By Jo Caird
Perched atop one of London’s highest hills, with its beautiful old houses and their fine views, Highgate feels like a neighbourhood apart from the rest of the UK capital. But its transport links mean the city centre is only 30 minutes away.
Green spaces surround Highgate: to the north lie Highgate Wood’s 28 hectares of ancient woodland; the Parkland Walk, a disused railway line turned nature reserve, stretches eastward; and Highgate Cemetery — the resting place of philosopher Karl Marx and novelist George Eliot — and the adjoining “garden for the gardenless” Waterlow Park are to be found to the south. All of these, however, are dwarfed by the 320-hectare expanse of Hampstead Heath to the west.
Two underground stations — Archway and Highgate — are within a short walk, or even shorter bus ride, of central Highgate. The M1 motorway is a 20-minute drive away, allowing for easy escapes northward out of London.
A community feel
Contributing to Highgate’s village atmosphere are various historic cultural institutions. Visiting academics lecture at the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution, while there are lunchtime concerts at Lauderdale House, a Tudor mansion in Waterlow Park saved from demolition by William Morris, the 19th-century Arts and Crafts designer. Highgate’s annual summer fair is a charming collection of food, craft and vintage stalls.
A good start in life
Highgate boasts two of London’s leading independent day schools. Channing School caters for girls aged four to 18, while Highgate School, historically a boys’ fee-paying school, has been fully coeducational since 2004.
New residents looking for a local — as Brits term their preferred neighbourhood drinking establishment — will find a good range on offer. Many date back hundreds of years to when Highgate was still a small rural settlement on the outskirts of London. The Flask has an excellent selection of beers and a lively garden; the Prince of Wales offers more of a traditional, cosy feel. The Gatehouse, which is also home to a fringe theatre, serves Spanish-influenced cuisine.
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