The Rock of Cashel sits as an impressive structure high on a hill overlooking the small town of Cashel and the surrounding valley. It is a neat place to visit with its rich history and amazing architecture. Some say the site dates back to the 5th century when the King of Munster was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. St. Patrick is known as the Patron Saint of Ireland; he originally came to this island as a slave in the 5th century, captured from Great Britain, and then was able escape. Later in life, he returned as a Christian missionary and is said to have walked across the country teaching people about Christ using simple things in nature, such as the three leaf clover to teach the Trinity. When you visit the Rock you will learn more about his life and see the replica of St. Patrick’s Cross that stands outside before the Cathedral.
Many try to hug the cross.
Upon entry you will pay a fee of approximately €6 which includes access to the grounds, a short video, and a guided tour. While waiting for the tour to begin you are free to explore; there is a small room near the entry which holds ancient artifacts and tomb stones and another very unique room with wooden rafters and a hand painted ceiling; this room is said to have been used by the choir.
You can skip the tour if you are in a rush, but I highly recommend you don’t. I’ve been to Cashel three times and each time I learned something new and really enjoyed the different guides as they tend to focus on different things based on their interests. My favorite time, the guide went into more details about St. Patrick’s life that fascinated me, I wish I could remember all the details! In the chapel there are ancient paintings engraved in the stone walls. It was here I learned of the old Irish belief that, “Only God can make something perfect” and therefore designers, artists, and architects of the time purposefully made some-things imperfect.
Overall the place looks more like a castle than a monastery to me, with its medieval architecture, round tower, and gigantic rooms that date back to the 12-15th centuries. Besides the Chapel, there is a Cathedral and a cemetery on the grounds. I was told that the cemetery is still in use by certain families but will be closed for further burials as soon as the last of the family members on a closed list have passed.
- Bring a rain coat or at least a warm sweater and scarf- it is often windy and cold at the top.
- The grounds can be slippery, be careful.
- I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I like to visit Cashel along with Cahir Castle and the Swiss cottage in the same day because of their close proximity. However, if you are going to do this, make sure you start the day early enough to ensure you have enough time to enjoy all that these unique places have to offer.
- On site you can buy a Heritage card for approximately €25, (there are discounts for families, seniors, students with valid ID, and children), this card enables you to visit nearly all of the heritage sites as many times as you like within a year for no extra charge. I think it is great value if you are traveling around Ireland. For example, If you are going to Cahir Castle, Swiss Cottage and the Rock of Cashel you will spend €12-13, so in one day you have used about half the value of the card.
- The town of Cashel offers several small gift shops as well as tea shops if you are in the mood for a little shopping or tea after your visit.