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The Literary Highs of Harrow on the Hill

A circular walk around Harrow on the Hill where Lord Byron and Anthony Trollope went to school.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 213ft (65m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Footpath, fields and pavements

Landscape Hilltop views and buildings of Harrow School

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 173 London North

Start/finish TQ 153880; Harrow-on-the-Hill tube

Dog friendliness No problems

Parking Pay-and-display in nearby streets.

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Follow the signs for the Lowlands Road exit of Harrow-on-the-Hill Station and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing. Turn left and then right, up Lansdowne Road. At the top of this follow the public footpath ahead, signposted 'The Hill'.

2 Before the trees, turn right along an enclosed footpath. At a road turn left, uphill again, along a tarmac path beside a churchyard. (Here, you can follow the crescent-shaped path to the right and climb the steep path at the end, or continue ahead to reach St Mary's Church.)

3 Leave by the lychgate and turn right, along Church Hill. At the bottom turn sharp left and cross the road towards the school library and church. Follow the road as it swings to the right after the church.

4 Turn right along Football Lane and pick up a footpath signposted to Watford Road. At the end of the school buildings keep ahead along a path leading downhill, to reach the playing fields. Take a look back here at Harrow School and the church spires. Follow the footpath sign pointing diagonally to the left across the field (not the one that follows the tarmac path to the left) to reach a stile leading to the busy Watford Road. Cross this with care.

5 Pick up The Ducker Footpath opposite and carry on ahead as it passes close to Northwick Park Hospital, before veering to the right, across the grass.

6 When you get to the end of the hospital buildings, turn left along a tarmac path beside a brook, with playing fields to your right. At the end of this long path is Northwick Park tube.

7 Turn left just before the tube station, along a footpath which passes two chimneys. Follow this as it veers to the right and passes between the buildings of Northwick Park Hospital and the University of Westminster campus. At the end of the footpath turn left. Cross the busy A404 at the traffic lights. Turn right to follow the dual carriageway for 100yds (91m) and go through a gate along an enclosed footpath running by the side of a pitch-and-putt golf course.

8 At the end of this straight, long footpath turn right along Peterborough Road, then left to reach Lowlands Road. Harrow-on-the-Hill Station is on your right.

From a humble start in 1572, when local farmer John Lyon obtained a royal charter, Harrow has become one of the country's best-known boys' schools. During the walk you will tread the same ground as Anthony Trollope and Lord Byron who, although both distinguished writers, had very different journeys through life.

Lord Byron was only ten years old when he inherited his title in 1798, and he started school at Harrow in 1801. Although his classmates remembered him best for his satire and wit, he could be a sensitive and reflective child - he would sit in the churchyard for hours.

'Spot of my youth, whose hoary branches sigh,

Swept by the breeze that fans thy cloudless sky'

However, by the time he left for Cambridge University in 1805 he had grown into a handsome man and had no shortage of female admirers. These included Lady Caroline Lamb, with whom he had an affair. But Byron also concealed a grave secret - his father had a daughter, Augusta, from a previous marriage. Byron had met Augusta for the first time when he was only 14, but when they met again nine years later, they became constant and very close companions. In due course she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. The following year Byron married Annabella Milbanke, but she later left him and rumours of his possible incest with Augusta soon spread. His friends and public turned against him. A deeply embittered Byron left England for Europe, never to return. His mistress, Claire, gave birth to a daughter, Allegra, who is buried in the churchyard of St Mary's. Later, he became involved in the struggle for democracy in Italy and Greece. In 1821 he had his most productive year yet, completing Don Juan and The Vision of Judgement, but he was just 36 years old when he died from a fever in Greece.

School days were not the happiest times of Anthony Trollope's life because a decline in the family fortune prompted a move from a rather grand house in Harrow to a farmhouse in Harrow Weald. After leaving school he joined the General Post Office (GPO), but it wasn't until a transfer to Ireland seven years later that Trollope's career really took off. One of his achievements was to introduce the pillar box to Great Britain.

By the time he decided to leave the GPO to concentrate on writing, Trollope was already an accomplished novelist. He had disciplined himself to write from 5:30am until breakfast, after which he left for work. Although his skills weren't recognised until his fourth novel, The Warden (1855), was published, he became a prolific author (47 novels), including the 'Barsetshire' series and The Way We Live Now (1875).

What to look for

In the churchyard of St Mary's Church you'll notice a plaque pointing out the place where Byron loved to sit as a schoolboy. It was certainly a seat with a commanding view, looking towards Windsor. He would spend hours here, finding it the perfect place to reflect. You can see how London's suburbs have swallowed up vast areas of countryside to the north and west. In Byron's day this view would have been one of never-ending farmland and heath. Most of the sprawling development you see now dates from the earlier part of the 20th century. Byron's daughter, Allegra, who died at the age of five, is buried here in an unmarked grave.

Where to eat and drink

Take a short detour along the High Street from the school library where you will find three eateries - the French Bistro, Gaucho's Pizza and Pasta and Tea At Three, a quaint teashop near to Harrow School's outfitters.

While you're there

During term-time on Sundays the Museum of Harrow Life is open to the public. Although compact, it is packed with history about the school. It shows what a boy's room is like, explains about the boarding houses and their colours, famous Old Boys and the sports and activities that take place. There's also a small gift shop.

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