This is the second post in my ‘My Favourite Place in Ireland‘ blog series on my sister blog, The Adventure Pack. It comes from Phil Snowden, a native of Brisbane, Australia but now living and working in Dublin.
My favourite place in Ireland…Downhill.
I had the same reaction as you when I heard of Downhill for the first time….‘Where?!’
When I first came to Ireland back in 2006 I was at university, and for one assignment we were asked to give a 15 minute presentation. You could talk about anything at all accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. This one guy talked about Downhill Estate and the Mussenden Temple in County Derry, Northern Ireland. He said the cliffs were eroding and it would soon fall into the sea, so I thought I should probably go see that before it’s gone!
The following year I was on a road trip with some Canadian Couchsurfers to the Giants Causeway and I decided to take a slight detour to find The Dark Hedges. You’re saying ‘Where?’ again aren’t you? These two places have one thing in common. No one ever goes there. In my opinion, they are both extremely beautiful and you rarely see another human being in sight. Did you know The Dark Hedges even featured in an episode of Game of Thrones.
Anyway, the point being that I got lost looking for them and while searching a map to try and find our way, we noticed the Downhill and Mussenden Temple way up in the top left hand corner of the map and I remembered that I should visit it.
So after visiting The Giants Causeway (the whole point of the road trip) and Dunluce castle (another Game of Thrones filming location!) and following the coastal road North, we passed through the seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart. This is where most people’s journeys end when they visit the North coast. In face most probably only go as far as The Giants causeway.
However, several kilometers further along and into Derry, in the middle of nowhere along the Coast and near to Castlerock, you come across Downhill. It would be easy to drive straight past the entrance and not even notice the brown National Trust sign if you aren’t concentrating.
For me, it has everything I want when I go travelling; wide open spaces, a lake, peace, beauty, amazing ocean views, forest, history, and no hordes of people. When you enter at first you can walk through lovely well-kept gardens blooming with flowers in Spring and Summer. until you reach a fork in the path. The High road and the Low road.
Take the high road and walk through fields of grazing sheep towards the old ruins of the immense manor house (Downhill Castle).
The low road goes through lush forests, past a lake and along rock cliffs. Both paths ultimately lead to the Mussenden Temple. Built in 1785 as a library and modelled after the Temple of Vesta in Italy, it’s a small circular building built on the cliffs. The Temple offers spectacular views of the beach and train line below, the ocean in front, the Manor behind, and you can see County Donegal out to the West and Castlerock beach and County Antrim to the East.
The National Trust have recently carried out some cliff stabilization work to prevent erosion and stop the Temple from falling into the sea so people like you and me still have the chance to visit this amazing place.
Oh…did I mention it’s free?