“I bounded, leaped, and flew down the steep road; then, quitting its windings, shot direct across the moor, rolling over banks, and wading through marshes”
-Emily Brönte, Wuthering Heights
Most of the Brontë sisters’ writings include descriptions of the Yorkshire moors, and they were truly a sight to behold. I felt like I was Jane Eyre, and that’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted to be. After I’d had enough of the beautiful surrounding landscapes, it was a short drive to the village of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and died.
The weather was mild, but I honestly would have preferred to visit on a cold and gloomy day to get the full Yorkshire experience.
Travel Tip: When planning your trip, do a little research about the local weather patterns. While places like my hometown are known for having sunny weather year-round (and places like England are known for having rainy weather year-round), it’s best to double-check. A lot of people come to San Diego expecting a warm winter getaway, but are greeted with rain when they arrive. This can be devastating for those who only packed a bikini and light clothing! So even if the area you’re visiting is known for a certain kind of weather, remember that there can be variations and take the time to check beforehand. Better safe than sorry!
Brontë Parsonage Museum
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Brontë sisters, I’ll give you a little background: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë were stereotypical Victorian girls. Charlotte and Emily, as well as their older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were sent away to school in early childhood, three years after their mother passed away. They remained there until Maria and Elizabeth became sick and died. Charlotte and Emily returned home to their grieving father, brother, and little sister, Anne. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne turned to writing, and their works were heavily influenced by their own heartbreaking experiences. They all gained fame by 1847, their most notable works being Jane Eyre (written by Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (written by Emily), and Agnes Grey (written by Anne).
These photos are of their home, their grounds, the church they attended, and the church’s graveyard. Inside the Haworth Parsonage Museum, pictures aren’t technically allowed, but you can get away with sneaking a few when no one’s looking. The home is filled with fantastic treasures and artifacts from the family’s time on earth, which I spent hours geeking out over.
It was a melancholy experience getting to see this beautiful area fraught with such a tragic history, but I am a lover of the dark and disturbing, so it was right up my alley.
Unfortunately, like most Victorians, all of the Brontë sisters died young. Emily caught a severe cold at her brother’s funeral in 1848, which soon developed into tuberculosis and killed her at the age of 30. Anne died the following year of tuberculosis, at the age of 29. After six years without any of her siblings, Charlotte became ill and died three weeks before her 39th birthday, along with her unborn child. She had been married less than a year, and her last words were, “I am not going to die, am I? God will not separate us. We have been so happy.”
Heartbreaking, right!? The Brontës were not buried in the church graveyard, but within the church itself. All except Anne, that is, who passed away in Scarborough and was laid to rest there.
After spending way too much money at the Brönte Parsonage gift shop, we hopped in the car and drove to Bolton Abbey, about 40 minutes away.
Bolton Abbey really inspires the romantic in me. The haunting ruins put me in mind of Thornfield Hall from Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, which made it the perfect next stop on my road trip. It’s the kind of place that makes me want to recite some Byron. Or some Brydon.
Yes, as much as I adore the poetry of Lord Byron, I spent most of my time here channeling my inner Rob Brydon while reenacting one of my favorite scenes from The Trip. If you’re planning a trip to Northern England, you absolutely must watch this film first.
If you’re as big of a Downton Abbey fan as I am, you may be thinking, “this looks more like a church than an abbey.” You’re right. The ruins are actually that of a Gothic Priory that began construction in 1154. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, Bolton was stripped of anything that could be sold, and the Eastern half was essentially abandoned. The Western half, however, was kept intact and religious services are still held inside. As an American, it’s not often that I get to behold such ancient ruins, let alone walk through them. It was like stepping back in time.
There’s this great little stone bridge you can walk across, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Some of the stones are farther apart than others, some are wobbly, and some aren’t even fully above the surface of the water. Amazingly, I managed to make it to the other side without falling into the water, but just barely. When you get across, there are a bunch of friendly cows wandering about.
After the bustle of London, this was the perfect country getaway. In the city, even a city as historic as London, you’re constantly reminded of the present. It’s hard to imagine living in another time when you’re surrounded by McDonalds’ and double-decker busses. But, in the north, there are less distractions and more chances to be reminded of what once was. I delight at any chance I get to immerse myself in another time. Some people like to escape reality by visiting Disneyland. Well, this is my Disneyland.
Of all the Brontë’s, I’ve always admired Charlotte the most. Jane Eyre is my favorite novel, and one I think all women should read. If it weren’t for Jane Eyre, I wouldn’t be a world traveler. I wouldn’t be an independent woman. I wouldn’t be who I am now. Visiting Yorkshire and walking the same streets Charlotte walked allowed me to connect with her in a very special way.
So, if you haven’t already, I challenge you to read Jane Eyre (hell, read all the Brontë novels), and then visit the place where it all began. You won’t regret it.