This small stone temple is a great picnic location and one of the best spots on the coast for bird-watching.
Perched on the edge of a 120-foot (36-meter) cliff, the circular Mussenden Temple is one of the most photographed icons of Northern Ireland. Take in the views, enter the small temple to discover its secrets and explore the wider Downhill Estate.
There is much history to be learned at the Italian-style 18th-century temple. Originally planned as a library by the 4th Earl of Bristol, the structure was built in honor of his beloved cousin. A trapdoor in the floor of the building reveals the room where Catholic priests were said to deliver mass. See if you can decipher the inscriptions of poetic phrases on the temple’s exterior.
Iron rods today reinforce the cliff after it was found to have eroded 30 feet (9 meters) since the temple was built. The temple is within the grounds of the Downhill Estate, the location of the ruined Downhill Castle, an 18th-century manor. The expansive grounds are home to many native birds and wildlife.
Children can obtain a Tracker Kit, including binoculars and bird identification cards, from the admission center. Bring a picnic and relax in the designated area atop the green cliffs by the temple.
Visit the temple at dusk to enjoy the stunning sunset from the cliff top. Take in the views along the sheer cliffs as you look at the sandy beach below. Hike along the cliff away from the temple and look back to appreciate its precarious position.
Mussenden Temple is located on the northern coast of Ireland, in County Londonderry, about 63 miles (101 kilometers) northwest of Belfast. Free parking is available at the Downhill Estate. The area is also accessible by train, with the Castlerock Station less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away. Admission to the estate includes access to the temple, which can be visited daily.
Throughout summer, musical events are held at the temple. Find the program on the National Trust website.