By Kate Arnold
One of my favourite days I spent in London was taking a day out to visit Highgate Cemetery, a beautiful, quiet place, where I spend hours wandering around, looking at old graves that have been overtaken by nature. Many of the plants and wildflowers have been planted and grown without human intervention, creating an environment overrun by nature, which is incredibly soothing, especially after experiencing the hustle and bustle of London.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to the cemetery from London by tube. Get on the Northern Line heading towards High Barnet and get off at the Archway stop. Don’t go to the Highgate stop, it’s a much longer walk. From Archway Station exit towards Highgate Hill. From there you can either walk over Highgate Hill to Waterlow Park or alternatively take the bus (210, 143 or 271) two stops to Waterlow Park and cross the park to get to the Highgate Cemetery Gates. For more information about how to use the tube check out my article Your Guide to the London Underground.
The East Cemetery is known for containing the tomb of Karl Marx, which has been listed as a Grade I site for historical importance. You’ll also find the graves of Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, author George Eliot (whose grave says Mary Ann Cross), anatomist and surgeon Henry Grey, who authored the compendium Grey’s Anatomy and Academy Award nominee Diane Cilento, who was an Australian actress and author.
You can either wander around the East Cemetery at your leisure or you can join a guided tour run by one of the cemetery’s volunteers. Tickets cost £8 for adults and £4 for members and children. General admission to the East Cemetery is £4 for adults and free for children under 18.
You’ll also find Fireman’s Corner in the East Cemetery, which is where 97 members of London’s Fire Brigade have been laid to rest. This memorial to these service men and women was erected by the widows and orphans of London’s firemen and is cared for by the Brigade’s Welfare Section.
The West Cemetery is only admissible via a guided tour, which runs for around 70 minutes and costs £12 for adults and £6 for children aged 8 – 17. No children under the age of 8 will be admitted. A ticket to this tour will also allow you general admission into the East Cemetery. Bookings are essential for tours Monday to Friday, which run twice a day, commencing at 11 am and again at 1.45 pm. Weekend tours are sold on a first come first serve basis and run every 30 minutes from 10.30 am to 3 pm. Tours will still run in light rain and the paths can get muddy and slippery and are steep in some parts, choose your footwear accordingly.
The West Cemetery is also home to the Egyptian Avenue, which is also a Grade I listing for historical importance is so called because of the Egyptian style architecture. This avenue of tombs leads to the Circle of Lebanon.
Circle of Lebanon
An ancient and enormous cedar tree stands at the heart of the Circle of Lebanon, it is so old that it long predates the cemetery that has risen around it. Tombs surround the base of this giant tree, which is still a focal point of the cemetery’s landscape.
Inside the Terrace Catacombs is a hall stretching over 80 yards, which is lined with 825 recesses in the walls, each tall enough to accommodate a coffin standing on its end.
What You Should Know
We all know how rainy it can get in the UK and the paths can get muddy underfoot, I recommend you break out your wellies or another waterproof, closed toe boot. Don’t let the rain deter you from going though, the cemetery looks even more beautiful during light rain.
George Micheal was buried at Highgate Cemetery in 2017, however his grave is in the private section on the cemetery an cannot be view by the public. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other interesting people buried in the cemetery and there is a memorial garden dedicated to George Micheal outside his home in Highgate, which is tended to by his fans.
Have you been to Highgate Cemetery? If you have or you’ve been to any other amazing cemeteries around the world, let us know in the comments.