You can find a round stone building near Castlerock, within the grounds of Downhill Demesne, Mussenden Temple. This iconic building is located right on the brink of the impressive cliffs overlooking the Downhill Strand.
The Temple may be visited by the public during the day all year round and is operated by the National Trust. The outdoor space at Mussenden Temple is also open for local visitors. Mussenden Temple was initially built in 1785 and served as a summer library, with its walls lined with full bookcases. The National Trust had to undertake cliff stabilisation work in 1977 to prevent losing this spectacular building.
Behold From The Shore
Mussenden Temple is situated at one of the most incredible coastal locations in the world, on the northwestern coast of Northern Ireland. It clings to the cliff edge, which drops away to the beach and rocks far below.
Originally built as a library, Mussenden Temple has an inscription on the outside that reads,
“Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.”
This translates to “Tis pleasant, safely to behold from the shore, the troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar.”
To have both a good book and leisure time is a magical experience, but Earl Bishop went one better and created a magnificent building with an outstanding view for all his books.
Sky, Sea, and Coast
Mussenden Temple lies within Downhill Demense’s grounds and is operated by the National Trust. Visiting this special place is an experience not to be missed, and it is one of the genuinely magical on earth. The sky, the Sea, and the coast, this stunning building serves as a great pedestal from which you can enjoy them all.
Mussenden Temple Location
The Mussenden Temple is north of Downhill Demense, the manor house, and can be reached via a pathway leading from the castle exit toward the Sea.
The walk from Downhill to the library is pleasant, providing no strong winds, and it meanders through green grass while offering spectacular ocean views.
The Temple is open to the public at specific times, and intimate musical performances and concerts are presented annually.
Visit the National Trust for more information.
Earl Bishop Walking To The Library
It is easy to imagine the Earl strolling from the house towards the seaside cliff face with one of his many books in hand. The pleasant walk is rejuvenating to the cliffs overlooking Downhill Strand. Nowadays, visitors are fortunate to have Al’s Coffee Hut for a takeaway coffee or tea.
There are several walking trails around Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne. Close to the dovecote, you can find a magical walled garden, which is well worth exploring. All paths at the exit of the walled garden ultimately lead back to the Downhill House ruins.
To the left of Mussenden Temple lies Downhill Beach, facing west, and the views in that direction over the North Atlantic are simply incredible.
On a clear day, the shores of Donegal, the mouth of the Foyle and Magilligan Point, can be seen to the west, while Castlerock and Castlerock Beach’s towns lie to the east.
The beach ends at Magilligan Point, some 7 miles from Downhill.
Inspiration for The Narnian Series?
It is believed that CS Lewis was in part inspired by his writing by Downhill. The Demense was a sprawling estate in its day but now lies in ruin. All that is left of a Bishop’s home are the large stone walls, currently serving as a monument to an Earl from long ago.
CS Lewis regularly holidayed in Castlerock, a small town within walking distance of Downhill.
If you have visited this area and have read the Narnia series, you will no doubt have been struck by the similarities between Lewis’ stone-table ruins and the surrounds of the Mussenden Temple.
Locations Close By on The North Coast:
Downhill Demesne Mussenden Temple and Downhill House
Sometimes called Downhill House, Downhill Demesne is a remarkable mansion built by the eccentric Earl Bishop in the 18th century. It is set within beautiful open grounds and is the perfect spot for a day outing. The sheltered gardens at Hezlett House make a magical setting for a picnic while visiting Downhill Demesne. Parking is at Lion’s Gate car park.
Known as the Western Gateway of the Causeway Coast on the north coast of Northern Ireland, Castlerock is a famous seaside village located 5 miles west of Coleraine. It blends the past and the present perfect. Although less than fifteen hundred people live in the town, it attracts many more local visitors who want to stay local, as well as those from farther afield due to a variety of places to visit nearby, a naturally beautiful landscape, and excellent amenities. East Castlerock Beach is very popular for surfing and swimming.
When driving to Castlerock via the main A2 turnoff, the 17th-century Hazlett House can be seen one mile south of the town on the corner of Sea Road.
This is an amazing example of a well-preserved Thatched Cottage. At Halloween each year, the ancient cottage is transformed into a scary haunted house.
Hazlett House is now owned by The National Trust, and visitors can step back in time as they explore the well-manicured cottage grounds and the inside to experience what life was like in the late 1600s. This is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest buildings, and hot drinks and snacks are offered at the reception area.