In Wordsworth’s foot­steps

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Europe -

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.

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