Riding the Brontë Bus to Haworth in Search of Wuthering Heights

My host is the one who clued me into the fact that I’m right near “Brontë country.” Now, I don’t pretend to be a huge fan of the Brontës as I’ve never been able to get through any of their works, but I’ve always thought that Wuthering Heights had to be one of the most evocative English book titles ever and have a vague general familiarity with the works of Charlotte and Emily. I don’t know much about Anne, however.

It felt wrong to leave the area without going to Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived from childhood to their deaths, if it was as close by as I’d been told. But with public transportation being so frustrating to sort out in the UK, I kept on putting it off. Well, the other day, as I was walking home from the village, I saw a bus pass in front of my house marked “Brontë bus.” Intrigued, I made a note of the number and the company and headed off to Google.

As it turned out, that bus going in the other direction would take me straight to Haworth in just under a half hour! The stop is literally in front of my house. Talk about convenient!

I thought I’d have the day off, but a small job came in late last night that I could only have if I got the files to my clients by about 8AM their time, which was my late afternoon. So I got up way too early based on the time I went to bed and got it out fast enough to be on “schedule” to grab the 11:15 bus.

Soon we were climbing high up above the valley to give me my first taste of Yorkshire moors. They rather look like a damper version of home…

The road was super narrow and twisty, especially as we meandered through the town of Oxenhope and took super tight turns. The idea of driving in the UK in general, especially something as big as a bus, boggles and frankly intimidates me.  I had a spark of genius last week that was too late to implement here, but that I will investigate it in my next stop, Shrewsbury — I’m going to learn to drive on the left properly, with a driving instructor in a car clearly marked learner. I hope the rates are comparable to here, where I could have have five one-hour lessons for just £55.

At any rate, here’s a rather lovely bus stop in Oxenhope:

I’d bought a day return ticket to Haworth and back (£4.20) and this is where the driver dropped me and told me to get back on to go home.

I understood why when I realised I was at the bottom of the steep Main Street that leads up to the parsonage that was the Brontë home.

I bet Main Street hasn’t really changed that much.

I’m always so happy to see a burst of colour in a rather drab world.

My friend Croft must be a very important man in this country. Every town seems to have a street named after him. 😉

This is the infamous Black Bull pub, right in front of the church, where Branwell Brontë, the only brother, likely drank himself to death.

Here’s the church.

Back of the church, by the cemetery that is between the church and the parsonage.

Looking towards the parsonage on the left. To the right is a school built by Patrick Brontë (the father) for the children of Haworth.   Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne all taught here and Charlotte’s wedding reception was held here in 1854.

Standing by the parsonage looking back to the church.

I decided to have lunch before touring the museum and heading out to “Wuthering Heights,” the place that inspired the locale of the novel. Almost everything in the village was closed today, but I had looked at the menus of places that were open and the Fleece Inn had the most appealing menu as well as reasonable prices. This was going to be a treat meal, out of the “special excursions” rather than “food” budget, so I focused on getting an experience rather than the cheapest meal.

A sign on the wall offering the chance to sample three local craft beers for the price of a pint caught my attention. I selected these beauties, a lager, stout, and bitter. I find it amusing that folks that don’t really know beer would expect the stout and bitter to be super strong tasting, but they were actually smoother than the lager. All three were delicious, but I think I’m really a bitters person!

I ordered the bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich on ciabatta, which came with a salad. The soup of the day was leek, so I had to try that! The server goofed and brought me a full portion instead of the half that comes with a sandwich, but I knew I’d be working it off. Everything was so yummy! I love that thick-cut British bacon. The meal was only £14 or 23CAD! The soup was a pricy add-on since I had to pay for the full portion at £4 rather than the add-on price of £2, but it wasn’t worth quibbling over. And, of course, you don’t need to tip. I was really surprised by this bill since the beers were only £3.30. Cheapest pint I’ve had yet!

It was almost one when I was done with lunch and I wanted to at least attempt the hike to “Wuthering Heights,” which is about 10KM round trip. With nightfall being around five and the hike expected to take about three hours given the terrain, I had a half hour to get through the museum. I knew that would be plenty and also that the museum is really pricey at £8.50. That’s actually great for locals as you can use the ticket for readmission over the next year, but it sucks for someone who is just travelling through!

Standing in the garden at the front of the parsonage.

The front door of the parsonage is the entrance of the museum. That extension on the right was added after the Brontës.

Throughout the museum, you can see the costumes that were used in the Sally Wainwright production of “To Walk Invisible” about the Brontë siblings. Considering how much a fan I am of her series “Happy Valley” and that one of the stars (Charlie Murphy) and my favourite character of that series is in “To Walk Invisible,” I’m going to hunt down a copy!

So this is “the dining table at which Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written, making it one of the “most significant literary artefacts of the 19th century.” Wow! You can’t see the marks of daily use, like ink stains, from that distance, unfortunately.

Next up is Mr. Brontë’s study, where he carried out parish business and gave his children lessons. Emily and Anne were the main players of the cabinet piano.

The front hall finally cleared enough for me to photograph its “pretty dove-coloured tint, as per a description of the parsonage by a family friend of the Brontës.

Now on to the kitchen, which was demolished during the renovations to add the extension. It has been restored with period appropriate furnishings, including the range.

After the Brontë sisters’ mother died, their Aunt Branwell took over as the female head of household. After she died, Emily acted as housekeeper and Charlotte and Anne went away to work as governesses. “Baking bread or ironing allowed Emily the mental freedom to focus on her writing and she was always happiest at home.” I can really identify with that. Even when I’m travelling, I need to be able to be “domestic” to feel complete.

The next room I visited on the ground floor was the study of Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had come in 1844 to help Patrick curate the church. The room was originally a storeroom that was only accessible from outside. Charlotte decorated the room in grey and green, a fashionable colour combination in the 1850s.

The marriage was short, but happy. Charlotte died within a year of marriage when she was pregnant. Now’s a good time to point out that I was disappointed that the museum glossed over the sad facts of their lives and especially that their home, with its non-potable water supply, played a role in the sisters dying so young. I also found that the museum only catered to people who know the Brontë history really well as there is very little context given as to who is who. Several people told me there was an event going on for “Branwell” with the assumption being that I would know who that was, but I had to piece it together for myself.

I then headed upstairs to the bedrooms.

I love the story behind this clock, that Mr. Brontë would lock his front door at 9PM every night and call to his daughters in the dining room not to stay up too late. Then, he would come wind up the clock.

A portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. They had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who died when they were 11 and 10 respectively when they died of complications of typhus they contracted while at school.

Looking down to the front hall.

Looking up, we can see the entrance to “Charlotte’s room” (at an angle), flanked by the children’s study on the left and the servant’s room on the right.

The Brontës normally had one servant, who had quite a cosy room.

I used quotation marks above for Charlotte’s room because it was originally that of the parents. When Mrs. Brontë died in 1821, her sister Elizabeth Branwell took over. Charlotte didn’t get this room until she married Arthur Bell Nicholls… and it was here that she died. The room is filled with Charlotte’s effects.

I thought it was odd that this costume was in a box when the others weren’t but now I realise that that’s just because there’s no way to keep it away from curious fingers the way there was downstairs with only a small sliver of the rooms being available to walk through.

I loved her collection of shoes! Some are very dainty and barely worn, showing that they were for special occasions.

She bought these moccasins on a trip to the beach.

Her writing desk, spectacles, and quill cutter, which is what made her impossibly teeny handwriting possible.

Next, I went to Mr. Brontë’s bedroom. He moved here after his wife died. It was furnished from replicas thanks to a drawing by Branwell, who was often kept in this room under his father’s supervision because of his alcoholism. He died here in 1848 at age 31.

With the crowd thinning out, I was able to peek into the children’s study, where Emily may have slept. It is so small because room was taken from it to enlarge Charlotte’s room.

The little red arrows point to faint pencil marks on the walls that were likely made by the sisters.

Branwell’s studio was very messy! I was impressed that it was portrayed so realistically.

From his study, we move into the extension, which has a lot more background information. If you’re really into the Brontës and want to get more information about the parsonage, you can virtually visit the rooms on the Brontë Parsonage Museum website.

I learned about the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan Bridge, where Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Emily went. The school regime was harsh and the two elder girls were sent home in ill health in 1825 and died soon thereafter. “Charlotte’s sense of loss stayed with her for the rest of her life, and she later immortalized Cowan Bridge as the infamous Lowood School in her novel Jane Eyre.”

Charlotte’s writing really was teeny!

That’s a fragment from her “Roe Head journal.” There were a lot of interesting artefacts in that case, including an accounts book for the family where she worked as a governess that showed her final payout before leaving the job.

Here is a trunk that Charlotte bought in Brussels, where she was trying to improve her language skills.

Patrick Branwell outlived all his children and lived to the surprising age of 84, in 1861, five years after Charlotte died. As I wrote above, Branwell died in 1848, aged 31. Emily and Anne became ill soon thereafter. Emily died three months after her brother from tuberculosis, aged 30. Anne tried a sea cure and went to Scarborough with Charlotte and a family friend, only to die there on 28th May, 1849, age 29. “To spare her father the anguish of another family funeral, Charlotte had her sister buried in Scarborough, then she returned to Haworth alone.” In 1854, Charlotte accepted Nicholls’ proposal and they married, but she died on 31st March 1855 in the early stages of pregnancy. Nicholls took care of his father-in-law for six years at the parsonage.

Here is Branwell’s drawing of death visiting him in his father’s room. He called it “A Parody.”

It was then time to head off to “Wuthering Heights.” It was 1:30, sunset was at five, and I was told to allow 3.5 hours, which meant three hours for me. That only gave me 30 minutes of wiggle room. So I was hyper aware of distances and times as I walked and hiked as I did not want to be out on the moor in the dark!

The walk starts behind the parsonage. I got so lucky with the weather!

A look back at the parsonage and the gift shop.

I immediately felt at ease with the landscape. It was really not that different from my experience hiking in the Highlands, which I remember in vivid detail thanks to my journal. Most of this is private land and there are rights of way for walkers. Follow the path and close any gate you open.

Sheep here instead of “hairy coos.”

Remember that structure out on the lake. It’ll be worth an exclamation point later.

Status report on my boots about a mile in.

The sky looked ominous, but I didn’t get so much as a spatter of rain. The path was very mucky, though.

This man overtook me just before the waterfall. I was jealous of his trekking poles, seriously overdressed, but surefooted.

Charlotte wrote this about the waterfall on 29th November, 1854

“We set off, not intending to go far; but though wild and cloudy it was fine in the morning; when we got about half-a-mile on the moors, Arthur suggested the idea of the waterfall; after the melted snow, he said it would be fine. I had often wished to see it in its winter power, so we walked on. It was fine indeed; a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful!”

There obviously hasn’t been much rain this winter!

I then headed over this bridge, knowing that I would soon need to check the time.

I’d just come down so of course I had to go up.

Looking back down to the bridge.

Left towards “Wuthering Heights,” right back to the parsonage. The sky worried me. I was adding two miles to my trek if I went left. According to my clock, I had time. It takes me about 20 minutes to walk a mile in rough terrain, so if I wasn’t at the end of the trail in that time, I would turn back.

This lovely stone path did not last.

On the other side of this wall was was… muck.

This is a “stile.” I was bemused by the “please close the gate” sign seeing as there is no obvious “closed” position.

Oh, this was going to be fun.

I soon was hiking in what was more like a very shallow river.

I stepped into one puddle and ended up in water up past my ankles. Incredibly enough, while my jeans got soaked through, my boots didn’t. They earned their keep!

There’s the end of the trail at the distance. Can you see the building on top of the hill?

Now?

It had taken 20 minutes to get to this point, so it was time to turn around. I’m glad that I know my limits and speeds so well when hiking that I can make smart decisions. I wasn’t that disappointed since I knew that I’d just get more of this and this was more than I ever imagined seeing!

So I headed back in the muck.

In case there’s any doubt that I was doing some serious hiking. 😉

So much GREEN! This is where I wasn’t sure which direction to go as there was no obvious path. I felt like I was in a video game looking for the exit and trying to avoid obstacles. I spent way too much time and energy in this pasture trying to figure out how to keep moving towards Haworth. The hike is meant to be a loop and I didn’t want to go back the way I’d come.

Ah, the exit.

Which had a swimming pool at the bottom. Total real life video game. 😀

I made it around!

I have rarely in my life been so happy to see a proper road!

The sheep here are dyed, presumably to identify their owners.

Had a nice chat with this handsome fellow.

Remember that structure in the lake from earlier?! I was a bit shocked to find myself so far from it on the opposite side.

I ended up in a place called Stanbury. Huh. A nice lady confirmed that I just had to keep going straight to get to Haworth but that “it’s really far.” I knew I had about two miles to go so while I was definitely off the trail, I wasn’t out of my way.

Everything was going swimmingly to about a mile from Haworth as I’d been going downhill for ages, then I had to climb back up much of that distance. This staircase was fun. I particularly liked the barbed wire handrail.

I was shocked when I got to this intersection because on the way out, I’d had a brief section off the moor and on the road along the fork at the top. I really had done a perfect circle!

I was at the end of my strength so I just made my way straight to the bus stop. I had just enough time to check the time on my phone (40 minutes to the bus, gah) when my phone died. I thought on the way in to get a cream tea if I had such a long bus wait, but I hadn’t seen any tea shops or cafés open and I was way too foot sore to go exploring. So I sat on a bench across the street to wait.

This bus from another company went by. The Quebec ambulance yellow colour caught my eye.

I spent my time just watching the traffic (trying to “normalise” the driving on the left traffic patterns) and shivering as the temperature went from comfortable to frigid as the sun set. A lovely police community support officer who looked just like my favourite character on “Happy Valley” passed me and stopped to ask if I was okay. Nothing that a warm bus and a hot shower at home wouldn’t cure. And maybe a view ibuprofen tablets…

Final status report on my boots. The need a good cleaning once they dry and a coating or two of wax!

The bus finally arrived and it was crowded. Thankfully, I got one of the last seats and no more older people came on so I didn’t have to give it up. It was super dark and I knew there was no way I would recognise when to ask to get off. What I normally do in such circumstances is track my route on my phone. I finally found out what’s wrong with the stupid thing, its battery is on the point of failing, and I’ve discovered that I can sometimes revive it after its shut down. After we got through Oxenhope, across the moor, and started to head down, I tried to turn it on and it came to life. It conked out again promptly, but lasted just long enough to make up for a lot of its recent idiocy by doing so just as my stop was coming up. I was going to go tell the driver my stop when a lady signalled to get off. Based on what I’d seen on the map, she would either be the stop before mine, if there was one, or my stop. As it turned out, it was my stop!

I was so glad to have nothing more to do to get home than to cross the street and go down the stairs. I promptly hopped into a hot shower and fresh clothes.

It was an incredible day in Brontë country. I had perfect weather for it, learned a lot, and got some fresh air and exercise. I now feel that I’ve done all the touristy stuff I needed to do here and am ready to move on to my next location.

5 thoughts on “Riding the Brontë Bus to Haworth in Search of Wuthering Heights

  1. You are right, an incredible day and one I think you will remember a long time! I must be famous on that side of “The Pond”. Friends touring Portugal sent a photo of a winery named after me!

    I was surprised you drank the beer samples in order, I would have had a swallow of each one in order or at least saved the lager, a familiar taste to me, for last.

    The writing table is an amazing piece of history! It reminds me of when I visited Hemingway’s writing studios in both Key West and in Havana. In Key West his “desk” consisted of a Remington typewriter on top of a filing cabinet. At that point he had to work standing up because a piece of shrapnel from the Spanish War was firmly embedded in his buttocks, making sitting very painful.

    • The winery picture made me laugh so much!

      I drank the beers in the order suggested to me, but even if I hadn’t, I would have finished with the bitters as I prefer those to lagers. 🙂

      That’s a great story about Hemingway! I once saw Marie-Antoinette’s writing desk at Scone Palace in Scotland. Seeing such things stays with you!

  2. Yes Rae, loved this post.
    For one thing the sun was shining! Also to see the house where the Brontes lived and worked was great. I would have enjoyed your whole day. I read one of their books several years ago and quite enjoyed it. I tried to read another one, couldn’t get into it at all.

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