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The newest Jane Eyre film hit the big screen recently, starring Michael Fassbender. Inspired, Leo Owen goes in search of ‘Brontë Country’

"You can see [the parsonage] for two miles before [you] arrive, for it is situated on the side of a pretty steep hill, with a background of dun and purple moors,” novelist Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in the mid-1800s, describing her friend Charlotte Brontë’s family home. Walking up the hill that Gaskell so perfectly described, it’s easy to imagine the Brontë sisters running errands for their father, Patrick. Still picturesque and unspoilt, Haworth’s Yorkshire stone walls counterpoint the coarse weather-beaten moors that surround it.

The town’s main street may appear relatively unchanged, but closer inspection reveals an impressive array of vintage, retro and antique shops, all tempting avid Brontë fans off their yellow brick road. But most notable are the streams of people braving the steep hill on a literary pilgrimage that is today attracting more and more visitors.

Media attention

Tragically, Charlotte was the only Brontë sister to have felt the admiration of fame, along with Patrick – who outlived his wife and six children to witness the first influx of Haworth tourists and marvel at souvenir pictures of himself on sale.

Walking past only son Branwell Brontë’s favoured tavern, the haunted Black Bull, I climb the remaining steps towards the churchyard that leads on to the lifelong home of England’s most celebrated literary family. Entering a small gate, I queue inside a modest square garden. When finally inside, I talk with Andrew McCarthy, the director of the Brontë Parsonage, who has noticed a sizeable buzz in the area as the film's release date draws nearer. “Any kind of new TV or film adaptation of a Brontë work is always of interest, but with this particular adaptation there seems to have been a lot more media attention,” he reveals.

Brontë curse

All over the house there are sad reminders of how the lives of this brilliant family were shrouded in death. I even see the very sofa on which Emily passed away at the age of 30 from tuberculosis, shortly before Anne died of the same cause the following year.

Much of the downstairs illustrates 19th-century living with two studies and a compact kitchen; upstairs offers more insight into the family’s personal lives. Charlotte’s bedroom, full of glass cabinets displaying preserved belongings, includes her wedding bonnet. Next to me, a lady inadvertently pantomimes Little Red Riding Hood, loudly exclaiming, “What small hands and feet she had!” as she stares in amazement at a pair of tiny black evening shoes and white gloves, surely designed for a doll, not a person.

Finishing up in a room dedicated to the usually overlooked but equally fascinating Patrick Brontë, I decide to visit another Brontë hotspot. Stopping in the infamous Black Bull for a drink, I’m told by the managing couple, Valerie and Mark Paterson, the majority of visiting tourists come from Japan and America.

Big in Japan

Marvelling at why this should be, I discover the Brontës are on the Japanese school syllabus and trips to Haworth are part of the school year. A ruined farmhouse nearby is said to have been the inspiration behind Wuthering Heights and is so popular with Japanese tourists, there are dual language signs along the remote footpath.

Surrounded by dales, Haworth certainly has a scenic charm and is perfect for walkers determined to locate Brontë Waterfall and Brontë Bridge, both reportedly spots frequented by the sisters. The Yorkshire area is a filmmaker’s playground, having previously been used for The Railway Children and the Harry Potter films, to name just a few. 

Quaint scenery

Chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, Gary Verity, explains: “Brontë Country is the only place on the planet where visitors can get this close to where it all began and the family that created literary history. The stunning scenery is matched only by the stories written by the Brontës.”

There’s also plenty to do away from Haworth parsonage's guided walks and lantern-lit graveyard tours. Saltaire (another Unesco site), Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Kirkstall Abbey and a whole array of museums and galleries are close by.

Where to eat

Weavers restaurant serves excellent locally sourced ingredients (

If you catch the steam train there’s a fantastic Asian restaurant called Shimla Spice ( in Keighley.

Where to drink

The Old White Lion Hotel is a 300-year-old coaching inn, offering rewarding food, shelter and beers, once you’ve climbed Haworth’s steep main street. (

The Old Hall Pub has a comprehensive list of ales and reasonably priced food ( 

Where to sleep

Half a mile from Haworth’s main street, YHA has the cheapest beds from £10.50 a night (

Stay at The Brontë Sisters Cottage or Wuthering Heights Cottage with Haworth Holiday Cottages ( Doing the Brontë theme properly will set you back about £200-£280 for a weekend. The cottages sleep up to four people.

Another cheap option in the area is Etap hotels. Rooms cost from £18, and are based both in Leeds and Bradford (

Trains from London to Leeds start at £10.90 one-way if you book in advance. Then take a train from Leeds to Keighley from £3.80 for a single ticket. Worth Valley Railway runs steam trains between Keighley and Haworth at weekends and bank holidays (01535 647777).


Haworth: A breath of Yorkshire Eyre
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