Whether you’re a fan of golf or not, you might know that this year The Open has returned to Northern Ireland and the town of Portrush on our north coast for the first time in 68 years. If you’ve seen any of the coverage on TV, you may have caught a glimpse of our beautiful coastline and in the spirit of shining a light on this place we call home, I thought I’d share some scenes from a recent trip to Downhill Demesne.
Situated to the west of Portrush and about a 25 minute drive, Downhill Demesne is home to both the sprawling ruins of Downhill House and the spectacular Mussenden Temple which were built in the 18th century as part of the estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol. The estate lies on a wide open field overlooking the golden beaches below and even on a cloudy day in June, we couldn’t fail to be swept away by the beauty of the place.
Now under the careful ownership of the National Trust, you can approach the house along paths mown through the grass, left to grow long and wild for the pollinators. From a distance, you can see the structure looming large on the horizon.
And, as you walk through the meadow of buttercups and up the hill, the house finally comes into full view …
Sadly, the house was entirely gutted by a fire which broke out in 1851 but you can wander around the glorious ruins, imagining what life might have been like for an 18th century earl and admire the beautiful views through the large, empty windows to the countryside beyond.
From there, you can then follow the path that leads down to Mussenden Temple, built as a summer library for the Earl and inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.
Perched dramatically on a 120ft cliff top, the Temple offers spectacular views of the stunning coastline to the east and west. Over the years, the Temple was in danger of being lost to the sea due to cliff erosion but in 1997 the National Trust carried out work to stabilise the cliff and thankfully, we can all still enjoy the spectacular setting. Once you walk up the steps and enter the Temple, you begin to understand why this is one of the most photographed parts of the country. Personally, I can’t think of a better location for a summer library !
Views from inside Mussenden Temple
The view from Mussenden Temple to Downhill Beach, with Magilligan Point and Donegal in the distance…
The view from Mussenden Temple back to Downhill House
After lingering at the Temple for some time, we followed the trail further around the estate, taking in the clifftop views over the railway track below and stopping to admire the many wildflowers.
Then, after a while, we returned to our starting point, our faces flush with the sea air and it was time for a sit down and a coffee at Al’s coffee bar which sits adjacent to the car park.
All in all, we really enjoyed our time here – a truly beautiful setting with lots to see and explore. As I mentioned previously, the estate is now managed by the National Trust and you can visit their website here for more information on opening times, admission prices and other sites to visit within the Demesne.
Have a lovely Sunday x