This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
As a reader, one of the most joyful experiences can be visiting the actual places that inspired and featured in the books you adore. More than just holidaying in the footsteps of literary greats, novel travel allows you to live and breathe the same sights, sounds and smells as your beloved fictional characters. In some instances, you can make a cuppa in their kitchens and meet their neighbours; you can even browse their bookshelves and wander the landscapes that inspired their most creative and memorable moments.
In this new series, we’re going to take you on a tour like no other, right inside the pages of your favourite books! We’ll bring the tea flask, you pack the sandwiches, okay?
First up, Brontë Country.
The Brontë sisters lived most of their short lives in the Yorkshire village of Haworth, where we begin our journey. In 1887, all three girls had their most important works published. Jane Eyre for Charlotte, Agnes Grey for Anne and Wuthering Heights for Emily, but within eight years all three had died, outlived by their father, who was the local clergyman.
While Haworth looks pretty as a picture today – all brick cottages, cobbled streets and charming little boutique shops – when the sisters were alive, it was a crowded industrial town, polluted, smelly and incredibly unhygienic. The death rate was as high as any of the larger cities such as London or Bradford, with the average age of demise just 24.
The modest and homely dining room, on the left as you walk through the entrance hall, is where the Brontës could be found most of the time. As well as taking their meals here, this is where the bulk of their writing was done too. Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights were all created in this room and it was the sisters’ habit to walk around the table until 11pm thrashing out their plot and story ideas with one another before bed. After the death of Emily – who supposedly took her last breath on the black couch in the corner – and then Anne, Charlotte could be heard walking around the table by herself, unable to sleep without the nightly writing ritual with her sisters.
Take your time over your visit and enjoy exploring the study, bedrooms and even the kitchen, where you can almost hear an echo of Charlotte’s words from Tales of the Islanders:
'One night about the time when the cold sleet and dreary fogs of November are succeeded by the snow storms & high piercing nightwinds of confirmed winter we were all sitting round the warm blazing kitchen fire having just concluded a quarrel with Taby concerning the propriety of lighting a candle…'
Once you’ve exited the museum, you can pay your respects to both Emily and Anne, who are buried at Haworth Church, where their father was once vicar.
Next, head to the back of the parsonage, where you’ll be met by the wild, expansive Yorkshire Moors, which undoubtedly inspired the setting for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Almost a character in its own right, the harsh, isolated but hauntingly beautiful moorland is exactly as you’ve always imagined it to be. When we visited, we were so swept up in the setting, we could just about picture the figure of a tortured Heathcliff roaming amongst the purple heather.
There are lots of walking trails available, but we recommend the Brontë Connections Walk – a circular trek of around four and a half miles.
On the trail, you’ll visit Ponden Hall, which inspired Thrushcross Grange, home of the Linton family in Wuthering Heights and Penistone Crag. A favourite haunt of the Brontës, Emily named the rock Penistone Crag in the novel and described the location as a meeting place of Cathy and Heathcliff. At the base of the rock, there is a hole just large enough for an adult to climb through. Emily talks about this hole in the book, calling it the 'Fairy Cave'. Local legend suggests that unattached people passing through the hole will marry within the year; so, if you’re in the company of a grown-up, dark skinned gypsy foundling, maybe hold off on doing that. Unless you’re into all-consuming, tortured love affairs of course.
Last but not least, you’ll come to Top Withins Farm on its lonely, windswept hilltop. It is widely accepted that this delipidated, almost derelict farm inspired Wuthering Heights itself.
Stand on the threshold, close your eyes for a moment and listen to the howling wind. Allow your imagination take over; you never know, you might just hear Heathcliff calling to his beloved Cathy.
Or Kate Bush singing about it, which is probably more likely.
Join us next time for another journey into one of your favourite books.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear about the literary locations you’ve visited.
Images provided by Welcome to Yorkshire.