Mussenden Temple, Coleraine, UK (with Map & Photos)

Perched on the edge of a cliff 36 meters high and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Mussenden Temple, near Castlerock, on the north-west coast of Northern Ireland, is a curious building that leaves no one indifferent.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

It was built in 1783 by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, who had the pleasure of building splendid mansions at Downhill and Ballyscullion, to later fill them with precious works of art that he acquired in Italy and elsewhere.

The story goes that, once he was on vacation in Italy, Frederick Hervey fell in love with a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta. Hervey wanted to buy the temple and send it to Ireland to be rebuilt on his property. But the Pope refused. The temple was at least 2,000 years old and you simply cannot get to Rome and buy its historic buildings.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

Offended, Hervey returned home and instructed his architects to sketch a copy of the Roman temple and build it on the edge of the cliff. Back then, there was enough firm ground surrounding the temple. However, the erosion of the cliff face has gradually brought the Mussenden temple closer to the edge. Now, there is very little land between the building and the ocean, which hits below, leaving Hervey's building at risk of falling into the sea at any moment.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

Hervey dedicated this madness to his beautiful cousin, Mrs. Frideswide Mussenden, with whom the bishop shared a platonic relationship. But some people wondered if there was more to the relationship, and the scandal was general. The mortification of the scandal is said to have affected Frideswide's fragile health so much that she suffered an untimely death, even during the construction of the temple dedicated to her.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

Hervey eventually turned the temple into his personal library and also built a room under the building for Catholic priests to perform their Masses. The interior was lavishly decorated with paintings and the walls lined with bookshelves. As a curious fact, it should be noted that a fire that burned constantly in the basement kept the building warm and carried away the humidity, so that even in such an exposed place, the books never got wet.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

All that remains of the Mussenden Temple today is the structure of the building, with its dramatic location making it a popular tourist destination along the North Shore of Derry and Antrim.

Mussenden Temple Map