Mussenden Temple

Either as part of your tour of Ireland,or as a day trip out of Belfast(popular with the cruise ships) Ireland Luxury Tours recommend this attraction.

Downhill House, near Coleraine, was the residence of the eccentric Anglican Bishop Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth Earl of Bristol, a descendant of a long line of rascals.  Derry was one of the wealthiest of Ireland’s church districts and it was here Earl-Bishop Hervey reigned at the end of the 18thcentury, always managing to wrest the maximum from his see in order to live extravagantly and indulge odd whims, such as a ‘curate’s race’ along the beach of Downhill, where the winners were rewarded withpositions in the diocese.  He also had a passion for travelling the Continent witha massive carriage and entourage, making him so popular with hoteliers that ‘Bristol’ was often added to the name for status.

Four architects were employed for the construction of the Downhill estate, reflecting the Earl-Bishop’s mercurial temperament, and though a fire in 1851 destroyed most of the mansion, numerous ‘follies’ around the grounds still stand in corny magnificence.  One such, MussendenTemple, is a rotunda with Corinthian columns, closely modelled on the Italian Temples of Vesta.  Built in 1783 by Michael Shanahan, the Temple was later named as a memorial for the Bishop’s beloved second cousin, Fridiswide Bruce Mussenden, who died at the age of 22.  The Temple also served as the Bishop’s library, and an occasional church, commanding a spectacular view over the six mile long Atlantic beach.