One of the most photographed structures in Northern Ireland, the circular Mussenden Temple sits on the edge of a 36-metre cliff and gives fantastic views out to the ocean. Take the time to explore the temple and the surrounding Downhill Estate.
The temple was built in the 18th century in an Italian style, and was originally intended to be used as the personal library of the 4th Earl of Bristol. The structure was built in honour of the Earl’s cousin and has a trapdoor in the floor that leads to a room where Catholic priests once delivered Mass.
Since the temple was constructed, the cliff on which it sits has eroded a massive 9 metres, meaning that iron rods have had to be set into the cliff to strengthen it and prevent further damage. The temple is part of the Downhill Estate, which is home to the ruined 18th-century Downhill Castle.
A number of species of native birds and wildlife live on the estate. When you arrive, head to the admission centre to pick up a Tracker Kit, which includes, amongst other things, bird identification cards and binoculars. If the weather is good, you can bring your own picnic and enjoy the lovely views.
Stay for the sunset to watch the light change from the top of the cliff. Stroll along the edge and look back at the temple behind you, recognising the precariousness of its location.
Mussenden Temple is located 101 kilometres northwest of Belfast and is easily reached by train, with Castlerock Station less than 1.6 kilometres away. If you come by car, you can park free of charge at the Downhill Estate. The estate and temple are open every day, and there is a small admission fee.
Have a look at the National Trust website to find out more about the musical events that are held at the temple throughout the year.