Britain beckons. Again. But you want something different.
You’ve “done” the obvious, the mandated, the grand, the historic, the picture post-card pretty.
Now is the time to hit those parts that the travel brochures never touch. The sort of spot that even the British Tourist Authority would be hard to place.
How about going to Cleckheaton? Don’t worry, even the Brits - well those not from Cleckheaton - laugh at the sound of it. It’s been the butt of music-hall jokes for ever.
But the gritty mill town - in the heart of industrial Yorkshire - harbours secrets that will delight the traveller who loves to be able to drop a casual but knowing, “been there, done that,” before anyone else.
How does incorporating visits to little-known Bronte sites, with a meal in the world’s biggest Indian restaurant, appeal? Talk about tourist extremes! But that’s what Cleckheaton has to offer. It’s a tantalizing sample of Yorkshire, old and new.
It’s praise be to God - not Allah - that the unique eating experience exists! It’s housed in a handsome, neo-Greek edifice that was - until 20 years ago - the Providence Congregational Chapel. With it’s 850 seat capacity, it’s destined for the Guiness Book of Records.
Cleckheaton, 200 miles due-north of London, is an easy stop-off en-route to or from Scotland, York, the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District. It’s particularly easy to get to for those flying into, and leaving from, Manchester. And, thanks to the demands of business travelers, there’s plenty of surprisingly good and interesting accommodation. So where to lay the chapati-stuffed body does not present a problem.
Proudly showing off what “Provi” has become, Mr Tabassum adds: “We have saved a wonderful building. We’ve also provided something for Cleckheaton to boast about. To become known for. We have put it on the world map.”
Actually, Cleckheaton has always enjoyed a tiny niche of global-fame. This is where the Luddites carried out their loom wrecking-raids in 1812; “Made in Cleckheaton” textile machinery is installed in mills all over the world; it’s the home-town of the legendary Panther motorbike and Mintex, the world’s most used brake-lining.
Also, extremely serious Bronte fans are aware of Cleckheaton - though it’s totally overshadowed by Haworth, the Bronte’s moorland home village, 20 odd miles away.
Charlotte featured the Luddite attacks in her 1849 novel, Shirley.
Her father, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, was vicar of the Saxon church in the tiny village of Hartshead, just a few minutes from Cleckheaton town center, before he moved to Haworth.
And Red House Museum - again just a few minutes out of town - is a must visit, for visitors. Charlotte, a friend of the Taylor family who owned the 1660 house, she spent many happy times there. The family and the house had such an influence on her she immortalized them, and it, in Shirley. Red House became Briarmains and the Taylors the Yorkes.
And still on the Cleckheaton Bronte trail, an outing to Oakwell Hall completes a side-trip to this dot on the British map. It’s an absolutely splendid example of an Elizabethan manor house - and was the inspiration, in Shirley, for Fieldhead, the home of the novel’s heroine.
It’s a perfect “starter” for an expansive Indian dinner. Oakwell Hall boasts miles of trails through “countryside” that makes it hard to believe you’re just a few minutes drive from a landscape cluttered with mill chimneys and broken down factories.
For a generation, Cleckheaton has lived in the shadow of its rich industrial past. Now, somewhat run-down, it has a new reason to boast about what it’s got to offer.
Thanks to Aakash and the Brontes, Cleckheaton is landing on the true-traveler’s itinerary. Even if people do laugh and ask: “You’re going where....?”
This was one of the best Indian meals I have had in a very long time. It compares with Anghitis restaurant in Nairobi for quality, taste and presentation. The restaurant was originally a Congregational chapel and the original architecture can be seen in all its splendour.
The meal was mushroom pakora £3.20, seek kebabs £4.20, Prawn and chicken poori £3.90, Karahi Gosht, Karahi Keema and Karahi chicken all at £8.90 each. Muchroom rice for all was £3.20 , nan bread £2.10 and kulfi dessert £1.90. Drinks £1.50. The whole bill for three people came to £46.70 which was not bad at all.
Favorite Dish: Karahi Gosht... rich, flavoursome and garnished with fresh coriander.... yum!