A mile west of the coastal resort of Castlerock, a pair of huge, ornate gates alongside the A2 mark the main entrance to the ruins of Downhill Palace, built in the 1780s by Frederick Augustus Hervey, Anglican Bishop of Derry and fourth Earl of Bristol. Hervey was an enthusiastic grand traveller (all the many Hotel Bristols throughout Europe are named after him), and was also an art collector and great sportsman, once organizing a pre-prandial race between Anglican and Presbyterian clergy along the local strand. His palace, accessed through pleasant gardens, was last occupied by US troops, billeted here during World War II, and was dismantled on their departure.

Across fields at the back of the palace is the diminutive Mussenden Temple, which clings precariously to the eroding cliff-edge and offers stunning sea views. Its classic domed rotunda was apparently modelled on the Temple of Vesta in Rome and was built by Hervey in honour of his cousin Mrs Frideswide Mussenden, who died aged 22 before it was completed, after which it was used as a summer library. Later, with characteristic generosity and a fairly startling lack of prejudice, Hervey allowed a weekly Mass to be celebrated in the temple, as there was no local Catholic church. The inscription on the temple frieze translates rather smugly as: “It is agreeable to watch, from land, someone else involved in a great struggle while winds whip up the waves out at sea.”

Just west from here the A2 curves steeply downwards to reach the appositely named DOWNHILL hamlet, on the edge of the hugely long beach. From here it’s possible to take the Bishop’s Road (constructed at Hervey’s bidding) southwards to reach Mount Binevenagh and its fabulous viewpoints. The land around the mountain is now a conservation park, dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey, in particular falcons and kestrels.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ireland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 of the best road trips in Ireland

6 of the best road trips in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland’s phenomenally popular Wild Atlantic Way takes in a dizzying 2500km coastal route from Cork to Donegal, but not all of us have three w…

02 Jan 2018 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right