Heathcliff, it's me Cathy, Come Home! - Yorkshire on Page and Screen

Published: Wednesday 11th Jun 2014

Written by: Alice de Courcy-Wheeler

With its evocative moorland, long coastline, and rugged hill country, Yorkshire has some of the most distinctive landscape in the country, and it’s no wonder that it’s been the backdrop to so many great books, TV programmes and films.

You would be hard pressed to find a novel that is more inextricably linked with the Yorkshire Moors than Wuthering Heights. The only published novel by Emily Bronte, some regard it as the greatest novel ever written in English. While the locations she used were fictitious, you can get a taste of the wild landscapes that inspired her by booking a cottage in the Yorkshire Moors. There have been several film and TV adaptations of the story filmed around Yorkshire: places like Skipton, Grassington, Coverham near Leyburn, and Thwaite close to Hawes have all featured on film. If you’d prefer to explore the area where she and her sisters grew up, and see the sights that inspired classics such as Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, then Curlew Cottage in Eldwick is close to their home of Haworth, where you can take the Bronte trail.

Bronte’s Victorian contemporary, Charles Dickens, set a large part of Nicholas Nickleby in Yorkshire, mainly at a horrific boarding school called Dotheboys Hall, which is said to be based on William Shaw’s Academy in Bowes, close to Richmond. Like Wuthering Heights there have been several screen adaptations, with Grassington as one of the locations.

A more recent Yorkshire author is Barbara Taylor Bradford. Born in Leeds, she has sold more than 84 million novels, with her most famous – A Woman of Substance – translated into a TV series that was filmed in Richmond, Broughton close to Skipton, and Aysgarth near Hawes.

Aysgarth is also a Hollywood star. The Aysgarth Falls, along with Hardraw Force, starred in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, one of dozens of films that have been filmed in Yorkshire. Many are set in the county: Calendar Girls was filmed in Settle and Skipton amongst other places. The Damned United and Little Voice had scenes filmed in Scarborough, while others weren’t set there but directors couldn’t resist the temptation to include Yorkshire’s stunning scenery in their film. Thus you’ll find The King’s Speech, Atonement, Brideshead Revisited and several Harry Potter films all feature the white rose county somewhere in their running time.

On the small screen, there have been some shows over the last thirty years where the Yorkshire landscape is almost a character in itself. The BBC’s veterinary drama All Creatures Great and Small was filmed in various places across the Dales – Askrigg near Hawes was Darrowby, while you can find Thornborough Hall in Leyburn. On the ‘other side’, Emmerdale has been a stalwart of the ITV schedules for decades and that sweeping title shot across the Yorkshire countryside is one of the most iconic on British television. The series is filmed in Esholt, Shipley, which is not far from Skipton.

Another ITV ratings juggernaut was Heartbeat. Its mix of sixties nostalgia, feel-good drama and the iconic Yorkshire countryside made it a Sunday night hit for eighteen years. The beautiful village of Goathland, five miles from Grosmont, was the location for filming for the entire run and is a wonderful place to visit.

Alice de Courcy-Wheeler
Alice de Courcy-Wheeler


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