Hens clucked and scratched behind the chicken wire as Ray Copeland stooped to fill a basket with freshly laid eggs. Sunlight poured into the garden in front of a forbidding stone façade. A pair of doves rubbed shoulders on top of a white dovecot. In the distance, the valley rose up to moorlands etched with dry-stone walls. But for the wind turbine spinning futuristically on a hill, there was no doubt we had arrived in Brontë country.
"Welcome to Haworth," said Ray, the proprietor of Ashmount and the keeper of this quintessentially English view. Placing the eggs on a table in the lobby, he hauled our bags up the stairs to a room with a brass plaque bearing the name of Dr Amos Ingham. A character from a lesser-known novel by one of the Brontë sisters? "Not quite," said Ray. "He was their physician."
Dr Ingham, Ray informed us, built Ashmount House in 1870. He tended to Charlotte Brontë when she died in 1855 and her father, Patrick Brontë, six years later. The history of Ashmount is intertwined with that of the Brontës. But whether or not you're a fan of the novels of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, Ashmount is an ideal base for exploring the brooding moors and picturesque villages that inspired their writings. Ray and his partner, Gill, have kept the period feel of the property, with antique furniture and four-poster beds in the sumptuously decorated rooms. Adorning the walls are 19th- and early-20th-century art and political cartoons.
Like Ashmount, Haworth has retained its historic charms: the steep high street is paved with thick Yorkshire setts, along which you'll find the antiquated livery of Rose & Co Apothecary, formerly home to the druggist who kept Branwell (the errant Brontë brother) in supply of laudanum. The stocks beside the church are a reminder of the public humiliations that were once endured. Behind the church, the parsonage is the focal point of the tourist trail, as it houses the excellent Brontë museum (01535 642 323; www.bronte.org.uk; open 10am-5.30pm April to September, 11am-5pm October to March, £6). From here you can set out on the many trails to beauty spots such as Brontë Falls (1.5 miles) and Top Withins (2.5 miles).
Ashmount Country House, Mytholmes Lane, Haworth, West Yorkshire, BD22 8EZ (01535 645 726; www.ashmounthaworth.co.uk). Off-street parking is available. The hotel is around half an hour's drive west from Bradford.
Time from railway station: 15 minutes by bus to Keighley, the nearest mainline station (Haworth is served by buses 663, 664, 665 and 720). For a suitably Victorian arrival, stop at Haworth on the Keighley and Worth Valley steam railway (01535 645 214; www.kwvr.co.uk).
Time from international airport: Around 40 minutes' drive from Leeds Bradford.
Ray and Gill's reverence for the past is matched only by a healthy predilection for mod cons: the rooms have flat-screen televisions, some feature iPod docking stations, and two have outdoor, wood-panelled hot tubs in their own secluded yards. Our room had a large sofa and armchair with gorgeous views over the colourful gardens and moors beyond. Although we longed to simmer under the stars in a hot-tub room, our power shower with adjustable body-jets was enough to soothe limbs sore from hiking on the moors. The large Yorkshire breakfasts (complete with freshly laid eggs) are the perfect fuel for a hike. Ashmount does not serve evening meals, but arrangements can be made at local restaurants within a few minutes' walk.
Freebies: A bowl of apples, a small decanter of sherry, bottled water, a pocket-sized box of chocolates, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, tea, coffee and shortbread.
Keeping in touch: No phones in the rooms, but complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms range from £70 to £150 per night, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: The comfortable and contemporary Thyme House (01535 211 860; www.thethymehouse.co.uk) has stunning views and offers doubles with breakfast from £80 a night.