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Downhill Estate and Mussenden Temple (County Derry)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Temple

© 2004 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

Downhill Estate might not be the most "buzzing" of places (if you discount the numerous insects), but it is a great place if you need a walk, want to see one of the most stunning locations for a "temple" and admire the coastlines of Derry and Antrim. Most of the buildings are in ruins, but the site is well cared for by the National Trust.

Pros

  • Extensive grounds woth picturesque ruins and gardens.
  • Mussenden Temple in unique location.
  • Stunning views.

Cons

  • Not an "activity" location.

Description

  • Former property of the Anglican Bishop of Derry on the Derry coast.
  • Downhill Castle is just a gutted shell, but the magnificent Mussenden Temple still towers above the ocean.
  • Relaxing walks and great views make this a spot to stop and smell ... whatever is currently in bloom or the sea air.

Guide Review - Downhill Estate and Mussenden Temple (County Derry)

About halfway between the historic City of Derry and the Giant's Causeway you will find the sprawling Downhill Estate - if you take the coast road, a sizeable but worthwhile detour off the faster A2. A small car park near the gate lodge is easy to miss (heed the warning signs regarding leaving valuables) and the entrance is unassuming.

After a short walk through beautiful gardens and parkland you will see a massive ruin - this is Downhill Castle, the former residence of the Anglican Bishop of Derry. Gutted by fire and left to decay it is an impressive ruin, the outlines of the rooms are still traceable.

But the real jewel in the crown lies beyond - the Mussenden Temple, perched on a cliff face a few hundred feet above the ocean. This was built in 1785 by Frederick Augustus Harvey as a memorial to his cousin Frideswide Mussenden. In the shape of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. With four openings (three windows and the door) exactly at the compass points. Apparently it was a library once, but local legend has it that the Bishop's mistress used it as a boudoir. And the local Catholic priest said mass in the basement with the Anglican Bishop's blessing.

Today the temple simply is a monument to folly. And an excellent vantage point to admire to coastline, only a seagull will see more. You can also see the beach of Downhill Strand ... where the bishop had his priests engaging in horseracing. And the occasional regional train winding its way along the coast.

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