Downhill Demesne

Bishop's Gate

Don't just look at the gate - come on through © Chris Hill

Don't just look at the gate - come on through

The Bishop's Gate has a lovely Gothic gate lodge, and is the closest entrance to the gardens and the Black Glen. Have a look at the symbolic carvings, including a bishop's mitre and several cow skulls.

Mussenden Temple

The clifftop offers spectacular views © Marleen de Kramer

The clifftop offers spectacular views

Based on the Temple of Vesta in Italy, this little building once held the Earl Bishop's library.
It's perched right on the cliff edge, and the inscription reads 'Tis pleasant, safely to behold, from shore, the rolling ship and hear the tempest roar'.

Black Glen

Don't miss the inviting trails of the Black Glen. © National Trust/Marleen de Kramer

Don't miss the inviting trails of the Black Glen.

The Black Glen is a small arboretum that's home to many different trees, and makes a lovely place to walk away from the winds on the cliff-top. See whether you can spot the fish pond, and the statue of the Earl Bishop's brother - especially his head, no-one has ever found that.

Lion's Gate

Are you scared passing the lions? © National Trust

Are you scared passing the lions?

This imposing gate is topped by stone snow leopards or ounces - they've recently been restored and now roar in their former glory. This is one of two entrances to the property.

Lady Erne's Seat

The Lady's seat is also called the Belvedere  © National Trust

The Lady's seat is also called the Belvedere

Was this a mill of some sort, or perhaps the summer-house of the bishop's daughter Mary?
Either way, it's a lovely quiet spot from which to see the sea, a fitting reward for the climb up from the Black Glen.

Bishop's Garden

Admire spectacular blooms, colours and scents © National Trust/Marleen de Kramer

Admire spectacular blooms, colours and scents

The Bog Garden by the Bishop's Gate houses a great variety of flowers, including some stunning irises. The garden was first created by Lady Bruce in 1910.

Mausoleum

Located on top of a hill the Mausoleum has great views © National Trust

Located on top of a hill the Mausoleum has great views

The mausoleum is really a cenotaph - an empty tomb built as a memorial for the Earl Bishop's brother, George Hervey. See if you can find the statue of George that was blown off the roof in the Big Wind and now lies in the grounds.

Dovecote and Icehouse

Take a break in the sheltered Walled Garden © NTPL/Rod Edwards

Take a break in the sheltered Walled Garden

This round tower has a dovecote above, which supplied meat for the Earl Bishop's table, and an ice house below, for keeping food fresh. The ice was cut at a nearby pond in the winter.
This is one of only a few buildings of its kind surviving today, and the construction is similar to Mussenden Temple.

Downhill House

No roof, no floors and no interior but highly dramatic indeed © Robert Morris

No roof, no floors and no interior but highly dramatic indeed

Though it's now in ruins, the striking 18th-century mansion of the eccentric Earl Bishop is still worth a look - you might even get a chance to watch our archaeologists at work.

Walled Garden

Ther Earl Bishop wouldn't have liked sheep in his Walled Garden but we do love them there © Marleen de Kramer

Ther Earl Bishop wouldn't have liked sheep in his Walled Garden but we do love them there

The Walled Garden once provided fruit, vegetables, and even flowers for the main house.
Now it houses sheep and apple trees, and provides access to the dovecote. The sheltered lawns are perfect for a picnic.

Who built Downhill?

Downhill began to assume its present form around 1772 when Frederick Hervey (1730-1803) - known as the Earl Bishop from his twin titles of Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry - chose this spot to build a country house.

What's a demesne?

The Bishop's Gate garden - a hidden treasure

The Bishop's Gate garden - a hidden treasure

The word 'demesne' is used throughout Ireland. It clearly indicates the part of the estate that was usually enclosed by a demesne wall and was for the use of the landowner only. His estate would have been much larger, including all the tenanted lands and may have been made up of parcels of land geographically isolated from each other. The demesne was situated around the house and normally included the home farm, woods, grazing and arable land, landscape park, deer park, walled garden and formal garden features.

More facts about Downhill and his owner

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