When to go
Built into the steep, wooded uscasummer hillsides of the Calder Valley, this West Yorkshire town is a hive of artisan shops, independent cafés and galleries. It takes its name from a historic packhorse bridge.
The community was reinvigorated in the 70s, after industrial decline, by an influx of young people, environmentalists and hippies. It has since become an artistic, quirky, progressive corner of the country, with not a Starbucks in sight. Sally Wainwright’s BBC drama Happy Valley, much of which is set in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding valley, put the town in the spotlight in recent years – as has Last Tango in Halifax.
A 50-minute drive from Leeds and around an hour from Manchester, Hebden Bridge is a gateway for walkers. The National Trust’s Hardcastle Crags, Stoodley Pike and the moors are popular hiking sites. As Britain’s first official “Walkers are Welcome” town (part of an initiative to encourage towns and villages to be attractive destinations for walkers), it offers three easy-to-follow trails signposted from the town centre.
Literature fans may wish to visit Sylvia Plath’s grave in Heptonstall (around 30 minutes’ walk from the town centre) and Ted Hughes’s birthplace in Mytholmroyd (around 40 minutes’ walk or a five-minute drive). The Brontë parsonage is eight miles away in Haworth. For more information, see visitcalderdale.com.
Getting there and around
Hebden Bridge is on the Calder Valley Line, served by Northern Rail. The town is walkable, but services such as the B1 and B2 Brontëbus connect it to Haworth and Keighley and 598 loops around the town (tlctravelltd.co.uk).
Drop your bags
Riverview Bed and Breakfast has, as the name suggests, views of the river and canal. It is a 20-minute walk from the train station and town centre. Rooms include a double in the attic with hillside views and start at £110 (£80 for single occupancy). Among the breakfast options are traditional or vegetarian cooked breakfast and “Scandi Berry Boost” – toasted sourdough with peanut butter, berries, crème fraîche and granola.
The White Lion (whitelionhotel.net), a town-centre coaching inn dating to 1657, has rooms from £143 a night B&B.
Browse the shops
Hebden Bridge has an eclectic mix of independent businesses. Spirals has two floors of handmade rugs, furniture, local art, trinkets and homeware – and much of it made is made in, or near, Hebden Bridge. Lucy & the Caterpillar is full of second-hand clothes and Lucy is on hand to offer advice. The Book Case bookshop, in the centre of town, has been open for more than 35 years.
Mooch café’s bacon teacakes are a warming option on a cold winter day. Fry-ups, homemade soup, ciabattas and eggs are also on offer for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Open from 9am–8pm Mon-Thurs, 9am until late Fri, 10am until late Sat and 10am–8pm Sun (moochcafebar.wordpress.com).
A buttery crumpet is a fitting afternoon pick-me-up at Watergate Tea Rooms, which serves homemade food and drinks free from added colourings or flavourings. Open 9am–4.30pm daily (facebook.com/watergatetearooms).
Rainy day refuges
The independent Picture House cinema (not part of the Picturehouse franchise) is one of the last remaining council-owned cinemas in Britain (hebdenbridgepicturehouse.co.uk).
At Artsmill, a not-for-profit art space at the end of a cobbled lane, exhibitions have included works by Picasso, Bridget Riley, Goya and Quentin Blake. It also has a café and runs art classes (facebook.com/artsmill).
A drink by the fire
The Fox and Goose was rescued from closure in 2014 when 300 locals clubbed together to own and run the pub. One of the few community-owned pubs in Yorkshire, with its flagstone floors and open fire, it has since been runner-up for Yorkshire Pub of the Year and won the Camra Good Beer Guide Halifax and Calderdale Pub of the Year in 2019. Dog-friendly, it is a popular refuge for walkers and serves a range of real ales from microbrewers alongside real ciders and craft beer (foxandgoose.org).
Basement-level Nelson’s wine bar is a relaxed restaurant and bar. At one table, a group of locals might be playing cards, while another group dances in the centre of the room to live jazz or the DJ. As a “plant-based” establishment, expect vegan options and friendly service, (nelsonswinebar.co.uk).
For a traditional pub dinner, try the steak or fish and chips at The Shoulder of Mutton (shoulderofmuttonhebden.com). For pizza, try Marco’s cafe, (marcos cafe.co.uk). The Olive Branch (theolivebranchrestaurants.com) serves Turkish cuisine. Cardamon is an elegant Indian restaurant (cardamononline.co.uk).
Hardcastle Crags has 400 acres of spectacular valley. Fifteen miles of footpaths lead to streams, ravines, ragged rocks and upland meadows.
Another popular route is the six-mile Stoodley Pike Circular Hike, which begins in Hebden Bridge town centre. For a short, if steep, walk, head from Hebden Bridge up to the ancient village of Heptonstall to visit Sylvia Plath’s grave and enjoy views of the valley below.
Or to visit the Parsonage where the Brontë sisters wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, take the eight-mile route to the cobbled town of Haworth.
Three things you might not know about Hebden Bridge…
1) It used to be called “Fustianopolis” or “Trouser Town” as it was known for making the hard-wearing cotton cloth called fustian.
2) The Co-operative movement came to the town in 1870. The Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society was the first co-operative mill in the UK.
3) An LGBTQ+ friendly community, it has more lesbians per square foot than anywhere else in the country.