Hezlett House, just outside Castlerock, was built in 1690 and is a rare Irish example of ‘cruck’ construction. Originally a rectory, the house has no foundations but was built around a frame of curved timbers or ‘crucks’. Hezlett House is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. Nearby, Castlerock has an interesting history linked to the development of the Londonderry and Coleraine Railway Company who offered 10 years first class travel free to anyone willing to build a villa in the town. These ‘villa tickets’ proved popular and many of the older buildings such as ‘Seawell House’, ‘Craiglea’ or ‘Atlantic Lodge’ date from this period. Other interesting buildings include ‘Rock Ryan’ originally built as a bathing lodge, the ‘Twelve Apostles’ a distinctive basalt terrace and Christ Church, Church of Ireland which dates from 1870 was designed by Fredrick William Porter. Castlerock railway station dates from 1873-75 and was designed by Charles Lanyon.
At Downhill Estate there is a series of interesting buildings associated with Sir Hervey Bruce, Bishop of Derry. The construction of Downhill Palace dates back to 1785 and at one time included a library and gallery with works by Raphael and Caravaggio. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1845 and only a romantic ruin remains. Bishop Hervey also built the beautiful Mussenden Temple, as a summer library for his young cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Occupying a precarious cliff top site, the Mussenden Temple was modelled on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli in Italy and an inscription inside reads ‘Tis pleasant safely to behold from shore the rolling ship and hear the tempest roar’. From here there are superb views of both Downhill and Donegal. Other interesting buildings built by Bishop Hervey during this period include both the Bishops and the Lions Gates. All of these buildings are owned by the National Trust and access is available to the public. Bishop Hervey also commissioned a number of famine relief projects including the Bishops road which toady provides a spectacular scenic route.
Further west the Martello tower at Magilligan is a well known landmark. Built between 1812 and 1817 to guard against a possible French invasion it was one of 74 constructed in Ireland. In its day the Martello Tower would have included a cannon platform and quarters for 12 men and an officer. Evidence of more recent coastal defence works include a series of World War Two ‘pill boxes’ examples of which can be seen at both Castlerock and Portstewart Strands together with a radar and anti aircraft station at Magilligan.
Bellarena House, for many years the seat of the Gage family was designed by the famous architect Charles Lanyon. So was Drenagh House, famous for its 70 acre Italian and English gardens, its conifer arboretum and rhododendron glen. Fruithill, commissioned by Robert McCausland was the first house built on the Drenagh estate and dates from the 18th century. All three houses are still in use as private residences.