Mussenden Temple – Coleraine, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura
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Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Mussenden Temple

This Italian-style temple replica has been threatening to fall off the Irish coast for hundreds of years. 

Modeled after Rome’s famed Temple of Vesta, Ireland’s Mussenden Temple was built by a wealthy earl as his library by the sea, but his desire to create a beautiful piece of cliffside architecture may have been a bit overzealous and the temple has been threatening to topple into the sea almost since it was built. 

As an ostentatious addition to Downhill, the estate of the Fourth Earl of Bristol, Frederick Augustus Hervey the replica temple is a model of lovely classical architecture. The domed folly was constructed in honor the earl’s cousin who ironically would not even live to see the structure’s completion. In addition to the library, a trapdoor in the floor led to a semi-secret chamber beneath the temple where its said Catholic priests would come and hold mass. At the time of its construction, the temple sat just 30 feet from the edge of a 120-foot seas-side cliff, ensuring unparalleled vistas, but also dooming the site to the ravages of erosion. 

By 1997, the edge of the cliff had deteriorated almost to the very edge of the temple. This prompted the National Trust to quickly begin work on a cliff stabilization plan so that the temple was not lost the sea due to its builder’s lack of foresight.

Thanks to the preservation efforts Mussenden Temple is now fairly secure and has become, along with the crumbling remains of the nearby Downhill Manse, one of the most photographed sites in Ireland. Just be sure not to back up too far looking for that perfect shot, as the National Trust is probably not looking out for bumbling tourists.