Downhill House was built in the early 1770’s for Bishop Frederick Hervey as his holiday home. It stands between Downhill Strand and the village of Castlerock on land which belonged to the church. It goes by several names – Downhill House, Downhill Castle and The Bishop’s Palace! The entrance was once at the Lion’s Gate which was guarded by two heraldic snow leopards. The entrance is now at the Bishop’s Gate, a short distance further along the road.
The Bishop often travelled on the continent and brought back many famous paintings and artefacts to fill his summerhouse. It is said that he bought so much that the house had to grow bigger and bigger to hold everything. This can easily be seen. Much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1851 and rebuilt in 1870.
During the second World War, the house was requisitioned by the RAF and servicemen and women were billeted here. Descendants of Bishop Hervey lived there till 1946 but by 1950 the house was completely stripped and the land sold. Only the walls remain standing but these still give an indication of what was a very imposing house.
The Mussenden Temple which stands on a cliff top 120 feet above the Atlantic Ocean quite near Downhill House was built in 1785 for Bishop Hervey. It was to house his library or, it is suspected, his mistress.
The Temples of Vesta in Rome were the inspiration for this well-known building and it is often called The Temple of the Winds because it is so open to gales and rain storms. It is round in shape with three doors and a window looking out in four directions with spectacular views over the ocean, to the north, south, east and west. Over the years
because of serious erosion the temple was in danger of falling into the sea. In 1997 cliff stabilisation was carried out by the National trust to preserve this historic building.