In Wordsworth’s footsteps
I can understand the sentiment. Wecover much ground during our tour. After leaving the glorious Lake District we meander through the dramatic Yorkshire Dales, setting for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and further northeast to Whitby, where Stoker found his inspiration for Dracula, and which is appropriately mist-shrouded on this chilly day. It’s also where you can board the steam train that featured as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.
Castle Howard, in York, meanwhile, provided inspiration for directors seeking the perfect setting for the 1981 Granada Television series Brideshead Revisited. In 2008, camera crews returned to use a suite of upstairs rooms in the feature film version.
Owners Simon Howard, wife Rebecca and twins Octavia and Merlin have a rather more privileged life than the Bronte sisters, whose family home, the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire, we find after a few wrong turns. The only minor irritation of the trip is that Adams, having not previously driven the route, is not completely au fait with directions; journeys sometimes take longer than planned, with passengers clutching the road atlas by way of assistance.
At the parsonage we see the dining room and small table around which Charlotte, Emily and Anne did much of their writing, and Charlotte’s bedroom, with her wedding bonnet and veil, writing desk and contents, black evening pumps and trinket box among the items on display.
We learn about the Brontes’ ne’er-do-well brother Branwell, an alcoholic who died at 31, regretting that all his life he ‘ ‘ had done nothing either great or good’’ (his sisters were surely a hard act to follow). Also on display is a devastating review of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre published in The Quarterly Review, which incensed the eldest Bronte sister.
We become so thoroughly immersed in the world of these larger-than-life characters that it barely registers we have seen little of the glorious towns and villages — with names such as Muker and Crackpot — we’ve passed along the way. It would certainly add to the experience if more free time could be spent wandering through some of the villages, or in the character-filled hotels in which we stay along the way, such as the fabulous Wild Boar Inn in Windermere, named after a particularly antisocial boar that used to prowl the area (each of its rooms is named after a breed of pig and I am ensconced in the particularly comfortable Large Black). Or the stately Solberge Hall Hotel at Northallerton, an 11th-century manor listed in the Domesday Book, in which fellow traveller Emma swears she sees a ghost.
The meals during our tour are good, but don’t expect highfalutin fare. If that’s what you want, then be assured that in addition to some of the most inspiring landscapes you’re likely to experience in England, the Cumbria and Yorkshire regions boast an increasing number of Michelin-starred restaurants and inns, from the acclaimed Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, to Holbeck Ghyll in Windermere. More to write home about. Michelle Rowe was a guest of Back-Roads Touring Co and Travel Associates.