Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne lies poised on top of a 120ft cliff, looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean. The site offers dramatic views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal and to the East Castlerock beach towards the sea side towns of Portstewart and Portrush.

Downhill Demesne set against a cloudy blue sky

Travel times from:-

  • Belfast –1 h 17 min (62.4 mi) via M2 and A26
  • Dublin – 2 h 54 min (265.4 km) via M1
  • Derry/Londonderry – 43 min (27.6 mi) via A2 and Seacoast Rd

We arrived at around 12pm; the site itself was pretty quiet for a sunny August day.

Onsite Amenities:-

  • Manned Car Park (including disabled parking)
  • Male and Female Toilets (located at the Lion’s Gate entrance)
  • Disabled toilets
  • No Wi-Fi

We would also like to note that this includes entry to Hezlett House, a 17th Century thatched cottage located a short 5 minute drive away in the Castlerock direction.

For the most up to date prices please refer to the National Trust’s website.

Below is an aerial photograph (taken from Google Maps) to show you everywhere that we visited while at Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne.

Google map view of the estate of Downhill Demesne

Downhill Apple Trees

Upon leaving the car park, we were guided through into what appears to be an old walled garden with young apple trees scattered across the grasslands. The National Trust planted them back in 2008, with ten different species of apple, similar to those that would have grown in Ireland during the 1800 and 1900’s. We were amazed at the number of trees covered with fruit!

Different species of Apples that grown locally on the estate of Downhill Demesne

 

After a quick stop we walked round from the Apple gardens, through a gateway which lead us to a round building called the Ice House which includes a dovecote above, used to supply meat for the Earl Bishops table. The ice house to keep food fresh, the ice was cut from nearby ponds in winter time.

Below the Ice House showing the walkway into the entrance

 

The views from this point are rather spectacular, stretching across Benone Beach all the way across the Inishowen Peninsula, the largest peninsula in Ireland. On clear days you’ll be able to spot County Donegal and even catch a glimpse of Malin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland.

Overlooking Benone Beach with Co. Donegal to the right-hand side

Mussenden Temple

As we followed the pathway across the wild flower meadows (view-able during the spring and summer months), we came across a rather large and rounded, temple? This is Mussenden Temple, based on the Temple of Vesta in Italy, this once held the Earl Bishop’s library. The temple is set right on the cliff edge, with spectacular views points of Castlerock, Portstewart Strand Beach and Benone Beach.

Back of Mussenden Temple showing the beach and sea of Benone

Outside the Temple, just below the roof, the inscription around the building reads,

 “Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.” 

Which translates into:

“Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore / The rolling ship, and hear the tempests roar.” 

The quotation is from Lucretius De Rerum Natura, 2.1-2.

The Black Glen

As we headed off around the coastal pathway we made way into the Black Glen, a beautiful arboretum, home to a variety of tree types and a fairy tale like walk away from the blustery cliff tops. We made our way down endless stairs, which were quiet slippery due to the amount of rain that had fallen previously. The whole walk down was relatively dark due to the tree cover but we came to a bright opening, which led us to a fish pond. This has to be one of my favourite places. There’s a small dam wall which we clambered across and sat for a while. A must see hidden gem of Downhill.

Small Lake/Damn at the Black Glen on the estate of Downhill Demesne

Downhill Demesne

After a while we made our way from the Black Glen back onto the Demesne, as we did we were surrounded by every shade of green imaginable. Downhill House was a mansion in the late 18th century for Frederick Hervey (Earl Bishop). Built for around £80,000 (circa £2.2m in today’s money, (2016)).

Downhill Demesne set against a cloudy blue sky

Much of the structure was destroyed by fire in 1851 before being rebuilt in the 1870’s. The Demesne was actually used during World War Two by billet RAF! Unfortunately after this period the house again fell into disrepair. In 1940, The National Trust, purchased the temple and later the whole Demesne in 1980.

Showing the walkway to Mussenden Temple

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