I have yet to see anything more imposing or inspiring than the Rock of Cashel. Breathtaking, spellbinding, awesome… These words don’t even do it justice. And the feeling doesn’t dissipate- each time I visit the ‘Rock’ fills me with awe.
Irish legends tell the the rock that Cashel of the Kings is built upon is a boulder dropped by the devil in an attempt to crush St. Patrick as he brought Christianity to Ireland. Of course the great castle dates to a few centuries before that time…
It was originally built as a fortress in the 4th or 5th century. In the late 7th century St. Patrick baptized a King of Munster here. Cashel was the seat and symbol of the overkingship of Munster and the inauguration place of its kings. In 1101 the reigning King of Cashel gave “the Rock” to the church. Of course their was much religious turmoil in Ireland for the next 700 years and “the Rock”, being the great symbol that it is, was not peaceful. In 1869 it was given into State Care as a National Monument and underwent great restoration.
The original St Patrick’s Cross sits in the undercroft of the Vicars Choral, out of the elements.
Outside you’ll find a replica sitting in the approximate original location.
If the history of the Rock of Cashel isn’t enough to impress the kids, the architecture will. Cormac’s Chapel, possibly the first building in Ireland built in the Romanesque style, still shows traces of fresco on the chancel ceiling while the sarcophagus at the west end of the chapel is true Celtic styling.
The Cathedral, built in the Gothic style, features majestic archways and and extensive array of stone heads on both the interior and exterior of the building. A tomb niche in the south wall of the nave has beautiful 17th century stucco work. You may even find the Sheela-na-gig in a corner of the dormitory if you search hard enough.
The Rock of Cashel is a great stop if you have children because the grounds are very open and easy to wander. Take your time admiring the architecture and the Celtic art- the entire site is walled in so kids won’t wander very far.
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Consider Ladyswell House, a spectacular B&B within walking distance of the Rock of Cashel.
Tips for Visiting the Rock of Cashel
–The Rock of Cashel is an OPW Heritage Site. Learn about OPW Heritage Cards here.
–A short audio visual presentation covers the history of the time and the area. It doesn’t give as much information about the building of the massive castle (though it is a wonderful place to wait during heavy rain!) so I recommend paying a nominal fee for the brochure when you arrive or joining a guided tour if one is available.
–Traveling with littles? There is quite a steep walk up to the main entrance so be sure to bring along your stroller if you don’t want to carry anyone up or down the drive.
–There is pay parking at the base of the Rock. If you don’t mind a bit of a hike park at the base of the hill on the other side of the site and walk up the final bit of the Tipperary Way.
Dining in Cashel
If you’re looking for a place for a meal, or just tea, before or after visiting the Rock of Cashel, we really enjoyed The Bake House on Main Street. (This is also a lovely place to wait for the rain to lessen…)
Our lunch was quite good, but we couldn’t resist dessert.
Don’t let the weather keep you from visiting the Rock of Cashel.
Even in wet conditions the site is incredible.