A historical literary town seems an unlikely place to take young children but Haworth is so entirely bewitching it makes for an excellent weekend family excursion. This perfectly preserved pocket of nineteenth century English countryside in Keighley, West Yorkshire, may be a pilgrimage site for lovers of the Brontë sisters, but it is sadly underrated by mass tourism which is a shame as it’s a fantastic place to encourage a love of story-telling and remembering the past. Haworth is a memorable and unique way to traipse the English countryside traveling with kids.
The town of Haworth, so tiny you can easily miss the turnoff to its Main Street from Bridgehouse Lane, is utterly charming. It basically consists of one windy cobbled lane accompanied by its high street stores – whimsical, stone fronted buildings selling all manner of English countryside knick knacks and provisions. It has all the fun of a historical theme park – except that this is the real thing.
Haworth holds some awe for lovers of great literature as it is the famed place of authorship of works such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. But even for children (or adults) who’ve never picked up such a serious tome, the pristinely maintained township will feel every bit as wondrous as if one has stepped backwards into a fairytale where, once upon a time, a sad and lonely Cinderella might have been magically be swept off her feet by a handsome prince.
This was the home of the sisters Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë and much of the original township remains as it was in their day – the Black Bull pub (119 Main St., Haworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom) where their brother Branwell spent many an evening still exists. The main attraction in Haworth is the Brontë Parsonage Museum – the actual house where all three lived and (mostly) died – and penned their great works. Inside visitors can view many originals including manuscripts, clothing and furnishings.
The house is set in a magical landscape right on top of a cemetery next to the family tomb where Emily and Charlotte are buried. While this sounds macabre, it’s actually a very pretty setting in the summertime and a deliciously spooky scene in the winter – as well as a telling lesson in the realities of nineteenth century living.
The town proper is a joy to explore – along with the expected rural pleasures of tea and scones in a café or a pint in a pub, there are glorious shops such as the gorgeous Rose & Co Apothecary and The Imaginarium Gallery.
There are many pleasant rambles to be had on the moors made famous by Wuthering Heights. Either let the kids run wild or book in for a historical walk, such as the ones offered by Helen’s Heritage Walks and Talks.
Particularly attractive for children is the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, a steam engine train parents might recognise from 1970s The Railway Children film that stops at Haworth and its surrounding villages.
Alternatively, take the kids on a rural drive to visit other related properties in the area, such as Red House Museum where Charlotte Brontë regularly visited.
Since the town is small, in the summer it gets very busy with Brontë fans; better weather does mean busier streets. In the winter things are much quieter which means the museum (which often closes for a month in winter) and many of the shops are closed, so check before you depart. But the eeriness of the silent, snow-covered Parsonage is a potentially better palette for young imaginations – and can inspire family bonding over scary story-telling sessions around an open fireplace.
Haworth’s main street is steep and cobbled, so not likely to be stroller-friendly. But given the place is so small, this isn’t too much of a problem.
While there are larger hotels with more facilities outside of Haworth, it’s all part of the experience to stay in one of the local bed and breakfasts such as Wilson’s of Haworth. Or if you prefer a more budget price bracket, there are the fun heated Camping Pods at Upwood Park that provide a warm roof while the kids can still feel like they are camping it out on the floor. (Camp beds are available for hire for less adventurous folk.)
For more ideas for travelling the English countryside with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Day Trips From London.