One of the most famous literary families in the world, the Brontës lived in the village of Haworth, West Yorkshire, in the first half of the 19th century.
Anne, Charlotte and Emily spent almost their short but productive lives at Haworth Parsonage, where they wrote some of the masterpieces of English literature such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
Haworth and the contemplative, windswept wilderness on its doorstep are natural landmarks and buildings associated with the sisters.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is a heritage line that traverses this landscape known as the Bronte Country, stopping at picturesque picture-perfect stations that haven’t changed for decades.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Haworth:
1. Bronte Priest Museum
Your first stop has to be the house where Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte lived most of their lives and wrote some of their most popular works in English.
They moved to this Georgian building on the edge of the wilderness as children when their father, Patrick Brontë, became parish minister in 1820. Preserved by one of the oldest literary societies in the world, the Brontë Society (founded in 1893), Howarth Parsonage holds Brontë manuscripts, early editions, letters, clothing and furniture.
The most recent donation is a mahogany desk for Charlotte’s novel.
The collection is big enough that room displays are updated every year, so there’s always something to surprise you.
2. The Bronte Way
Die-hard Bronte fans can follow this iconic 43-mile trail through Bronte countryside and the wilderness that inspires them.
The route starts at Haworth at Oakwell Hall in Kirklees (who played Fieldhead in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley) and winds through the moor to Papa outside. Visit as many Bronte attractions Burnley as possible on Deham’s route.
The trail goes through Haworth of course, and you can use it to get to the nearby village of Thornton or the Bronte birthplace at Ponden Hall, which inspired the Thrushcross Grange at Wuthering Heights, and some places on this list like Bronte Falls and Top Wessons.
3. Bronte Falls
Less than 3 miles from Haworth is a picturesque waterfall in a small rocky valley, best visited after a heavy rain, as Charlotte Bronte described it in 1854, there “…the perfect rapids run over the rocks”.
A favorite of the three sisters, the falls are at the foot of the Bronte Bridge, a historic stone bridge in South Dean Baker that was damaged by flooding in 1989 but was quickly rebuilt.
The bottom of the valley is littered with rocks, one of which is shaped like a chair and is thought to have been used by the Brontës to tell a story.
4. Church of St. Michael and All Angels
Next to the Parsonage, Patrick Brontë served as pastor for 41 years until the church was rebuilt in 1861 in the early 1880s.
Parts of earlier buildings still exist, such as the towers dating back to the 15th century.
So even if the Bronte family didn’t know the building, you can go inside and visit the Bronte family’s mausoleum.
Here is a low-key plaque that was placed here in 1882. In 1963, a memorial church was built for the Brontë sisters, partly funded by Sir Trisham Lever, son of Liberal MP Arthur Lever.
It might be a terrible idea, but more than 40,000 bodies were buried in the church cemetery, and in 1849 Patrick Bronte himself called for improvement because overcrowding affected the hygiene of the village.
5. Cliff Castle Museum
Take a break on the Bronte Trail and visit this superb historical museum in Keighley.
It is located in the luxurious home of Victorian millionaire and textile manufacturer Henry Isaac Butterfield.
He moved in in the 1870s with a gorgeous redesign of the 50-year-old Gothic Revival mansion, adding a ballroom, tower and conservatory.
Butterfield was well-connected and threw lavish parties at the residence.
The museum combines clever interior design with fascinating collections of archaeology, local geology, mineralogy, Egyptology and more.
Some outstanding works include a two-metre fossil salamander, Neolithic engravings from nearby Rombalds Moor, and an extensive collection of early stained glass by arts and crafts pioneer William Morris.
6. Top Withens
Above Haworth, on Bronte Avenue, not far from the falls, stands the desolate ruins of an old farmhouse.
Modern visitors often wonder if this contemplative ruin inspired the Earnshaw residence in Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights.
While this is unlikely, as the house would have had a completely different look 170 years ago, the windswept wilderness scene at least captures the spirit of Wuthering Heights.
In response to the many questions from visitors, the Bronte Society placed a plaque here in 1964 denying any direct connection to the book, but she believes the wilderness here may have been in her mind.
7. Main Street
Haworth’s car-free high street is glorious, winding down the hillside from church to Central Park.
Behind the sandstone houses of the street is the wilderness on the other side of the Worth Valley.
Haworth doesn’t have a national chain store, instead, there are independent antique stores, vintage clothing stores, musical instrument stores, art supply stores and specialty food stores along the way, as well as a number of galleries, bars and tearooms.
There are also some curiosities to keep in mind.
Below the church steps is the authentic stock of Howarth’s public punishment.
The shops next to these used to be the post office used by the Brontes, and Branwell Bronte (Patrick’s only son) was a regular at the Black Bull and would buy from the pharmacist across the street to satisfy his opium addiction of opium tincture.
8. Central Park
At the bottom of Main Street, you can continue to stroll through this 9-acre park built in 1929. Perched on a steep slope with views of the valley, Central Park is an annual Green Flag winner, and walkways meander through – tending lawns, bushes and formal flower beds.
The original bandstand disappeared in the 1970s but was replaced in the 2010s, while the bowling and tennis courts date back to the 1930s.
9. Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
Haworth stops on this 5-mile heritage line that was once part of the Midland Railroad and has served the villages and factories of the Worth Valley since the 1880s.
A little trivia, the line was extended to Haworth after a civil engineer visited the village to pay homage to Charlotte Bronte but found no railroad.
There is certainly no more romantic way to travel through the Bronte wilderness than in a steam carriage.
The railroad has other cultural connections, as the beautiful Oakworth station was featured in the 1970 children’s classic The Railroad Children.
Along the Ingrow route, you can visit the Loco Museum and Studio, located in the former Midland Railway Cargo Depot.
10. Oxenhope Railway Station
A 5-minute ride on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Oxenhope Station is the southern terminus of the line and looks exactly the same as it did before mainline services ceased in the 1960s.
Be sure to get off on your round trip and take some time to look around the station and its ticket office, still heated by the fireplace.
When the railway was restored, the station’s cargo shed was expanded and now houses the line’s vintage carriages.
Between the cargo shed and the station building is an old British Rail buffet car with a small cafe.
Oxenhope is also one of the anchors for the series of beer festivals, which take place in mid-October and showcase around 160 beers from around the country.
11. Vintage Carriages Trust Rail Travel Museum
Also in Ingrow, this railway museum is run by a separate organisation and maintains a collection of vintage train cars from the Midland Railway, Great Northern Railway and London Metropolitan Railway.
The oldest car was built for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1876, while the youngest was a 1950 BR car. These rolling stock have appeared in more than 70 TV shows and movies.
The museum is open every day of the year, and you can take a seat in the carriages, admire their designs and interiors, and watch short films about rail travel in the age of steam.
You can also visit workshops, see the carriages being restored, and reflect on the museum’s collection of railway signs, photographs and advertisements.
12. Bentley St Ives
The estate, 5 miles east of Haworth, was turned into a country park after it was taken over by Bingley City Council.
The mature trees that grow on the 550 acres were planted by the Ferrands who lived here from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
On the southern edge is the Druid Altar, a rocky outcrop above the valley of Ayr.
The man-made Coppice Pond has medieval roots and was remodeled by Walker Ferrand in the 19th century.
Come feed the ducks, but use oatmeal instead of bread! Another Madame Ferrand, Madame Blantyre, would spend much of her time on an overhanging rock on the estate, which was named after her and had a memorial stone erected by her son-in-law.
Take some time to wander among the ancient forests of ash, oak, pine and larch, and if golfing is your thing, the 18-hole Bentley St Ives is also on the estate.
13. Hard Castle Cliffs
Hardcastle Crags is an outing not to be missed, located 8 miles south of Haworth in a wooded valley.
The land is tended by the National Trust, with highland meadows swooping down into canyons and the Hebden River tumbling over mossy rocks.
A man-made landmark in the valley is the Gibson Mill in the early 1800s.
Powered by a river, this cotton mill has been converted into a museum of renewable energy technologies.
The National Trust has established a network of signposted trails through the landscape with herds of deer grazing, seasonal delights like bluebells in spring and beautiful golden foliage in fall.
Stop by the Weaving Shed Cafe for a slice of homemade cake and a cup of hot tea.
14. East Riddlesden Hall
On the plateau above the bend in the Eyre is East Riddlesden Manor, a manor house with grassy parkland sunk into the river.
It now appears that the history of the hall dates back to 1642, when it was expanded by a wealthy clothier.
Although the interior has Tudor interiors, some of the foundations are from the 10th century, and there is a medieval tithe barn on the grounds.
Mullions and rose windows showcase the estate’s wealth, while the 400-year-old studded oak doors still retain their original locking mechanisms.
You can experience the way of life of the merchant class in the north of England, with wooden panelling, plaster ceilings, fireplaces and little memorabilia such as 17th-century royalist graffiti and antique potion jars.
15. SMJ Falcon
SMJ Falconry in Oxenhope has more than 60 species of raptors, including falcons, kites, hawks, owls, bald eagles and hawks.
Rather than being a walking attraction, the center offers a variety of raptor experiences.
The shortest and most affordable is the one-hour Eagle Walk, where you head out into the countryside with one or more eagles at the center.
With the gloves on, you’ll be able to take on this clever hunter, understand its behavior and watch it fly.
For true deep dives, you can experience a full-day bird of prey experience, where you’ll be introduced to 30 different species and catch and “fly” them under the guidance of a trainer.
The owl experience simultaneously involves 20 different species and offers more expert insights, as well as the chance to cuddle or fly snow owls, barn owls and Canadian great horned owls, to name a few.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Haworth, England
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