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Exceptional architecture (old and new), many literary associations and a ghost station (to say nothing of a ghost chicken). The main route is about 2 ½ miles, with the option of an additional visit to Highgate Wood or Waterlow Park. You can also continue from Highgate Village to Highgate Cemetery (10 mins) 

Highgate Tube station is an oddity. Apart from the fact that it resembles a bunker half-hidden in the woods, the remains of an LNER station lurk behind it. All this is worlds away from the delights of Highgate with its mixture of Georgian architecture and intriguing modern buildings.
To begin the town trail, leave the station by the Archway Road exit (Exit 3). Turn right and cross Archway Road at the lights. Go right and then left into Southwood Lane, which goes up a wooded hill. You should keep to the left, as the pavement stops on the other side later on.  Before long you will discover The Well Cottage (eighteenth century). Among the grander buildings, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Originally it was two even smaller dwellings. A bit further up the road dramatic Bank Point is squashed into an angle of the triangle formed by Jackson’s Lane and Southwood Lane. This unusual place has two storeys facing the hill and three the other side.  Continue up Southwood Lane. At No's 58-60 are some Victorian homes with  large Gothic-style porches clearly designed to impress.  Cross the main road here to get to Castle Yard (in fact a short street of artisan cottages - the name relates to a long-gone inn). At the end, facing you over North Road, is a chirpy Victorian C. of E. Primary school and its mock-Tudor neighbour, the old Fire Station (1906). Up the road to the right are the iconic Highpoint One and Highpoint Two. The first high-rises in England intended for social housing, their architectural fame was such that they were in fact rapidly occupied by the middle classes. If you look over the road to the left you can see where Charles Dickens lived with his family in 1832 during one of their periodic financial crises.   Retrace your steps and pass the old fire station. A little beyond that are two pairs of villas with huge pilasters. 

At No.31 is what must surely be one of the most peculiar filling stations in London - a simple row of petrol pumps in front of an elegant nineteenth-century building. This was a pub until 1925. The adjacent weather-boarded cottage was once a forge. After a fine collection of mainly eighteenth-century houses you may be puzzled by the small Halfway Cottage. Complete with a rope hoist it may have been a store for the grey-brick terrace. At Hampstead Lane cross over and walk round left into Highgate West Hill past The Gatehouse pub and theatre. This dates to 1905, but there has been an inn here since at least 1670, and it's reputedly haunted.  Note the sign with a picture of the original building. At one time the boundary between Hornsey and St. Pancras ran through the building - you can see parish markers on the east wall. Round the corner is the 1730 Apothecary House. On the other side of the road the quirky Pond House at No. 55 is a little earlier.  Ahead is a reservoir with circular conduit house that brought fresh, clean water to Highgate in 1846. From here you can get a glimpse of two large mansions half-hidden down a driveway. Continue until the The Flask pub, which probably gets its name from chalybeate springs in the area that produced iron-flavoured water believed to be beneficial for health, but which was useless for normal domestic purposes.  Turn left and cross South Grove to admire The Old Hall, St. Michael's church (1832) and Voel House then go over Highgate West Hill and turn into The Grove where there is a handsome run of houses (Nos. 1-6) built in 1688 by a City merchant to fund a charity school. No 3 was lived in by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he died there in 1834) and the novelist  J.B. Priestley. Towards the end of the road is the other side of the reservoir.  

 Back in Hampstead Lane turn right and at the zebra go over and walk down North Road for a place to cross at the traffic lights. Turn right past the imposing red brick bulk of Highgate School Follow the pavement as it skirts the school, then cross Southwood Lane to get to the High Street where there are many delightful buildings. The canopy over the entrance to No. 82 is one of the few left in London. There's another at No. 62, (twice rebuilt after lorries damaged it), which originally belonged to a butcher's shop. Glance above the attached weather-boarded shop (once a corn chandler's) to catch sight of a tin advertisement for sausages. 

As you wander down the High Street you will notice several 'yards'. On the north side, after Townsend Yard, is Duke’s Head Yard. Here you will find the early modern Studio House (Taylor & Green 1939)  painted in the original colours: deep red on three sides, while a pale grey drum staircase with circular windows dominates the rear. From the front this building does look a bit like a factory, and there is no front garden. Please remember that it is a home and respect the occupants’ privacy.  In the High Street,  walk left a short way for a pair of late seventeenth-century town houses. Next to them is Chomeley Lodge, a block of flats in classic Art Deco style. Cross the main road towards Channing Girls' School Junior Dept. This imposing Victorian pile was the home of Sir Sydney Waterlow, who donated what is now Waterlow Park to the public. (See 'Archway' link below). You will come to the park entrance as you turn right and proceed up the hill. Crossing Bisham Gardens you can hardly miss the unsightly telecommunications mast and may wonder how on earth planning permission was given for this monstrosity. Don't be misled by the various satellite dishes attached to the structure - it was in fact erected in 1939 to relay television signals and proved useful in WW2 by disrupting German communications. 

More pleasing to the eye are No's 17-21 with Englefield House next door  completing a charming row. Another large house can be discovered in Bullens Yard (technically private). Return to thHigh Street and when you reach a green area, go into South Grove. Harry Beck, designer of the iconic London Underground Map,  lived in No.10. The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institute.dated 1839, is a few yards away. You are now in Pond Square.  As its name implies, there was once a pond here, one of three which supplied Highgate with (poor quality) water before the advent of the reservoir.   Nearby, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) performed his famous experiment to see if a chicken could be preserved by stuffing it with snow. Sadly he himself got somewhat too cold and died as a result - however, it is not his ghost than is supposed to run round the square, but that of the unfortunate chicken.  

Continue along South Grove.  A dairy used to be on the corner of Swains Lane. After the Union Church is Moreton House, its warm brick contrasting with The Lawns. This is a 1950's house on Victorian foundations enclosed in a glass building (2000 Eldridge Smerin).  In front is a birch grove, so it is best viewed in winter. Cast iron railings are a reminder of the original development.  Unless you fancy visiting The Flask pub which is not far away, return to Pond Square and leave the area by an alley on the north east side. (If you wish to avoid the quite steep slope, use the easier way out to the west.) Turn right into the High Street, cross via the zebra, then go left down Southwood Lane for some more exploration.

After an attractive collection of buildings opposite Highgate school is the former Highgate Tabernacle (1836), now the school's museum. There is a blue plaque on No. 22 recording that the Africa explorer and scientific writer Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) lived there as a child. 
On the other side of the road are the plain Wollaston Pauncefoot Almshouses, founded in the seventeenth century. These were rebuilt in 1722 ‘being very old and decayed’. The central block was occupied by a girls' charity school. From Kingsley Place opposite Castle Yard there’s a spectacular view down the eastern slope of the hill towards east London. Back in Southwood Lane, look out for the old Post Office Sorting Office dated 1888,  then continue past a stuccoed terrace which was originally part of Southwood Hospital.The plaque on the adjoining brick wall bears a crest and a Latin motto, which translated is:  'Never unprepared'. 

At the end of Southwood Lane use the Archway Road traffic lights to return to the Tube station. Walk to the left, then into Muswell Hill Road.  Almost immediately you will be at Wood Lane.  Turn in here to find an alley leading down (quite steeply) to the Tube.To the right of the path you can see the deserted platforms of the old LNER station (closed 1954). The station house was continuously occupied by the same family from the 1960's until about 2011 and was then like a lock-keepers cottage, complete with garden and greenhouse. The entrance to the old tunnel, blocked by vegetation,  is also visible from the pathway. Altogether the whole place has a slightly strange atmosphere.  More history here.
On quite another tack, people with children might like to visit Highgate Wood, reached by following Archway Road up the hill from the station The woods have a cafe and a superb play area.

If you are up for a longer stroll, you could go down Swains Lane in Pond Square, next to the Literary and Scientific  Institute to get to Highgate Cemetery (about ten minutes pleasant walk away). Full details of the rest of the route can be round in the Archway entry which also covers Waterlow Park.

For those who want a detailed list of the buildings in this area I suggest a visit to The 
Victoria County History website.

Photos: click on images to enlarge
The Well Cottage
Highpoint One and Two (right)
Petrol filling station, 31 North Road
Highgate School
Restored canopy, No.62 High Street/The Studio House, Dukes Yard
Highgate High Street/Pond Square
Moreton House/The Lawns
Houses at top of Southwood Lane/Highgate School Museum
Pauncefoot Almshouses
The old LNER station

This is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings in the area  covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR