It’s that time of year when we’ve returned from our holiday and I’m bursting with inspiration to write about it! As an author, we couldn’t have picked a better place than the Yorkshire Dales, (though I had no idea at the time that this lovely, hidden part of Britain was also home to the Brontë sisters.)
We were fortunate to arrive in clear sunshine where the view from our stone-built cottage, in the conservation village of Luddenden, rewarded us with breath-taking views over the hills. Aptly named ‘Cottage in the Sky’ it was located on a steep hill set above another property, a style known locally as an ‘over-dwelling’ unique to the Calder Valley.
So what can I share about this wonderful location to tempt people?
It is a perfect place for walkers, great for the dog and the people are very friendly. It was this ‘village community’ spirit that uplifted us from day one, starting with the trip to the local pub. People had plenty of time to chat and make us feel welcome. After tottering down a steep, cobbled hill to ask directions, a local lady explained, it was ‘down’t hill, turn left and on’t right’ before we got chatting. Ten minutes later, my husband got caught in a another conversation with two lads, delighted to give us a run down of their best recommendations for our stay.
When we eventually got to the pub, I was tempted by the homemade ‘Cheese and Potato Pie.’ Why not order something local? (when in Rome etc…) It was delicious but as I was only able to manage half of this sinful stodge-fest, I knew I needed to do a lot of walking to burn up those calories – not a problem. Luddenden is a most idyllic place for rambling with ancient woods, streams and fields of sheep, criss-crossed with dry stone walls – soaring hills dotted with pretty stone cottages, farms and even a local winery.
Nearby Hebdon Bridge, our nearest town, was also a delight with quirky, artistic shops, galleries, lovely stone architecture and we took our Barney to a dog friendly café, the Lamp Post – with sack beds to lie on and a menu for ‘hounds and humans.’ Further afield we discovered Hardcastle Crags, a steep ravine of wooded paths, pine forests, white water rapids, waterfalls and millstone stacks braced high up in the ferns.
We visited Harrogate too – a beautiful spa town with elegant shops and acres of floral parks. A walk through Valley Park and beyond led us to panoramic views and the RHS Gardens at the top where we visited ‘Betty’s Tea Rooms’ if only to gaze at their stunning cakes and confectionary; a super place to buy gifts.
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
My favourite day by far though, was a steam train adventure on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, travelling through the staggering Yorkshire countryside with stops along the way. It was during this trip, we stopped in Haworth and visited the famous Bronte Parsonage Museum where I was hit by a strange sense of fate…
How incredible to gaze across a writing table where Charlotte Brontë created her world famous masterpiece, Wuthering Heights; to discover artefacts, from pen nibs and quills, to extracts from notebooks. I was particularly moved by a review written of the ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Ann Brontë – so much, I actually wrote it down: “The Bells are of hardy race… The air they breath is not that of the hot house, or of perfumed apartments: but it whistles through the rugged thorns that shoot out their prickly arms on barren moors, or it ruffles the moss on the mountain tops.”
The spookiest thing happened when I wandered downstairs, to feel a needle sharp jab in my finger as it was pierced by a splinter. One of the curators was quite alarmed and yet it was not; as if I was thinking of suing them – far from it! What I felt was a sense of destiny. I had a splinter from the original Brontë staircase embedded in my flesh like a thorn which immediately called to mind that review – its reference to prickly arms. Was this the ghost of one of the sisters? A chance to look deep into my soul and contemplate my place in the literary world? It’s unlikely I will be famous and this is not the reason I write. But it would be nice to imagine that one day, one of my stories may touch others as I was stirred by their presence in this magnificent museum that was their home.