent most of their lives in their father’s parsonage, now known as the Bronte Parsonage Museum. I’ve done this trip twice with a 10-year-old niece in tow each time and this summer we spent only one night in the UK yet managed to visit the parsonage, hike on the Moors, take a steam train on the Worth Valley Railway, saunter through the delightful vintage shops and cafes of Haworth, and visit nearby village, Hebden Bridge. With another night we could have visited Airedale or Ilkley. Maybe next time.
Getting there – plane, train and train.
We flew into Leeds Bradford Airport, got a 50-minute bus to the city centre followed by a got a 20 minute train to Keighley, a cool Victorian station that has been used as a film set in costume dramas in the past. Then we got a steam train to Haworth – this is great fun but it only operates in summer. Obviously it would be quicker to drive but we really enjoyed our journey. See www.kwvr.co.uk for timetables.
Haworth village is a short walk from the train station but it’s hilly and is surrounded by rolling hills – Moors – so you may find it difficult if you have mobility problems. Having said that, they also run little buses up the hill to the parsonage so it can be done.
Haworth is very small so a lot of tourists pop in for a few hours in the afternoon as there really is only one street and the Parsonage. However, you can fit in some wonderful hikes from the Parsonage so if you have your walking shoes and rain gear you won’t be bored. What I love about Haworth is that it’s nestled in between the Moors and they are looking back at you from every vantage point.
Both times I stayed at the family-run Old Registry BnB. (One night BnB – 72 Stg). It’s got all the old-world charm but none of the shabbiness or faded grandeur that often accompanies old-world. I requested the attic room at booking because we wanted to embrace the governess experience – or maybe mad woman in the attic (most likely the latter).
My niece loved it and I was really pleased with it as well. We had all the amenities you would expect from a good four-star hotel. Their restaurant is very good and has become popular with locals so you need to book dinner in advance. Breakfasts are quite a feast. It’s so hard not to eat everything on offer!
The Bronte Parsonage Museum
This is where the Bronte family grew up – the house overlooks tombstones in their father’s churchyard so you can see they were literally surrounded by death. If you’re a Bronte fan, it’s a very moving experience – you see Charlotte’s dress and her tiny little slippers, most of the furniture and items are originals, from prayer books and notebooks with stories in them to the Bronte children’s graffiti scratched on a bedroom wall.
My niece adored it and it really whetted her appetite for the Brontes and their stories. She already knew the story of Jane Eyre but that night we went back to our BnB and read an abridged version of Wuthering Heights which she loved. The museum hosts literary and cultural events throughout the year so look up their calendar before you plan a trip. You can buy fantastic books and souvenirs in the gift shop – from children’s versions of novels to erasers and feather quills but everything is naturally very tasteful. Be sure to visit the church under which the sisters are buried. It’s actually a lovely church in its own right with a sense of an involved rural community.
Shopping and cafes
Don’t miss the traditional giant Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef, served at most cafes and pubs.
A lot of the shops and cafes open at 11 and close at 4.30. Some even close on Mondays and Tuesdays! For retro style, I loved Wave of Nostalgia where I got a gorgeous 19502 style red cardigan. You have to visit The Apothecary where Branwell Bronte used to buy his laudanum (opium). Again, the theme is old world and they sell barrels of bath salts, soaps, perfumes, balms and ungents. It’s atmospheric and authentic (as opposed to manufactured nostalgia); well worth a visit. The Souk is a treasure trove of vintage clothing and costumes so you could spend hours rummaging away if you are a vintage shopper.
Hebden Bridge is a pleasant Yorkshire town with a reputation for being ‘Bohemian’, probably because it’s a gay-friendly, progressive town with a certain amount of crafts and independently owned businesses. It also capitalises on nostalgia value as seen in Blitz Cafe, a 1940s themed cafe with its evacuee cupcakes and 40s memorabilia.
We got the Bronte Bus no. 500 from Haworth which takes the scenic route across the Moors – not for those in a hurry but great if you want to see the landscape and you don’t have a car. (Enquire about the all-day ticket with unlimited travel on Bronte Buses as it’s really good value (4stg adult).) It’s got a lovely park, some great cafes and a small market full of curios, antiques and a bit of junk (sorry, bric a brac). Afterwards, we got a train to Leeds Bradford which took about 20 mins; perfect as we were on our way to the airport.
We did all of the above on a one-night trip from Ireland. If you have more time in that region, check out Ilkley and Saltaire or stay in Leeds and visit Harewood House.