U3A has developed a Hervey Trail

An artist's impression of Downhill, much as it would have appeared in the time of the Earl Bishop.
An artist's impression of Downhill, much as it would have appeared in the time of the Earl Bishop.

Earl Bishop Hervey (1730 – 1803) was one of the most remarkable people ever associated with the north west of Ireland. Even that bold claim understates his significance.

His influence as a scientist, philanthropist, builder, patron of the arts and proponent of religious tolerance was enormous. Two centuries after his passing, his legacy can be explored in Derry City and along the north coast to the Giant’s Causeway.

Now the U3A has produced a “Hervey Trail”. It’s a convenient-to-use, illustrated leaflet with maps setting out places to visit, all associated with the great man.

At the eastern end, there’s the Giant’s Causeway. Bishop Frederick Augustus Hervey was first to recognise the rock formation’s enormous potential as a tourist attraction. Fascinated by volcanoes, he explored its possible origins and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of this work.

From there, the trail moves to Downhill where he built his splendid residence and Mussenden Temple in their magnificent cliff top settings. The trail continues around the coast towards Derry/Londonderry, taking in churches and many points of interest along the way. It includes the Bishop’s Road with its magnificent viewpoints.

Hervey was the Bishop of Derry as well as the 4th Earl of Bristol; hence he was known as the Earl Bishop. Derry city had a special appeal for him. He was instrumental in the construction of its first bridge over the Foyle; contributed a large sum to the building of the Long Tower Chapel; refurbished the Bishop’s Palace (now the Masonic Hall in Bishop Street) and had the first spire built on St Columb’s Cathedral. These are just a few of his many achievements.

To say Bishop Hervey was a man ahead of his time doesn’t begin to do him justice. He was enlightened and progressive even by today’s standards. Considering he was a Bishop of the established church while the Penal Laws were in force his practical ecumenism was remarkable. It even incurred the displeasure of the government of the time.

His achievements have been well documented by historians and recognised by biographers but they deserve to be more widely known by the general public.

This fine leaflet setting out the Hervey Trail will be invaluable. It has been produced by the Causeway and Foyle branches of the U3A with support from The National Trust, the Honourable the Irish Society and Edwin May Nissan and Volkswagen dealers.

It is available now at National Trust properties in the area, from the Castlerock Community Association, Limavady District Council and also from the U3A.

In the future U3A members hope to develop their project by producing a booklet and website augmenting leaflet with additional information.