Magilligan Point – say “hi” to Ireland. County Donegal is close by! Another very idyllic beach and coast, when you ignore the huge prison along the way.
The word ‘demesne’ is used throughout Ireland. It indicates the part of the estate that was usually enclosed by a demesne wall and was for the use of the landowner only. His estate would have been much larger, including all the tenanted lands and may have been made up of parcels of land geographically isolated from each other. (National Trust)
Two beaches later I arrived at Bishop´s Gate – one of the two entrances to Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple.
Downhill Demesne which is sometimes simply referred to as Downhill House is an amazing 18th century mansion built by the eccentric Earl Bishop. Beautifully set within open grounds it is the perfect place for a day trip. Bring a picnic and enjoy the sheltered gardens of Hezlett House. (Downhill Demnese)
After a short walk through beautiful gardens and even a little wood (The Black Glen) suddenly this comes into view! Downhill House. Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol as well as the Bishop of Cloyne and later the Bishop of Derry, commissioned the estate in 1768 and construction began in 1755.
After the death in 1803 of Lord Bristol (he had succeeded to the Earldom in December 1779), the estate passed to his cousin, The Rev. Henry Bruce, who had acted as steward of the Estate during the Earl-Bishop’s absences. Bruce’s sister was Frideswide Mussenden, for whom Mussenden Temple was built, and which became a memorial after her death. (Downhill House)
Walled garden and old icehouse.
The house was seriously damaged in 1839 and big parts of the house were damaged by a fire in 1851. Reconstruction works began in 1870 and continued until 1874.
During World War II Downhill House hosted RAF servicemen and -women. The Bruce family owned the demnese until 1946, by 1950 it has been dismantled and the surrounding land was sold. The National Trust acquired the house in 1980.
First view of the Mussenden Temple, the library and monument to Bishop Lord Bristol’s niece Frideswide Bruce. It´s said that the relationship between Earl Bishop and Frideswide was far too close and he often stayed with his “cher cousin”. Frideswide later married the banker Daniel Mussenden.
Downhill House is seen from Mussenden Temple.
Mussenden Temple, a library modeled on the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. Perched dramatically at the edge of a basalt cliff on the coast of Ireland east of Derry, the perilous location and design of Mussenden Temple embodies many of the aesthetic ideals of the philosopher Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. (World Monument Fund)
Once it was possible to drive a carriage around the temple – nobody would try to do this today. Nature has brought it right on the edge. The National Trust had some cliff stabilisation work done in 1997.
Built in 1785 as a library it was once lined with bookcases and a fired burnt day and night in the basement to keep the books dry. Today you would be married in the Temple!
View of Downhill Beach.
Lion´s Gate – the second entrance to the demnese.
Downhill Demnese is open all year from dusk till dawn and you wouldn´t want to miss it! Located near Castlerock it´s just a short (and beautiful) drive from the Causeway.