The Brontës, one of the world’s most famous literary families lived in the West Yorkshire village of Haworth in the first half of the 19th century.
Anne, Charlotte and Emily spent nearly all of their brief but productive lives at the Haworth Parsonage, where they wrote some masterpieces of English literature like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
All over Haworth and the brooding, windswept moors on its doorstep are natural landmarks and buildings associated with the sisters.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a heritage line threads through this landscape, known as Brontë Country, and stops at picture perfect stations unaltered for decades.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Haworth:
1. Brontë Parsonage Museum
Your first port of call has to be the house where Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë spent most of their lives and wrote some of the most beloved works in the English language.
They moved to this Georgian building on the edge of the moors as small children when their father, Patrick Brontë became minister of the parish in 1820. Preserved by the Brontë society (founded 1893), one of the oldest literary societies in the world, the Howarth Parsonage is eindowed with the Brontë’s manuscripts, early editions, letters, clothing and furniture.
Recently donated is the mahogany desk at which Charlotte penned her novels.
The collection is large enough that the room displays are refreshed every year, so there will always be something to catch you by surprise.
2. Brontë Way
Committed Brontë fans could walk this waymarked 43-mile trail through Brontë Country and the moorland that inspired them.
The route begins not far from Haworth at Oakwell Hall (appears as Fieldhead in Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Shirley) in Kirklees, and has been drawn up to take in as many Brontë point of interest as possible on its meandering course across the moors to Padiham outside Burnley.
The trail passes through Haworth of course, and you can use it to get to the Brontë Birthplace close by at Thornton Village or Ponden Hall, which inspired Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights, as well as some of the places on this list like the Brontë Waterfall and Top Withens.
3. Brontë Waterfall
Just shy of three miles from Haworth there’s a picturesque waterfall in a small rocky dale, best visited after a spell of heavy rain when, as Charlotte Brontë described in 1854, there’s a “…perfect torrent racing over the rocks.”
The waterfall was a favourite with all three sisters and at its foot is the Brontë Bridge, a historic stone crossing on South Dean Beck that was damaged by flooding in 1989 but quickly rebuilt.
The valley floor is littered with rocks, one of which is shaped like a chair and thought to have been used by the Brontës to tell stories.
4. St Michael and All Angels’ Church
Beside the Parsonage, the church where Patrick Brontë was minister for 41 years up to 1861 was rebuilt at the turn of the 1880s.
Portions of that earlier building remain, like the tower, which dates back to the 15th century.
So even if the Brontës wouldn’t recognise the building you can go in to visit the Brontë family tomb.
This is marked with an understated plaque, placed here in 1882. In 1963 a memorial chapel was built for the Brontë sisters, partly funded by Sir Trisham Lever, son of the Liberal Party MP Arthur Lever.
It might be a macabre thought, but upwards of 40,000 bodies are buried in the church’s graveyard, and in 1849 Patrick Brontë himself called for improvements as the overcrowding was affecting sanitation in the village.
5. Cliffe Castle Museum
For a break from the Brontë trail you could head into Keighley for this superb history museum.
It is set in the luxurious home of Victorian millionaire, textile manufacturer Henry Isaac Butterfield.
He moved in during the 1870s and gave the 50-year-old Gothic Revival mansion an opulent redesign, adding a ballroom, towers and conservatories.
Butterfield was well-connected and threw lavish parties at this residence.
The museum has the combined appeal of artful interiors and enthralling collections for archaeology, local geology, mineralogy, Egyptology and more.
Some outstanding pieces are the two-metre fossil of a newt, Neolithic engravings from nearby Rombalds Moor and a staggering collection of early Stained Glass by the Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris.
6. Top Withens
Above Haworth, a little way up the Brontë Way from the waterfall stands the desolate ruin of an old farmhouse.
Modern visitors often wonder if this brooding ruin inspired the Earnshaw residence, Wuthering Heights in Emily Brontë’s novel.
While this is unlikely, as the house would have had a completely different appearance 170 years ago, the windswept moorland scene at least captures the spirit of Wuthering Heights.
To answer the many questions asked by visitors, a plaque was placed here by the Brontë Society in 1964, denying any direct links to the book, but musing that the moors here may have been in her mind when she chose a location for the Heights.
7. Main Street
Haworth’s traffic-free high street is glorious, laid with setts and curling down the hill from the church to central park.
Behind the street’s sandstone houses rise the moors on the other side of the Worth Valley.
There isn’t a national chain to be found in Haworth, and instead the way is lined with independent shops for antiques, vintage clothes, musical instruments, art supplies and specialty foods, as well as a handful of galleries, pubs and tearooms.
There are also some curiosities to keep in mind.
Below the church steps are Howarth’s authentic stocks for public punishment.
The shop next to these used to be the post office used by the Brontës, while Branwell Brontë (Patrick’s only son) was a regular at the Black Bull pub and would have bought the laudanum that fed his opium addiction from the Apothecary across the street.
8. Central Park
At the bottom of main street you can continue your ramble in this nine-acre park laid out in 1929. Set on a sharp slope with a fine prospect of the valley, Central Park is an annual Green Flag winner and has footpaths bending past well-tended lawns, shrubberies and formal flowerbeds.
The original bandstand disappeared in the 1970s but has been replaced in the 2010s, while the bowling green and tennis courts date back to the 1930s.
9. Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
Haworth has a stop on this five-mile heritage line, once part of the Midland Railway, serving the villages and mills of the Worth Valley from the 1880s.
For a bit of trivia, the line was extended to Haworth after a civil engineer visited the village to pay his respects to Charlotte Brontë but discovered there was no railway.
There’s surely no more romantic way to travel the moorland of Brontë Country than in a steam-drawn carriage.
The railway has other cultural links as the beautiful Oakworth Station appeared in the 1970 children’s classic, The Railway Children.
Further along the line at Ingrow you can poke around the Loco Museum and Workshop, set in a former Midland Railway goods warehouse.
10. Oxenhope Railway Station
A five-minute ride on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Oxenhope Station is the line’s southern terminus and looks exactly as it did before mainline services stopped in the 1960s.
Be sure to get off on your round trip and take some time to look around the station and its booking office, still heated by a fireplace.
When the railway was being restored the station’s goods shed was extended and now houses the line’s collection of vintage carriages.
Between the goods shed and the station building there’s an old British Rail buffet car, which houses a little cafe.
Oxenhope is also one of the anchors for the line’s beer festival, taking place in mid-October and showcasing some 160 beers from around the country.
11. Vintage Carriages Trust Museum of Rail Travel
Also in Ingrow, this railway museum is run by a separate organisation and maintains a set of vintage train carriages from the Midland Railway, Great Northern Railway and London’s Metropolitan Railway.
The oldest carriage was built for the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway in 1876, while the youngest is a BR carriage from 1950. These pieces of rolling stock have appeared in more than 70 television shows and films.
The museum is open every day of the year, and allows you to take a set in the carriages, admire their design and upholstery and watch short films with accounts of rail travel in the steam age.
You can also visit the workshop to see carriages being restored and ponder the museum’s collection of railway signs, photographs and advertisements.
12. Bingley St Ives
This estate five miles east of Haworth became a country park when it was taken over by Bingley Urban District Council.
The mature trees growing in these 550 acres were planted by the Ferrands, who lived here from the 17th to the 20th century.
On the southern edge is the Druid’s Altar, a rocky outcrop high above the Aire Valley.
The man-made Coppice Pond has Medieval roots and was reworked by Walker Ferrand in the 19th century.
Come to feed the ducks but use oats instead of bread! Another Ferrand, Lady Blantyre would spend a lot of time at an overhanging rock on the estate, and this has been named in her honour, with a memorial stone erected by her son in law.
Take a while to wander the venerable ash, oak, pine and larch woods, and if golf is your game, the 18-hole Bingley St Ives Course is also on the estate.
13. Hardcastle Crags
An outing not to pass up, Hardcastle Crags is a tight wooded valley eight miles south of Haworth.
This land is cared for by the National Trust and has upland meadows swooping to a ravine where the River Hebden tumbles over mossy rocks.
The manmade landmark in the valley is the Gibson Mill from the early-1800s.
This cotton mill was powered by the river and has been converted into a working museum for renewable energy technology.
The National Trust has set up a network of waymarked trails through a landscape grazed by deer and with seasonal delights like bluebells in spring and beautiful golden foliage in autumn.
Pause at the Weaving Shed Cafe for a slice of home-baked cake and a warming cup of tea.
14. East Riddlesden Hall
On a plateau over a bend on the Aire is East Riddlesden Hall, a manor house with parkland meadows sinking to the river.
As it appears now, the hall dates to 1642 when it was extended by an affluent clothier.
Inside though are Tudor interiors and some of the foundations are from the 10th century, while there’s a Medieval tithe barn on the grounds.
The mullioned and rose windows speak to the wealth of the manor, while the 400-year-old studded oak door still has its original lock mechanism.
You can sample the lifestyle of the North of England’s merchant class, taking in the wooden panelling, plasterwork ceilings, fireplaces and little mementoes like 17th-century Royalist graffiti and antique apothecary jars.
15. SMJ Falconry
The SMJ Falconry in Oxenhope has over 60 birds of prey, among them falcons, kites, hawks, owls, a vulture and an eagle.
The centre isn’t a walk-around attraction, but instead offers a choice of birds of prey experiences.
The briefest and most affordable is an hour-long Hawk Walk, when you’ll set off into the countryside with one or more of the centre’s hawks.
Wearing a glove you’ll get to handle this intelligent hunter, pick up facts about its behaviour and watch it in flight.
For a real deep-dive, there’s a full-day Birds of Prey Experience when you’ll be introduced to 30 different species and hold and “fly” them with the guidance of a handler.
The Owl Experience meanwhile involves 20 different species and offers yet more expert insights and the opportunity to hold or fly snowy, barn and Canadian great horned owls, to name just a few.