Downhill Estate is an 18th-century mansion along the Causeway Coastal Route, a few miles off the city of Coleraine. The estate was designed and realised by eccentric Earl Bishop Fredrick Hervey and now lies in ruins. It is known worldwide for its stunning cliff top estate – Downhill House – and its temple – Mussenden Temple – perched on a cliff edge. The property, now preserved by the National Trust, offers dramatic views that stretch over the whole of the North Coast of Ireland and open windswept cliff top walks.
Even in a cloudy and windy day like today, Downhill Estate is a top destination for whomever visits Northern Ireland. The entrance for adults is 4.80 pounds, but they are well worth the price! The location also offers free parking in different points.
Jeff and I got there late in the morning, and started our walk from Bishop’s Gate entrance. We headed first to the Black Glen Pond, passing through a lovely wood of pine trees, oaks, beech trees and ferns. The pond was created in 1840s by the excavation an construction of a dam. This provided food to Downhill House.
From the pond, we walked up some steep steps and passed through a thick vegetation that creates incredible tunnels. As we reached the terrace over the seafront, we decided to reach the top of the hill to the Belvedere tower. This was built for the Bishop’s daughter, Mary, and was originally intended as a summer house. The tower is small and lovely. It also offers a beautiful over the surroundings.
After a short stop at the Belvedere tower, we walked downhill, towards the edge of the cliff. Here you can walk right at its edges, and admire a small bay in between the cliffs, divided by the pond only by the local rail track. Following the wall, the path leads to Mussanden Temple, a round dwelling hanging over the cliff and overlooking a large white beach. The temple was built between1783 and 1785by Michael Shanahan and was intended as a library. Earlier at the gate, we were warned that we couldn’t enter the temple as the Mid Summer Concert was being held in the evening. However, once there, we met one of the National Trust volunteers and he was kind enough to allows us to have a quick peak inside. The view from the windows is enchanting, and the feeling is comfy and secure. It’s not difficult to imagine the place filled with books and hosting some comfortable chairs. From the outside, the view is really mesmerizing.
From the temple, just on the very top of the hill, is Downhill House. Of it, only the frame is left. However, it gives the idea of what the atmosphere must have been at its heydays. Surrounded by enchanting fields, the house is still magnificent.
Dovecote and Icehouse
On the other side of Downhill House is the Dovecote and Icehouse. You can easily reach them walking through the fields. While doing so, we noticed the delicate colors of the grass and flowers, that make the landscape wonderful. Once at the Dovecote, we sat on the grass and had a quick pic nick in the open, with a piece of focaccia and (vegan) cheese. It was pleasant and enjoyable. Finally, after our frugal meal, we headed back to the pond, and crossed over to the other side of the cliff.
From the top, we could now enjoy the view over Castlerock Beach. We indeed found another way to get back, so we got adventurous and eventually got to the beach… but this is another story, that I will tell you later!
Just be aware that Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne are surely a stop you cannot miss if you’re planning to visit the Causeway Coastal Route.