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If you know me even a little, you know Jane Eyre is my favorite novel and that I re-read it every January to start the year off right. You can imagine how hardcore I fangirled when I spent an entire day exploring Brontë Country and beyond, immersing myself in the place where it all began. These are my top things to do in West Yorkshire, including beautiful walks in Haworth, abandoned abbeys, and historic cities.
If asked to picture England in their mind, most people would probably think of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and red double-decker buses, but Northern England has an identity that is entirely its own. When I think of the North, I think of industrial innovation, post-punk music, gothic literature, and desperate cries of love across the moors.
Along with cities like Manchester and Liverpool, West Yorkshire is one of the most historically and culturally significant parts of Northern England. I encourage you to venture beyond London and get a true taste of the North. There’s no shortage of unique things to do in West Yorkshire!
Know Before You Go
West Yorkshire is a rather large county in Northern England consisting of major cities like Leeds and Bradford, as well as small countryside villages like Haworth and Hebden Bridge.
If you get an early enough start, West Yorkshire can be one of the best day trips from London. In my case, it was a day trip along the long drive from London to the Scottish Highlands.
Summer is typically the best time to visit Brontë Country. Especially if you’re hoping to catch the gorgeous heather in bloom. Even though Summer months tend to be the warmest, you can still expect some chilly days. Summer is West Yorkshire’s rainy season, but that’s what makes it so lush and green!
If you plan on taking walks in Haworth, make sure you bring sensible walking shoes! I also recommend dressing in layers regardless of what time of year you’re visiting as it can still get cold in warmer months. You can see my list of West Yorkshire travel essentials below. Oh, and if you’re coming from the US, make sure you bring a US-to-UK power adaptor.
Pro Tip: Outlets in the UK are different from outlets in the EU, so if you have a US-to-EU adapter I’m afraid it won’t do you any good.
Get In The Mood
Also, if you don’t listen to the History Chicks podcast you should start with this episode about Charlotte Brontë. Definitely worth a listen!
“My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside her mind could make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best-loved was – liberty.”Charlotte Brontë
Brontë Parsonage Museum
You can’t take a trip to Brontë Country without visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
This is one of the most notable things to do in Haworth. As you may have figured out from the name, the museum consists of the Brontë family home, as well as St. Michael’s Church, and the stunning church graveyard.
You can expect to spend about 1-2 hours here, depending on how you choose to allocate your time. Tickets are £11 for adults, £4.50 for children, or £26 for a family ticket (up to 2 adults and 4 children). If you would like to book a personalized private tour you can expect to pay around £100 for adults and £25 for children.
There’s something so enchanting about the home where the Brontës spent the majority of their all-too-short lives. Standing in the room where the sisters wrote their novels feels like going back in time. The house is filled with artifacts of personal significance like hair wreaths, clothes, the couch Emily supposedly died on, and more.
Pro Tip: Don’t skip the gift shop. When I visited I got a 1st edition of Life of Charlotte Brontë by Augustine Birrell from 1887 in excellent condition. You never know what they’ll have in stock!
“Do I want to live? Would you like to live with your soul in the grave?”Emily Brontë
One thing I love about the Brontë sisters is the dark and dramatic themes in their novels. Their stories are far more scandalous and gruesome than what respectable Victorian women were expected to read. And when you consider that they would have been met with views of the graveyard every time they glanced out the window, it makes sense.
If like me, you love a good cemetery, especially a Victorian cemetery, you’re in for a real treat. Take some time to appreciate the dark beauty of the moss-covered headstones.
St. Michael’s Church
If you’d like to pay your respects to the Brontë sisters, you won’t find them in the graveyard. They’re laid to rest in the family vault beneath St. Michael’s Church where their father was once the priest. The church is part of the museum and very easy to find.
Sadly, Anne Brontë was not buried with her family as she died about 100 miles away. Anne is buried in Scarborough where she had been “taking the waters” as her health was declining. If you make it out to Scarborough you can visit her grave at St. Mary’s Church.
Take A Walk Through Haworth
There are many delightful Haworth walks to be had in the village and surrounding areas.
Haworth Village is the perfect place to grab lunch, do some light shopping, and stroll the cobblestone roads. Taking a walk through Haworth Cemetery (not to be confused with the St. Michael’s Church graveyard) is another great option.
If you’d like to get out into nature, there’s a relatively easy trail you can take to the Brontë Waterfall. The walk is about 2¾ miles each way and is mostly smooth sailing, although it can get muddy.
For more advanced hikers, there are quite a few moderately challenging trails in Brontë Country. This hike through Keighley Moor takes you around a 10.3-mile loop with some pretty fantastic views.
Although Bolton Abbey is technically in Skipton, which is part of North Yorkshire, it’s close enough to easily fit into a visit to the West Yorkshire area, and it’s one thing you definitely won’t want to skip. Bolton Abbey is one of the most iconic abbeys and monasteries in Yorkshire. As hard as it is for us Americans to fathom, Bolton Abbey dates back over 900 years.
If Bolton Abbey looks familiar to you, it may be because it has been referenced several times in pop culture. The Trip, which you should definitely watch before visiting West Yorkshire, filmed one of my favorite scenes here. For fans of the Cure, a blurred photo of the Abbey is featured on the cover of their 1981 album, Faith.
Take A Tea Cruise
What is more definitively English than afternoon tea? After a long morning of walking through Brontë Country, a relaxing 2-hour afternoon tea cruise featuring drinks and a light lunch should really hit the spot. The cruise starts in Skipton and will take you down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Cities To See In West Yorkshire
The biggest city in West Yorkshire is Leeds, with so much to do and see! Fans of military history won’t want to miss the Royal Armouries Museum. Here you can see things like armor that was made for elephants, Henry VIII’s foot combat armor, and the “pulse rifle” from the 1987 Aliens film.
If that’s not your thing, you may want to check out the Leeds City Centre. This bustling business district is broken into several quarters, each with its own feel. To do some shopping, check out Victoria Quarter, a gorgeous Victorian-style shopping arcade. The nearby Corn Exchange building is packed with independent retailers and food outlets.
If you can’t find the time to squeeze Bolton Abbey into your itinerary, Kirkstall Abbey might be a happy compromise. This ancient abbey is just as impressive as its sister but much more conveniently located. The Temple Newsam House is another must-see for history lovers, located within Roundhay Park.
“He who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.”Anne Brontë
Bradford is a historic city once known as the “wool capital of the world”. If you love a Victorian period drama, I recommend watching North & South before visiting for an idea of what a hugely significant role a city like this would have played in the Industrial Revolution.
East Riddlesden Hall, also known as the Great Barn, is a 17th Century manor house accompanied by a beautiful garden. To better tell the story of Bradford’s agricultural past, it was refurnished after being donated to the National Trust in 1934.
Saltaire was built as a model village for the employees of a textile manufacturer in 1853. Salts Mill, where the residents of Saltaire were once employed, is now an art gallery featuring work from artists like David Hockney.
The Bradford Industrial Museum is another excellent place to learn about the important role Bradford played during the Industrial Revolution, especially regarding the textile industry.
For a taste of local culture, pay a visit to the Cartwright Hall art gallery and The Alhambra Theatre.
More To Explore In West Yorkshire
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”Charlotte Brontë
We’ve gone over some of the highlights, but Brontë Country has so much more to offer. To name a few:
Harewood House: An absolutely beautiful stately house in Leeds.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park: An outdoor sculpture gallery featuring artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
Cottingley Beck: A picturesque scene of the infamous “Cottingley Fairies,” a hilarious hoax that received worldwide attention during the early 1900s.
Harrogate Valley Gardens: A free park known for its themed gardens and gorgeous Art Deco pavilion.
National Coal Mining Museum: Take an underground tour as you learn all about the history of coal mining. This is one of the best attractions for kids!
Hebden Bridge: This market town is known both as “the Greatest Town in Europe” and the “lesbian capital of the UK.”
Pontefract Castle: Castle ruins dating back to the year 1070. Richard II is believed to have died here.
Huddersfield: The birthplace of rugby league football.
Gibson Mill: One of the first mills of the Industrial Revolution located within Hardcastle Crags. Admission is free and dogs are welcome!
Where To Stay In West Yorkshire
The Angel at Hetton: Okay, this is technically in North Yorkshire but it’s worth the very short drive. The Angel at Hetton is a historic inn dating back to the 15th century with a homey yet luxurious feel.
Maison Parfaite LS1: If you’re looking for a luxury stay centrally located in Leeds, the Maison Parfaite LS1 is nothing short of ideal. These “holiday homes” are in a gorgeous restored Victorian building right in the City Centre, and feature “devilishly sophisticated and darkly unique” decor.
Ashmount House: This beautiful guesthouse in Haworth is the enchanted cottage you’ve always dreamed of. In addition to their private cottage, Ashmount House features several unique rooms, some of which even include private hot tubs!
Where To Eat In West Yorkshire
The Angel at Hetton: Not only is the Angel at Hetton a luxurious stay, but it’s also home to a Michelin-star restaurant. If you’re a fan of luxury dining, this is one you can’t miss!
Leeds Corn Exchange: The Corn Exchange building is home to several unique eateries with something for everyone. I recommend OWT if you’re hankering for English dishes with a French twist!
The Hawthorn: This is the perfect place to get lunch in Haworth! The Hawthorn has a good combination of English classics as well as more dishes that might be more familiar like burgers and pasta.
Walkers Little Pie Shop: Meat pies are a staple in the UK, and Walker’s Little Pie Shop has a great selection of tasty pies, along with salads, sandwiches, and soups.
West Yorkshire, sometimes called “Brontë Country”, is best known for being the birthplace and lifelong home of the Brontë sisters. It’s also known for the crucial role its factories and mills played during the Industrial Revolution.
Leeds is the biggest city in West Yorkshire, followed by Bradford and Huddersfield.
You can’t visit Brontë Country without a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum! The Brontë sisters were some of the most influential female authors of all time, and their former home is nothing short of fascinating. The graveyard is hauntingly beautiful, and the church they’re buried under is so cool to experience. There are also many beautiful Haworth walks that you can take from the Parsonage if you’re the outdoorsy type. The Brontë Parsonage Museum is definitely worth visiting! So much so, that it’s my favorite place in all of England!
If you’re looking to explore Leeds and the surrounding areas, here are some spots you can’t miss: Bolton Abbey, the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Bradford, Haworth, Pontefract Castle, and Hebden Bridge.
🌊 If you like this list of things to do in West Yorkshire’s Brontë Country, please don’t forget to like and share! If you do any of the things I recommended use the hashtag #theseasidecalls so I can share with my followers!