Welcome to Bronte Country
Welcome to Bronte Country, an area which straddles the West Yorkshire and East Lancashire Pennines in the North of England. A windswept land of heather and wild moors, it is hardly surprising that this region became the inspiration for the classic works of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
Unlike the pastural limestone valleys of the Yorkshire Dales which begin further to the north, the geology in Bronte Country is predominantly of Millstone Grit, a dark sandstone which lends the crags and scenery here an air of bleakness and desolation. Small wonder then, that this landscape fuelled the imagination of the Bronte sisters in writing their classic novels - including "Wuthering Heights" (which was reputedly inspired by the isolated moorland location of Top Withens) and "Jane Eyre", etc.
Top Withens and many of the other Bronte associated locations lie within easy reach of the village of Haworth, where the Bronte family lived at the Haworth parsonage (now the world famous Bronte Parsonage Museum), and where they wrote most of their famous works (including "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre", etc).
Other Bronte related attractions in the heart of Bronte Country include the Bronte Birthplace in Thornton on the outskirts of Bradford (where Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily and Anne were born while their father was parson at Thornton church), Ponden Hall near Haworth ("Thrushcross Grange" in "Wuthering Heights") and Oakwell Hall and Red House in Kirklees ("Fieldhead" and "Briarmains" respectively in Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley").
Slightly further afield in what is known as the Pendle Witch Country of East Lancashire there is Wycoller (believed to be the location for Ferndean Manor in "Jane Eyre"), and Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, where Charlotte Bronte was a regular visitor.
Outside of Bronte Country but on edge of the Yorkshire Dales some forty or so miles to the north is the village of Cowan Bridge (near Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales) where the local school provided the inspiration for Lowood School in "Jane Eyre", while the country house at Norton Conyers (near Ripon in the Vale of York / Vale of Mowbray) is believed to be the setting for Thornfield Hall in the same novel. [N.B. Also in the Yorkshire Dales but closer nearby is the popular beauty spot of Bolton Abbey - which was visited by the Bronte family as a special excursion in 1833.] Further afield again Anne Bronte's grave can be found at St. Mary's Church in Scarborough - a popular resort on the Yorkshire Coast and near to the North York Moors to the east. [N.B. There are also Bronte connections with the English Lake District as Branwell Bronte held a tutoring job in Broughton in Furness and sketched the church during his stay there in 1840. Charlotte Bronte also stayed in the English Lake District some ten years later.]
Back in the Bronte Country area itself, attractions which are not directly associated with the Brontes (but which are well worth a visit in their own right) include the industrial village of Saltaire in Bradford (built by Sir Titus Salt in the mid nineteenth century, and now a UNESCO designated World Heritage Centre), the National Media Museum in Bradford, the Keighley Bus Museum in Keighley, and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (which runs from the village of Oxenhope through Haworth and Oakworth to the town of Keighley in the Aire Valley).
The Bronte Country area has other literary and cultural associations: For instance the poet Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd near Hebden Bridge (his wife Sylvia Plath being buried in nearby Heptonstall), while the playwright J.B. Priestley, the composer Delius, the novelist John Braine and the artist David Hockney (like the Bronte sisters themselves) were all born within the district of the city of Bradford (which as such makes a fitting location for the new Bradford Literature Festival).
The Pennine Way long distance footpath passes through Bronte Country, as does the Bronte Way, the Bradford Millennium Footpath and the Great Northern Railway Trail. As such the area is popular for walking and cycling in particular.