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.
Of all the places to visit on the Northern Irish coast, Downhill Demense and Mussenden Temple are truly breathtaking. The views are so magnificent, it's easy to see why the Earl Bishop chose this location for his Demense.
Set in a wide open field overlooking Downhill Beach and Castlerock Downhill Demense gives a sense of being on top of the world. In fact the grounds take up pretty much the entire top of the hill overlooking the ocean. Lots of sky and fresh, fresh air. It is one of our favourite places to visit.
The Demense itself is a sprawling ruin, much of it accessible on foot. Exploring the roofless rooms and ruins is amazing.
The main entrance brings you through the lounge and into the hall, with views straight along the stableyard, between the east and west yards and on to Mussenden Temple. Here's a view upon entering the doorway...
The Boudior and Breakfast rooms as well as the Drawing and Dining Rooms are mostly intact, and the Galleries are imposing. There were also stables (which can be viewed through gates), a kitchen and offices along the south and eastern walls of the stableyard.
Not all parts of these rooms are accessible.
There is even a sealed path around the outside of the manor house which gives you access through the portcullis in the north allowing wheelchair access. The views inland over grassland and forest make this a very calming and humbling location.
The gate is an alternative route for those who would like to avoid the few entry stairs and walking across the grass.
Visitors can bypass the manor house and head straight to Musssenden Temple, the Earl-Bishop's library.
We recommend exploring the house as much of the structure of the building remains.
It gives you a great idea of what the Earl Bishop's life would have been like, and the great views of Castlerock and Castlerock Beach shows how the coastal estate would have been a centrepiece of late 1800's.
Children love exploring the Demense, and the impressive room size will keep any home-decorator busy imagining...
"Downhill House was a mansion built in the 18th century for Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol at Downhill, Northern Ireland. Much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1851 before being rebuilt in the 1870s.
It fell into disrepair after the Second World War. Downhill House is now part of the National Trust property of Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple." ~ Wikipedia
The National Trust says "... a fire in 1851 resulted in the destruction of most of the main house, except for an east wing. It was rebuilt between 1873 and 1876 to a design by John Lanyon, who created a new entrance under the Gallery on the west side."
The National Trust acquired the house in 1980 and work was undertaken to make the site safe for the public, and create an amazing historical destination for visitors to the Causeway Coast. We think the National Trust has done a great, great job of making it a fun and interesting place for young and old.
Frederick Hervey, known as the Earl-Bishop (as he was the 4th Earl of Bristol as well as the Bishop of Cloyne and later the Bishop of Derry) commissioned Downhill Demense after he was made Bishop of Derry in 1768.
Construction on Downhill House began in 1775 and was Earl Bishop's first building in Ireland.
The size and scale of this magnificent structure bear witness to the Earl's passing.
Had it not been for a few unforseen circumstances, this ruin may well have been the grandest house on the North Coast.
The Earl-Bishop was not a man to complete all of his building projects.
One of his passions was architecture, yet he lost interest in many of his projects often enough that his second house in Ireland, on the shores of Lough Beg (Co. Londonderry), was dismantled as it was never completed.
The tribulations at Downhill don't lend themselves to a positive review of the Bishop's successes in architecture, but if it wasn't for him we'd not have such an amazing site to visit!
Make sure to learn all about it when you go.
Mussenden Temple stands apart from the Manourhouse at the edge of the cliff.
You can view the Temple from within the house - through the gates between the East and West Yard.
It's an easy stroll down towards the cliff's edge to the Temple.
We highly recommend heading down the sealed path for a look.
Be careful and aware of your children at all times when visiting the Temple, as the cliff is very, very high.
A small wall to the west of the Temple offers spectacular views of Downhill Beach and the railway heading west towards Londonderry.
The fields themselves are used to graze animals, so be respectful and watch your step if walking across the fields.
There are sealed paths going everywhere you need to go when visiting Downhill Demense, but occasionally kids will stray off the paths.
You also get spectacular views of Mussenden Temple from Downhill Beach itself which is accessible to the west on foot or by car. Though it is possible to walk down from the estate to the beach, it's quite a walk down, and what we would call a strenuous walk back up. We would suggest you definitely drive down - but don't drive by...
Downhill Beach is gorgeous. Downhill Beach is West (and below) Mussenden Temple and is a beautiful golden sandy beach with a celebrated grasslands and sand dune system. You can either park just off the road at the bottom of the hill or drive unto the beach under the tunnel.
This Blue Flag award winning beach is one of Ireland's longest, stretching all the way to Lough Foyle at Magilligan Point, seperated byBenone Strand by the Umbra Burn, a minor river.
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