As we learn on page 2 of Emily Brontë’s famous novel,
Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff’s dwellings, "wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.
The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that
N. England dial. variant of Scottish and dial. whithering, rushing, whizzing, blustering, from a verb whither (1375), used in ref. to gusts of wind and coughing fits, from O.N. *hviðra (cf. Norw. kvidra, to go quickly to and fro, related to O.E. hwiþa, air, breeze.
This Old Norse origin didn’t surprise me; the Viking invasions have left their mark in the North of England, particularly in its various dialects and place names (particularly names ending in -by and -thorpe and of course York, which used to be called Jorvik). This excellent site gives maps of the North-East with places names and their origins.
I read Wuthering Heights when I was a teenager and loved it, so I couldn’t wait to go to Haworth, near Leeds, where the Brontë family lived, and discover the landscapes that inspired so many exceptional novels.
I wasn’t disappointed.
This is the view on the way to Top Withens, the house that, they say, inspired Wuthering Heights.
And this is Top Withens, which looks nothing like the description of Wuthering Heights in the book.
On a lighter note, my friend Jo asked me whether I danced and wailed around the house in a white dress and was horrified to hear that I didn’t know the Kate Bush song. Just when I thought I was getting to grips with this country’s culture. In fact, I had heard it, I just had no idea it was about Heathcliff and Catherine. How embarrassing.