What happens when you find yourself in one of the most beautiful spots in England? Slow down and enjoy the beauty would be the common answer. That would have been nice, but we were making a beeline from Scotland to York, having just enough time for a stopover in Haworth to enjoy the Bronte Parsonage Museum, which honors sisters and authors Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte. You’ve probably heard of their works that include “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre.” Here’s the story of that misadventure and some lessons learned about driving through the British countryside.
It started out as a beautiful late May morning in Scotland. The plan called for spending an hour at Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries in the south of Scotland. If everything went to plan we’d be on the road by 10:30, and to Haworth by 1 where we’d have a quick lunch, walk the High Street and visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum for about an hour. We’d be on the road in enough time to arrive in York by around 4 where we’d spend a leisure evening walking the historic English city.
That was the plan at least. But I soon learned that already tight schedules can be turned very problematic when issues arise in the British countryside.
We arrived at the castle roughly on time for its 9:30 a.m. opening after having a lovely breakfast at Southpark House Bed and Breakfast in Dumfries. But then we stayed a bit longer than planned at the castle.
But who can blame us. We had to take photos in front of the castle with this brilliant knight costume.
That was OK, I thought. I’d just make up the time on the road. Wrong.
As we exited the property I mistakenly took a road that took us back to town instead of to the M6 road that would take us south into England. It took 45 minutes for me to realize the mistake. So between spending extra time at the castle and taking a wrong turn we suddenly found ourselves an hour behind schedule.
We’d have to walk through the Bronte Parsonage really fast, I thought. Everything was moving along fine until suddenly, on this tiny two-lane road that skirted along the south side of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park, we hit brake lights. “This can’t be good,” I thought. After about 20 minutes of being parked we turned around, found a little lane to turn on and just drove.
Looking back now, I didn’t feel great about this road even though I kept expressing confidence that it would work out. We had a road atlas so in theory we had a map. And I could turn on my phone and use its GPS. But I didn’t want to chance going over on our international data plan, so that really wasn’t an option. We drove until I felt it would be OK to head back north where we met back up with our road to Haworth. Problem was we were way behind schedule now.
We had a decision to make: Go to Haworth anyway, quickly see the Bronte Parsonage and arrive in York by a couple hours later than planned, meaning we’d see even less of the city. Or, skip Haworth and arrive in York about the time as planned.
Ultimately we decided to skip Haworth. It’s one of our travel disappointments but we know it was the correct decision. As beautiful as Haworth seems in pictures, our time only would have allowed for a quick lunch and visit to the Bronte Parsonage. And that’s too bad because I read “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” for the sole purpose of our expected visit.
What are the Lessons?
So out of that disappointment of not seeing Haworth and learning more about the great Bronte sisters what did we get out of this Yorkshire detour? Well, we saw the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. Hills all around with stone walls keeping in pastures of sheep. It’s really beautiful countryside that we were fortunate to see. The only downside is we were irritated and in a hurry the whole drive, so we never really enjoyed it while we saw it. And the only picture we managed is at the top of this page.
We also experienced a roadside tea room. I’d like to imagine it’s the English version of a quick fast food restaurant on the side of the road. Only this tea shop was English in every sense of the word down to the food, the man running it, the tea and the decor.
When we arrived it was past whatever kind of lunch rush this shop might receive. There was a table of two couples sitting. But the rest of the shop, maybe eight tables in total with a little kitchen open to the room, was empty.
We sat down and ordered from a lovely man who seemed like he had never seen Americans come through his tea shop before. We had a nice conversation with him while we ate sandwiches, meat pies and enjoyed cups of tea. He seemed genuinely pleased to have us there. We talked mostly about the beautiful stone walls.
Would I have rather experienced Haworth? Sure, but at least we had a nice English dining experience. And next time we make it to the region I do hope we can make it to Haworth. I actually did enjoy those two books.
Would you like to add GPS?
Oh, and one more thing: When the rental car agency asks if you want a GPS say yes. Whatever you do say yes. I thought I’d be old school and use an actual atlas of Great Britain. Yeah, that’s a decision I’d like to have back. It might have saved us from going the wrong way back in Scotland to start the day.