I had seen photos of Highgate Cemetery on Instagram about a year ago and wanted to go ever since. I have a strange fascination with cemeteries. I was 11 the first time we visited my Grandad’s grave; rather than being freaked out, I thought “Dying can’t be that bad if you end up somewhere like this”.
My Grandad happens to be buried in one of the ‘Magnificent Seven‘ (Highgate is one of the seven), so maybe that’s why.
The cemetery is split into the East and West. The East Cemetery is home to some famous figures including Karl Marx and George Eliot. You can walk around freely and entrance is £4 for adults and non-members.
I wanted to see the West Cemetery too which you can do by guided tour only. If you book tickets for the tour, you get free access to the East Cemetery too so it makes sense. Adult tickets are £12 each.
The nearest tube station is Archway and the walk to the cemetery is a bit of a trek. You have to walk up Highgate Hill (5-10 mins depending on your speed) and then walk through Waterlow Park (5 mins). You can get the bus up the hill if you don’t fancy walking. The park is lovely so it’s probably worth taking a picnic and spending some time there if it’s a nice day.
The West cemetery is wonderfully Victorian. It’s home to a Chapel, as well as some of the better known architectural features; the Colonnade, Egyptian Avenue, Circle of Lebanon and Terrace Catacombs.
Everywhere you turn in the West cemetery there are stone angels and crucifixes, our tour guide pointed out that the more money people had, the bigger the grave or monument was. The Circle of Lebanon was one of my favourite parts of the cemetery; in the centre there is a huge cedar tree which apparently predates the cemetery, it serves as a key feature in this part of the cemetery. You go down some steps and there are a circle of tombs, the inner circle are in an Egyptian style (a theme which is carried throughout the cemetery) and the outer tombs are mostly in the classical style. The doors to these tombs are ancient and somewhat intimidating. There is the odd tomb that doesn’t seem to fit with the others, not to say that they aren’t as impressive as the others.
You are allowed to take photos but not video. I got quite caught up in the overgrown jungle to be honest and didn’t think too much about taking photos. I completely understand why the West Cemetery is a tour only cemetery. There are plenty of hills and winding paths, if you weren’t familiar with it, it would be very easy to get lost.
My favourite grave in the East cemetery was Patrick Caulfield’s. He was an English painter who died in 2005, his grave is wonderfully blunt. I want one just like his.
The tour was definitely worth it, wear sensible shoes and go have a wander!