Rock of Cashel
A royal Irish heritage site...
Ancient ruins dwarf the nearby town of Cashel with its lofty tower and striking cathedral. Crows circle the buildings, furiously flapping their wings and screeching at every visitor who passes by. The Rock of Cashel stands as regal as a castle in Ireland’s County Tipperary – except it’s not a castle. It’s an ecclesiastical site, which hosts a collection of historic church buildings. Come experience Ireland's religious past at the Rock of Cashel.
The History of the Rock
Rolling fields give way to a limestone outcrop that towers over the one-story cottages below. Religious ruins stand regally on the rock, reaching toward the heavens. Tombstones dot the edges of the outcrop, creating a haunting profile for the spiritual site.
The location's quiet nature hides the critical role the site played in Ireland's conversion to Christianity.
A cathedral, chapel and several other ruins make up the Rock of Cashel. Tour guide Ronan Kenny said the buildings were gradually added on between the 12th and 13th centuries and the site is one of six royal sites in Ireland.
Ronan Kenny talks about the history of the rock while standing in the cathedral ruins.
“A royal site meant that it was a site of political power,” Kenny said.
Whoever controlled the royal site controlled the kingdom around it as well. This made the area politically and religiously significant.
St. Patrick is believed to have visited the Rock in the fifth century to convert King Aengus to Christianity, making him Ireland’s first Christian ruler. Kenny said there is a legend associated with the king’s baptism.
“When he baptized him, he accidentally stabbed him in the foot with his crosier,” Kenny said. “(King Aengus) did not complain because he thought it was part of the ceremony.”
Those proceedings at the rock sparked religious change throughout the island. During the rest of St. Patrick’s life, he continued to convert rulers to Christianity.
“He targeted the rulers, the political elite, for conversion,” Kenny said. “That was why he was so successful. Once he converted them, the people they ruled generally followed.”
Today, the Rock of Cashel is a popular tourist site. Visitors can walk through the cathedral and take in the surrounding views. For an additional price, they can have access to Cormac’s Chapel, a small religious building on the site that features Romanesque architecture.
Top 3 Must Dos
Drive along the M8 highway from either Cork or Dublin to the town of Cashel. It's one hour from Cork and two hours from Dublin.
Take the X8 bus from Cork Parnell Place Bus station to Cashel then walk 10 minutes north to reach the rock.
It takes about two hours to reach Cashel and the bus leaves every two hours.
Pro tip: You can ride the X8 bus to Cahir, the stop before Cashel, to check out Cahir Castle.