Daily Archives: June 3, 2023

What, another one?

We didn’t mean for this blog to become a travelogue, nor do we intend to continue boring you with castle after castle. It’s just that castles are pretty much what there is around these parts and to be honest, Jack has a hard time passing up anything with more than two standing walls, let alone a tower.

Back at the Giant’s Causeway we ducked into a small gallery to admire the work of local artists and were intrigued by some photographs of the same subject, a pretty round building situated on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. We found the name, marked it on the map and promptly forgot about it.

After Dunluce Castle I was searching for a quiet parkup where we could hide out for a day or two and catch up on life chores when I found an unusual spot right behind a static caravan park but adjacent to a National Trust site. A static caravan park is what we’d call in America a trailer park, but more like a summer home condo community. The caravans are mostly all the same and they’re packed in like sardines. I don’t know if this is an economical way to have a vacation home but they’re very popular along this coast judging by the hundreds and hundreds of units in many different sites.

So this small car park lies just over the fence from the top end of a huge sloping static caravan site. Over the tops of the caravans we have an ocean view, and in the other direction is the entry to the National Trust land which just happens to be the location of the pretty round building we saw in the art photographs.

It might have been easier to just park in the official National Trust car park but you can’t stay overnight there so we set off overland to see the pretty round building. The trail from where we parked led us down into a ravine called the Black Glen and back up the other side, occasionally scrambling for footing on steep paths, picking our way toward where the map showed the pretty round building.

I was the trailblazer and I’m pretty sure I heard grumbling from behind but once we achieved the summit all was forgiven. Up high is where Jack likes to be. Up high with a castle is even better.

First we came upon a belvedere, then we followed the path along the cliff overlooking the beach until we found the pretty round building from the photographs.

It’s called the Mussenden Temple and it’s part of Downhill Demesne, the 18th century estate of Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, known for short, thank goodness, as the Earl-Bishop. The Temple was built as a library and it’s easy to imagine what a beautiful library it must have been inside although I’d have put in a few windows to take advantage of the sea view.

Further back from the cliff lie the remains of Downhill House, the whimsical over-the-top sometimes home of the Earl-Bishop, said to have been decorated with frescoes, statues and paintings by well-known contemporary artists.

There’s not much left of the place. It was built in the late 18th century, damaged by fire in 1851 but restored, and continuously occupied until the 1920s. During World War II it was used to billet RAF servicemen and women, then dismantled by 1950 because the cost of upkeep was too high.

I don’t really understand why you’d dismantle a huge mansion rather than sell it. Maybe the Earl-Bishop shouldn’t have saddled it with the name Downhill House.

We retraced our steps across the estate, past the belvedere, down into the Black Glen and back up the other side. We were dragging our feet by the time we got back to Escape Velocity. That’s enough for one day.

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