Exploring Northern Ireland's Mussenden Temple & Downhill Beach

Perched delicately but comfortably on the edge of a 120 ft. cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland; near Castlerock in County Londonderry, stands one of the most visually arresting buildings you will ever set eyes upon. The Mussenden Temple aka. Game of Thrones Dragonstone Castle (or the beach where the Red Priestess burns the wooden statues to gather support for King Stannis Baratheon), not that I'm a fan or anything - provides us with some of the most spectacular views westward over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal, and to the east Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.

How fitting is it though... that just as season eight is about to hit our screens, that I have meticulously scheduled a blog post about one of the iconic Game of Thrones locations - I'm just that good. But we ain't here to discuss GOT are we - if you follow me on Instagram you might have spotted that recently, Matthew and I decided to venture off to the Mussenden Temple and Downhill Beach for a picnic and a spot of sight seeing (would you believe, I tripped over a rock and got stung by nettles for this photograph - pfft the dedication).

To give you some context; the temple was built in 1785 and forms part of the vast estate of Fredrick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristrol (or the Earl Bishop). It was built as a summer library and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome I believe. It is dedicated to the memory of Hervey's cousin Frideswide Mussenden whose beauty he apparently admired. An interesting fact that I recently discovered was that while the building was used as a library, the basement below was actually a pit for a fire, which was kept lit in order to keep his books dry in the shelves lining the circular walls above - what a clever idea.

At the time it is thought that one could drive a carriage around the building, but unfortunately after years of erosion, it was walled off from access because it is now on the seaward foundations. The National Trust, who are currently maintaining the property have carried out major stabilization works to prevent the basalt of the 120 ft. cliff falling away further. For the moment it is safe for visitors and is actually used as a wedding venue by some - GOALS.

Nonetheless... in spite of its erosion over the years, there is a railway line running 60 metres under the temple via a tunnel, which was blasted and cut out in the 1850's - you might be able to spot it in this photograph, but I'm not giving you any clues.

Whilst we were here, we also visited Downhill Beach (photographed above) which is part of an 11km/7 mile stretch of sand and surf offering a wealth of activities including water sports, scenic walks and facilities for the perfect family day out. The area is of special scientific interest and is also a special area of conservation offering a backdrop of cascading waterfalls, extensive sand dunes and the prominent Mussenden Temple - one of Northern Ireland's most photographed buildings to date.

Have you been to the Mussenden Temple & Downhill Beach before?
Northern Ireland, UK


  1. Hey Rebecca! I saw this photo on your Instagram and it's nice to know a little more history behind the photo. I never been to Ireland... honestly, I never been outside the U.S. but discovering travel posts makes it so exciting for me! Here's another secret, I never seen Games of Thrones but I love Jason Momoa😂

    Natonya | https://JustNatonya.wordpress.com

    1. Hiya Natonya, I'm glad you've popped over from Instagram! I haven't been very far myself, but I would love to visit the US one day, perhaps we could swap notes. I love Jason Momoa to! x

  2. Gorgeous side of the country! I've lived here all my life and yet I have never been up to see the mussenden! Your images are beautiful and really make me want to book myself a night away up at the coast!

    - Nyxie


    1. Isn't it stunning! I've only been to the Mussenden Temple twice myself, but it's a place I don't think I'd ever get bored of. Thank you so much Nyxie - I'd definitely recommend it x

  3. Wow. That is stunning!


    1. Isn't it just Sarah! I wish I'd have taken more photographs x


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