Manors and ruins
One of the spots said to have inspired Emily Brontë’s classic tale of unrequited love and cruelty is Ponden Hall, a grand Elizabethan-era farmhouse, which looks out over a reservoir and more drystone walls than you can shake a stick at.
This is one of the sites that Emily based Thrushcross Grange on – home to the Lintons and the two narrators in Wuthering Heights.
The farm of Wuthering Heights itself is thought to be Top Withens, a 4km masochistic squelch away from Ponden Hall. It’s rather a sad sight now, just a shell of a building, stripped by souvenir hunters over the years.
A tragic family
The nearest settlement of any consequence to both sites is Haworth, where the Brontës lived.
It’s something of a pilgrimage destination for literary types – though many are as interested in the lives of Anne, Emily and Charlotte as they are in their books.
The truth about their lives is as dramatic and depressing as their fiction.
Their father, Patrick, outlived all six of his children, and the girls’ brother Branwell was a notorious drug fiend and alcoholic.
Those wanting to follow in his footsteps can go for a pint or eight in his local, the Black Bull, and take their prescriptions to the apothecary opposite the pub.
The Writers’ Museum
The major point of interest in Haworth, though, is the Brontë Parsonage, where the sisters lived and wrote.
Now a museum, the rooms are in keeping with the period – Patrick’s study and the dining room in which the girls did most of their writing have been restored as accurately as possible.
The museum also contains letters and books written by the Brontës, as well as numerous personal artefacts. These include dresses belonging to Charlotte – which provide a shocking reminder of how tiny the three sisters were: none of them reached five feet tall.
But it’s the power of the country in these parts that really casts the spell.
As long as you’re prepared to get a little cold, wet and muddy, the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy are there to be chased on the magnificent moors.
More Bronte country
Although the Brontë family lived in Haworth, Charlotte spent a lot of time at her friend Mary Taylor’s house in Gomersal.
The Taylors were the inspiration for the Yorke family in Shirley, Charlotte’s follow-up to Jane Eyre.
The Taylors’ Red House is one of those dull period homes, but the attached exhibition about Charlotte and the Taylors is fascinating.
It explores the limited choices intelligent middle-class women had in those days (marry rich or become a governess), and the reception the Brontë books got.
The books were originally published under male pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) and caused a sensation once the authors’ true identities were revealed as they were considered racy novels for women writers.