There cannot be a more wild and dramatic headland in Northern Ireland than Downhill Estate. With fabulous views that stretch over the whole of the North Coast of Ireland and open windswept cliff top walks, it is not surprising that the estate is part of the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a well known icon.
Point of interest:Mussenden Temple, Downhill House (ruins), Dovecote
Nearest town:Castlerock, near Coleraine
OS map:Sheet 4
Terrain:Gravel paths, mown grass tracks
Route:Starting at Bishop’s Gate entrance to the Demesne, proceed past a quaint gothic style gate lodge (private residence) and enter into the Bishop’s Gate Gardens – look out for the unusual bog garden. At a fork in the main path, take the right track – a well surfaced woodland path and pass through a relict arboretum with many rare tree species.
At another pronounced fork, follow signs for Mussenden Temple up a steepish grass track. Through a small wooden gate proceed on to gain a majestic view of the gaunt ruins of Downhill House. At this stage you can explore the ruin, or either head to Mussenden Temple which now beckons, perched on the cliff edge. The views of Ireland’s North Coast and some of the Scottish Western Isles (Islay & Jura) on a clear day are very impressive.
At this point, walkers can choose to retrace their steps or the more adventurous can head west (left of the Temple), making sure to correctly locate the mown grass track through the hay meadows and head for another unusual built feature – the dovecote (another circular type building). From the dovecote, with ice house below – a fantasy landscape of a walled garden appears. On exiting the walled garden, all paths lead back to the ruins of Downhill House, but to return to your starting point veer off to the right, just before the front of the house – following a grass track. This grass track leads to the Mausoleum and back to the gardens at Bishop’s Gate.
You have now completed 2 miles…and a bit!
Facilities:Car park, Toilets (closed October-March), Picnic area & Information
(Note: toilets located at Lion’s Gate car park)
Wardening staff on duty (during visitor season).
Accessible toilet facilities:Yes
Accessible terrain:Yes in the immediate area of the 2 car parks and toilet/picnic facilities. Well surfaced woodland walks and mown paths radiate from the Bishop’s Gate entrance in particular – recommended route for wheelchair access. Access to Mussenden Temple via Lion’s Gate car park not recommended.
Getting to the start by car:Mussenden Temple & Downhill Demesne is situated 5 miles west of Coleraine on the A2 main road to Castlerock and Benone Strand. From Londonderry and Limavady follow the A2 coast road to Benone Strand and 3 miles past Benone, Downhill Demesne is located. Signposted both directions, as section of the Causeway Coastal Route.