Weekend walk: The Bronte Way

with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com


Two hundred years ago a remarkable family came into being – the Brontë sisters: Charlotte (born 1816), Emily (born 1818) and Anne (born 1820). Though their lives were brief their legacy in the world of literature is enormous – their novels have never been out of print. To commemorate that legacy here is a walk that follows the Bronte way from Lancashire into Yorkshire.


Start: Laneshaw Bridge, Lancashire BB8 7HU


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    Finish: Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth BD22 8DR

    Distance: 11.5 miles though this includes a diversion to Top Withins. If this is not followed the distance is reduced to 9.5 miles.

    Time: 5 – 7 hours (or an hour less without diversion)

    Grade: Strenuous. This is a toug walk mainly on well-made tracks but with an awkward section of narrow footpaths between Watersheddles Reservoir and Ponden Reservoir.

    Map: OS OL21 The South Pennines.


    1.Formally the Brontë Way connects many of the locations in Yorkshire and Lancashire that had connections with the Bronte sisters starting with Oakwell Hall in Birstall and finishing with Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham a distance of 40 miles. Logistics dictate (i.e. bus routes) that the walk described below starts on A6068 Keighley Road, Laneshaw Bridge. Walk down School Lane, directly opposite the Emmott Arms towards Wycoller. After crossing the River Laneshaw turn right into Carrier’s Row. In a little under 200yds turn left on the Pendle Way on a footpath that enters riverside meadows. Keep on the main footpath for one mile until you arrive in the hamlet of Wycoller. As you reach a road junction turn left. After passing the tearoom go left to cross Wycoller Beck. How you cross it becomes a matter of preference – by ancient pack horse bridge, by even more ancient clapper bridge or the ford in between (not recommended after prolonged spells of wet weather).

    2. Now standing before the ruins of Wycoller Hall turn right to follow a broad farm track past the ruins continuing up an attractive wooded lane. In 600yds the way forks. Although the Bronte Way goes right I suggest keep left on the Pennine Bridleway to Parson Lee Farm which takes a more direct line. Just before the farm entrance bear left on a footpath that enters steep sided Smithy Clough and then joins a track leading up to a junction that reunites you with the Bronte Way. Turn left on a concrete track that dips down into a valley and then climbs up towards Lancashire Moor Road. Just before it reaches it turn right through a wooden kissing gate onto a moorland path taking you to Watersheddles Reservoir.

    3. When you reach a wall just before the reservoir cross a ladder stile and follow an awkward narrow path alongside the road to reach the dam end. After another ladder stile commence the long descent towards Ponden Reservoir. Keep to the right of a utility building following a path through bracken to the first of a series of substantial ladder stiles made from some sort or recycled plastic. Now in a very steep sided valley follow the stream to a footbridge and then bear right for a path taking you into pastures. After a metal gate bear left on an enclosed track leading downhill to Old Snap – a farm. Just before it turn right and following a grassy path dip down to a plank bridge across a stream. Over this keep left and then after a wall go left again to come to an enclosed track. Turn right. Soon after pass a sign post that informs you that you are midway between Wycoller and Haworth as well on the Pennine Way. For the next section of the walk you will be following the Pennine Way to Top Withins.

    4. Keep ahead on a farm track to reach Ponden Hall. Continue to drop down to Ponden Reservoir. Follow the southern side of the reservoir to the dam end when the PW (and Brontë Way) turn right to start a sustained ascent to the moorland plateau. The path is well waymarked and after ½ mile reaches the junction where the PW parts from the Brontë Way. For those satisfied in just doing the Brontë Way (i.e. wimps) keep ahead to reach Brontë Bridge ¼ ahead but for the true Brontë aficionado go right to climb up to Top Withins – a good 1 ½ miles away. Distance apart it is an easy walk on a well-made path.

    5. Top Withins has been a place of pilgrimage for tourists for decades. In particular Japanese visitors seem to have a special connection with this abandoned farmhouse thought to have been the inspiration for Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. To re-join the Brontë Way retrace your steps for a little under ¼ mile to a footpath coming in from the right. Here turn right and follow this downhill to a small stream. Cross the stepping stones and keep left on a path leading into fields. Keep ahead to intercept the Brontë Way and then turn right for Brontë Bridge. For the remainder of the walk keep on the Brontë Way as it takes you to Haworth and the parsonage – home of that most remarkable of families – the Brontës.

    - Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and App (see iFootpath.com).