Brontë Country means those locations associated with the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Anne and Emily. They're centred on the small town of Haworth in West Yorkshire, but cover a broad stretch of country.
- 1 Haworth is where the family moved to in 1820, when their father took up post as a curate. The main sights are the Parsonage where they lived and the sisters began their writing careers, and the church graveyard where they now lie in the family vault.
- 2 Guiseley (say "guy-zly") is a suburb of Leeds, northwest of city centre near the airport. Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell were married in St Oswald's Church here in 1812. The church dates back to Norman times but was largely rebuilt in 1909. Near the church is a Saxon drinking well. Guiseley has given the world four famous names: the Brontës, the ancestors of the poet Longfellow, Harry Ramsden's fish & chips empire, and Sooty the glove puppet.
- 3 Thornton is a village west of Bradford, now a commuter town for the city, and five miles across the moors from Haworth. Patrick Brontë was curate of the "Bell Chapel" here from 1815, and the three sisters and brother Branwell were born at 74 Market Street. The remains of the chapel stand in the graveyard of the modern church that's been built alongside.
- 4 Birstall is a commuter town just south of the M62 near Leeds, nowadays part of Kirklees district. A mile north of it (follow A652) is Oakwell Hall, the basis for "Fieldhead" in Charlotte Brontë's novel Shirley. The Hall is an Elizabethan manor house set in extensive gardens and parkland. It was a girls' school when Charlotte visited, but the interior has since been restored to its 17th C appearance. It's open noon to 4 pm Sat & Sun, plus Tues-Thurs in school holidays. The Hall is the starting point of the Brontë Way, a 43-mile path which goes to Shelf, Haworth, Wycoller and Padiham. Also in Birstall (nowadays best known for its retail park and huge cinema) is the ancient Church of St Peter.
- 5 Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast was an early resort and spa town. Anne Brontë worked as governess to the Robinson family of Thorp Green near York, and accompanied them on annual holidays to Scarborough. She used its settings in Agnes Grey, and for the fictional village of Linden-Car in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. When her health failed in 1849, she returned to Scarborough in hopes of a cure but died and was buried there. Her grave is in the northern end of St Mary's churchyard, beneath the castle.
- 6 Stanbury is a little village 2 miles west of Haworth. Ponden Hall here was originally a 17th-century farmhouse where the Brontë children came to play with the Heaton family and use the huge family library. The farmhouse is said to have inspired "Thrushcross Grange" in Wuthering Heights, "Wuthering Heights" farmhouse itself, and "Wildfell Hall". The oldest part of the building has since been demolished, but the 19th-century extension survives; it's nowadays a B&B. Stanbury is the start of the walk to the "Brontë waterfall" and Top Withens farm; see "Do".
- 7 Wycoller is an even smaller village another 4 miles west of Stanbury, which means it's over the watershed and county boundary into Colne, Lancashire. Wycoller Hall dates back to the 16th C but was already falling into disrepair in the Brontës' day. It's believed to have inspired "Ferndean Manor" in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. It's nowadays just a hollow ruin.
- 8 Padiham is a former mining and weaving village near Burnley in Lancashire. Its main sight is Gawthorpe Hall, an imposing Elizabethan manor house much renovated in the 19th century. The owner Dr Kay admired Shirley on publication, discovered that Charlotte was its author and lived nearby, and invited her over to stay. She admired the Hall but wasn't at ease with the company, however she later stayed with the owners in Windermere and met Mrs Gaskell, who became a good friend and afterwards her biographer. Charlotte returned to Gawthorpe Hall in early 1855 but caught a chill, never quite recovered, and died a few weeks later. And here ends the 43-mile Brontë Way. The Hall, a National Trust property, is open Wed-Sun 12:00-17:00. There are two other fine manors near Padiham, but they're privately owned and can't be visited.
The branch-line from Keighley to Haworth and Oxenhope is a heritage railway often hauled by steam locomotives. See timetable for days and times of running, and which are steam-hauled.
You'll need your own car to get around the outlying villages and moorland vistas.
- the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway - this restored 5-mile stretch of branch line links Keighley with the villages of Ingrow, Damems, Oakworth, Haworth and Oxenhope.
Walk the Pennine moors. Haworth is near the western edge of OS Landranger map 104, so you also need map 103 for sites such as Top Withens, the basis for Wuthering Heights.
Brussels: Charlotte and Emily spent a year here, being tutored in French, German, and genteel subjects. This influence on their work has been somewhat overlooked, but Charlotte's Villette is an obvious example. Their school, the "Pensionnat Heger", was demolished in 1909 and is now the site of the Bozar. The Brussels Brontë Group organise talks, walks and events, especially around 21 April, Charlotte's birthday.