It’s on many an itinerary, yet too often passed by. The Rock of Cashel has been around since a few hundred years AD and hey, it will be there, right? See it next time? But what if there is no next time? Life is uncertain, so after many an Ireland trip, we decided to finally stop in.
Rockin’ the name
The “Rock of Cashel” is of course the English name. In Irish, it’s “Carraig Phadráig”. The Rock is also known as “Cashel of the Kings” and “Saint Patrick’s Rock”. Sorry, wrestling and movie fans, The Rock here has nothing to do with Dwayne Johnson…
Circling up to the Rock
Enroute from gorgeous West Cork and visiting the Drombeg Stone Circle, Cashel was a much-anticipated stop before our upcoming stay in Kilkenny: both for the Rock, and lunch! Cashel town (and its website) did not disappoint.
After parking right in the pleasant centre, plenty of space, we walked around some, seeing lots of shops and several good lunch options.
We ended up enjoying a tasty lunch at a bar/restaurant called John Feehan’s on Main Street.
Driven to walk
Properly fueled, we left the car parked in the centre and walked up to the Rock of Cashel. Emphasis on “up”: it’s not far, less than 10 minutes but a bit steep. Of course, instead of walking, you could just drive and park up at the Rock too.
Where ville you stay?
Strolling on, we passed a convenient bed & breakfast I have booked for several clients over the years: the Rockville House B&B.
It’s just a short walk right in between the centre and the Rock, and offers its own parking at the rear of the house.
Nearby you’ll spot the thatched roof over the Cashel Folk Village main cottage. A staff member hung out over the half-door telling visitors about Ireland’s Famine, the 1916 Easter Rising, War of Independence and more.
Lots of history on display, and lots of knowledge in his arsenal of info!
Sing it, Bing
Continuing on, the Rock started looming over us. It was a pretty October day, fortunately, with lots of blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
Satan and the Saint
The Rock was established around the 5th century. Legend has it that Saint Patrick banished Satan from a spot called the Devil’s Bit Cave some 20 miles away, causing a huge rock to land at Cashel. He then converted the King of Munster (one of the 4 Irish Provinces) to Christianity.
From Seat to See
The Kings of Munster used the Rock as their Seat for centuries, until in the early 1100s they donated it to the Church.
Arriving at the Rock, you’ll see the Ticket Office entrance. We paid the modest fee, checked the timing for the next guided tour and looked around on own in the interim.
Time to pipe up
While waiting for the tour to start, we went to the left of the main building, where a sloping grassy field offers spectacular views over Co. Tipperary.
The blue skies and white clouds weather stayed perfect and we got extra-lucky, as a kilted bagpiper appeared and filled the autumn air with some haunting Celtic melodies.
Skirting the issue
Fun fact: kilts and bagpipes are Celtic, you know, not just Scots! Some people are surprised to encounter them in Ireland too. Who was first? Let’s leave that lost in the mists of history and fun arguments over a pint in the pub!
Squarely the best
We met up with our Guide, who then led his small group through the buildings: Cormac’s Chapel, the unique aisle-less Cathedral and then out to the side and the cemetery, with its Celtic Round Tower, all from the 1100s and up.
The medieval architecture and inside stonework are some of the best-preserved in all of Europe.
The group tour ended back at the Entrance, and most visitors left. However, we did not, as we wanted to go inside the side buildings. We’re so glad we did: don’t skip this bit!
The Rock has fascinating art and artifacts on display here, from a 12th century Saint Patrick’s Cross to a 1641 Chalice to several interesting stained glass windows. Note the surprisingly friendly-looking chimera in the left panel…
I was particularly impressed by the “Seale of the Colledge of St Patrike’s Cashell”!
Fire in the Friary
Walking back to town, we took a moment to peek around the remaining ruins of Saint Dominic’s Friary. It’s right before you’re back on Main Street at our lunch spot and parked car.
Archbishop David MacKelly founded the Friary in 1243. It burned but was rebuilt around 1480 by Archbishop John Cantwell. Saint Dominic’s Friary was dissolved in 1540.
No ticket to ride
As happens regularly, it seems, we had surpassed our parking time but once again escaped without a ticket. Maybe the local enforcers noticed it’s a rental car and they appreciate tourists in the off-season!
As we prepared to leave Cashel, those fluffy white clouds started scudding through the fading blue of the previously perfect skies. The next palette was grey with dark clouds; a crow sat ominously on a roofline. Rain was coming!
But hey, whatever, it’s Ireland and the weather can change anytime from good to bad and back again, in any season, in minutes. Be prepared, and think positively: rain means a free car wash! And as true sages know, it’s good karma to treat a rental car like you would your own…
My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. It’s what you’d experience yourselves. Note that the company does not necessarily share my opinions and views. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine (except where credited as noted), as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.
(R) Photography by Robin Gabbert
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