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GO highgate in north london

Highgate

The village-like character of Highgate is just one of the reasons why people like to visit this part of north London, but it also has a number of interesting features that are worth an afternoon wander.

Located on a hill just across from Hampstead, Highgate lies to the west of north London. And the name, as with many places in England, has a literal origin and refers to a tollgate that stood at the hilly location.

In terms of current attractions Highgate is home to Lauderdale House [map]. This 16th century manor house has had a chequered past, falling into the hands of several different owners and even surviving a fire in the 1960’s. Taking a stroll around the house and grounds could be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours, but if you need something more involving then you could also take part in some artistic adventures. Today the building is used as an arts and education centre that runs classes for adults and children in drama, drawing and creative writing.

The grounds surrounding Lauderdale House make up Waterlow Park [map]. Here you could simply enjoy this beautiful open space, with its rose gardens, lush trees and water features. The park was given to the public by the industrialist Sir Sidney Waterlow in 1889 as a ‘garden for the gardenless’ and today includes tennis courts, a putting green, and a dog free play area for the under fives. If these aren’t enough to keep you entertained then you may want to go there in the summer when open-air concerts fill the grounds with music.

Close to Lauderdale House is the famous Highgate Cemetery [map], although this may seem like a morbid place to visit, if you take the guided tour you will probably find it fascinating. The cemetery is where English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday is buried, as well as political philosopher and social theorist Karl Marx and novelist George Eliot. But in addition to its well known residents Highgate Cemetery is also of interest for its history and architecture. The guided tours are available throughout the year.

You could also explore the ancient woodland of Highgate Wood [map] which is so old that it has a mention in the Domesday Book. Today this 70 acre conservation area is popular with children for its nature trails and playground, but is also a favourite with those who just fancy a serene stroll in the shade. And if you need a little refreshment while you’re frolicking in the fresh air you can visit the Oshobasho Café [map] located in the woods.

Aside from the attractions, Highgate is known for a number of other reasons. It has a starring role in Dick Whittington, a popular English story with a connection to the pantomime tale of Puss In Boots. As legend has it, Dick Whittington was a poor boy who came to London with his cat to seek his fortune. But when he reached Highgate Hill he lost heart and was about to turn back when he heard the bells of London tell him to turn around because he was going to be the Mayor of London three times. The story does have a loose basis in truth as London did have a mayor called Richard Whittington but apart from that there are very few similarities and he actually held the post four times rather than three. However Highgate does have a stone, located close to the Whittington Hospital, to commemorate the tale.

The area also played a part in the real life of Francis Bacon who has a street there named after him. English statesman, lawyer and philosopher Francis Bacon, has three main reasons why he his remembered; he pioneered a method of scientific investigation, he was fired as Lord Chancellor in 1621 for taking a bribe and he is also believed, by some, to be the true writer of Shakespeare’s plays. Bacon died after catching a chill at the home of his good friend the Earl of Arundel in Highgate in 1626.

Other notable Englishmen who have a connection to Highgate include poet and friend of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge who died in Highgate in 1834 and poet John Betjeman who was born in Highgate.

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