England: Walking the Bronte Trail

Stanage Edge, made famous in Wuthering Heights, on the Bronte Trail. photos: The Wayfarers.Stanage Edge, made famous in Wuthering Heights, on the Bronte Trail. photos: The Wayfarers. Walking the Bronte Trail:

Journeying through the countryside of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights By Peter Sacco

“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agised as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.”
– Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Have you ever wondered how life in the English Highlands could galvanize the gripping emotion captured in Charlotte Bronte’s 19th century novel Jane Eyre?

Here’s your chance to explore, discover and ultimately bring the book to life.

Named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “50 Tours of a Lifetime”, The Wayfarers, a resourceful travel company that has been operating unique walking vacations since 1984, is offering Bronte enthusiasts an unparalleled opportunity to retrace the footsteps of England’s most profound novelists.

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Run your hands over the weathered stones of Moorseats House (Moor House in Jane Eyre), and walk through the dimly lit passages of Wycoller Hall (Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre). Stroll through the wild heather-filled fields and moors that so inspired the Bronte Sisters.

Tragically Romantic World

The walking tour group poses at Moorland.

The private guided tour of Haddon Hall and the Bronte Parsonage Museum will impress upon you the tragically romantic world by which the Bronte sisters were so influenced.

“We’re the only company that really follows the trail of the Bronte Sisters,” says Alan Pinkney, “It’s a bit of a detective trail in a way, were trying to witness the landscapes and buildings that inspired the Bronte Sisters to write these books.”

Alan has been a Wayfarers guide since 1999, but his expertise doesn’t stop there. In fact, it was Alan himself who designed the Bronte Trail Walk in 2009.

“Its great because the group will arrive at North Lees Hall, (Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre), and I will read a passage from Jane Eyre and the group will see that yes, this must be the house described by Charlotte Bronte.” Says Pinkney. “ And then we will walk up across the moors, and the group will get the sense that yes, this is where Jane gets lost for three days in the bogs. Its quite marvelous to see how the story gets brought to life.”

Although the walk is suitable for people of all ages and abilities, don’t forget your hiking boots. The trail meanders through 6-12 miles of rolling farmlands and meadows each day, carving a picturesque path through England’s old country side.

Throughout the weeklong walk, which begins in Haworth, England, and concludes in Hathersage, England, travelers will enjoy in-depth novel and movie discussion with insightful Bronte Sisters experts, and even get the scoop on the new Jane Eyre Movie.

The seven-day Bronte Trail Walk is offered June 3-9 2012 and August 16-22 2012, and is priced at $3,595 per person.

Alan and his guests take tea.Taking tea with Alan in period dress.

Included in the package is all accommodations, vastly constituted by rustic inns and manor houses, meals, most of which will be at traditional pubs and restaurants, trail snacks, wine with dinner, entrance fees, guides, van transport for moving luggage and resting walkers, and all taxes and gratuities at hotels and restaurants.

Fresh Eyre

Your trip will begin upon arrival in Haworth, England, where you will rendezvous with fellow travelers and your guide at Keighley Railway Station. Your group will likely consist of 8 to 10 people, and from here it’s a short private transfer to your hotel in Haworth, a historic coaching inn overlooking the village’s cobblestone streets.

Joined by a local historian, you will be given a short tour of this historic hamlet. Then its time for the Welcome Dinner and Meeting, where you will get the chance to mingle in earnest with your guide and fellow walkers.

“It’s a small, intimate group,” says Pat Sink, “You really do feel that you are getting personal attention and exclusive knowledge.”

Pat has walked with the Wayfarers for 25 years, and offers only praise for the Wayfarers and the Bronte Trail Walk in particular. In 2010, Pat embarked upon the Bronte Trail with her friend Sue Stuphin.

“I can’t say enough about the guides,” says Sink, “We rely on their knowledge, and they never let us down. On the second day we go to the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and their expertise shows immediately.”

Baslow Edge, Derbyshire.View along the walk of the Bronte Trail. Baslow Edge, Derbyshire.

Indeed, come day two, your group will congregate for a private, one-hour tour of the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Marvel at the unique gothic artwork and original 19th century furniture. It is in this cold stone building that the Bronte sisters spent much of their childhood.

Next venture into the countryside, to the eerie ruins of Top Withens Farm (Wuthering Heights). Lunch follows at the aptly named Old Silent Inn, and then a tour of the ruins of Wycoller Hall (Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre). The evening concludes with a convivial pre-dinner talk by a Bronte expert; you will soak in information about the Bronte’s family life and the local social conditions in which they lived. Rest up; this will be your last night in Haworth.

Now, having wandered the desolate wind-swept countryside, ambled through the ruins, and shivered when the wind moaned through the dale, you will begin to understand the forlorn aura that the Bronte Sisters were able to mirror in their literary works.

The Countryside Awaits…

Rise and shine, now the walk begins in earnest. Following a short transfer to the village of Oxenhope, you will hike through the Worth Valley and on to the Pack Horse Inn for lunch. Your guide will then lead you through Hebden Dale and into the National Trust woods of Hardcastle Crags.

Emerge through the other side into the mill town of Hebden Bridge, one of the worlds ‘funkiest towns’. After a short reprieve to take in the sights and sounds, you will transfer to Holdsworth, where you will spend the night.

The next morning will begin with a walk along Calderdale Way, a meandering country footpath leading into Luddenden Dean. This sleepy town is home to the Lord Nelson, a 17th century inn and the Bronte’s favorite watering hole. Following a short lunch break at the inn, you will transfer to Bakewell. While here be sure to sample the infamous Bakewell Tart, a flakey short crust pastry with a layer of jam and a savory almond filling.

Walking guide Alan Pinkney.Walking guide Alan Pinkney. Remember to close the gate!

The day having been spent wandering through the green pastures and farmlands of the English countryside, it’s time to transfer to the aptly named town of Ashford-In-The-Water. Here you’ll hole up for the night in a quaint inn overlooking the river.
You will spend two nights in this charming village and you should be sure to take a look around; ivy clings to the stone buildings, the streets are hewn of worn cobblestone, and the town has an intriguing history.

Ashford-In-The-Water provides a handy jumping-off point to several iconic Bronte memorials in the nearby countryside. Arise in the morning and transfer to Hathersage Church and Vicarage, where Charlotte Bronte spent her summers. A short walk will bring you to the spectacular views from Stanage Edge, featured most prominently in Jane Austen’s timeless classic Pride and Prejudice. Along the way, you’ll make stops at Moorseats House (Moor House in Jane Eyre) and North Lees Hall (home to the original Eyre family).

Discuss the history of these literary icons with your guide, he’ll give you the inside scoop concerning their incorporation into the Bronte’s novels, and their involvement in the Sisters lives those centuries ago. These spectacles are set deep in the desolate but beautiful English countryside; surrounded by rolling hills and sloping dales, their lonely romanticism will hold fast in your memory.

“You get an idea from the Bronte’s books what it was like growing up at that time, and what the buildings and architecture looked like, and then your imagination sort of runs away with it.” Says Pat Sink. “And then your standing in front of Moorseats House, from Jane Eyre, and it suddenly all comes to life.”

View from the tower at Haddon Hall.View from the tower at Haddon Hall.

The final stop of the day will be at Haddon Hall (Thornfield Hall in the latest film version of Jane Eyre), where you will enjoy a private tour.
This medieval manor dates back to the 11th century, and offers a fascinating and romantic history deserving of a Romeo and Juliet narrative. With its dramatic architecture and regal furnishings, you will wander the halls feeling as though you have truly taken a step back in time.

The Final Touches

The final day of walking brings you to the charming estate village of Edensor for a visit to Chatsworth House, home of Deborah (née Mitford) Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. This gorgeous centuries-old estate is home to an intriguing display of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artifacts. The grounds are extensive and picturesque, and you will take a tour of both the magnificent manor and the gardens before transferring to your final hotel in Hathersge.

Once in Hathersge enjoy the evening, take in the quaint village, and reflect on your journey; morning will bring a move to Chesterfield Rail Station and departure for home.

More information can be found at the Wayfarer’s website.

Peter Sacco is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD. He now lives in Peru.

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