Rock of Cashel, St Patrick’s Rock, Cashel of Kings. Whatever you call it, it should be on your Ireland travel list.
Folklore suggests that St Patrick made his mark here when he banished the devil himself, creating this huge rock formation that the structures sit on today. St Patrick also appointed the King of Munster (later known as the High King of Ireland) on that same spot. The king was the first Christian ruler in Ireland.
Cashel is not actually a castle, like many might think, but a collection of religious structures. Most of these structures were built in the 11 and 12 hundreds. There’s the round tower, which has been filled in with mortar for preservation.
There’s Cormac’s chapel – built for King Cormac Mac Carthaigh and finished in 1134. The largest structure, though, is the cathedral. While it was once considered the jewel of Ireland’s churches, someone decided to remove the roof in 1749. I haven’t been able to figure out why, but it probably had something to do with the unsurmountable repairs. There has been some talk of rebuilding the roof in upcoming years.
On the site, there are also many different types of crosses, but none so important as the Cross of Cashel. It is said to have healing powers, and in order to preserve its sacredness, it was moved indoors in the 1970s. The one that stands outside is just a replica.
The one inside is the original, made of limestone. It’s now well-protected against the elements – preserved for future generations.
Other crosses can be found in the ancient graveyard, just outside the chapel.
What to see & when to go
During your visit to Cashel, you can hop on a free tour of the place. This is definitely where you will learn the most information and history about the site, and what is being done today to preserve it. There is unfortunately not a lot of data available online, so it’s a must.
As most of the site is outdoors, umbrellas and rain gear are important!
If you do need to get out the Irish rain for a bit, there is a great exhibit indoors, in the Hall of the Vicars Choral with artifacts that have been found throughout the site. There’s even a great little film they play. My favourite exhibit is the one from Queen Elizabeth’s visit back in 2011.
Nearby the Rock of Cashel
Just around the back of the Rock, if you keep going past the sheep and into the field, you can spot Hore Abbey. The Abbey is a Cistercian (Catholic religious order) monastery that was built in the 13th century. It’s worth a look, and is far less known than Cashel.
While Blarney Castle is certainly the most famous site here in Ireland’s south, the Rock of Cashel is a favourite among locals. It felt far more authentic and untouched by the tourist industry.
For tickets and hours, visit this site.
For more Ireland, check out my posts here.
For where to stay nearby, try this lovely AirBnB.