The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Visiting The Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey in Ireland is a must if you are touring Ireland’s Ancient East. The drive to the Rock from Dublin only takes around 2 hours and it’s well worth the trip. If you stay in Kilkenny the trip will only take you an hour. The Rock of Cashel is also known as St. Patrick’s Rock and the Cashel of the Kings and is over 1000 years old this ancient archaeological site is found in Cashel, County Tipperary.

The Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey lie in the county of Tipperary which is a stunning place to visit. Many folks don’t bother to see Tipperary but there are so many things to enjoy about this county from its velvet rolling Galtee Mountains, to its Golden Vale. The pubs in Tipperary are amazing and it is said that the best pub in Ireland is located here – if you can find it.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Planning a trip to Ireland for the first time? Here’s everything you need to know

Facts about the Rock of Cashel

How old is the Rock of Cashel? The Rock of Cashel is over 1000 years old it was built in the 5th century but most of the buildings at the Rock were built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

How tall is the Rock of Cashel? The rocky cliff face that the Rock of Cashel sits on is banded with limestone outcrops, and the Rock soars 200 feet into the air.

Who created the Rock of Cashel? According to ancient Irish legends, the Rock of Cashel was moved to its current location when St. Patrick banished Satan from his cave at the Devil’s Bit. Satan was a tad pissed off and took a bite out of the mountain and spat it out and that rock is known as the Rock of Cashel.

Who lived at the Rock of Cashel? In ancient times before the Normans arrived in Ireland the Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

Who were the Kings baptized and crowned at the Rock of Cashel? King Aengus, Ireland’s first-ever Christian ruler, was said to have been baptized at the Rock by St. Patrick. Brian Boru who united Ireland was crowned at the Rock.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Who is buried at the Rock of Cashel? Legend has it that King Cormac’s brother Tadhg is buried here in the appropriately named Cormac’s Chapel.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

How to get to the Rock of Cashel Ireland

Most people make the pilgrimage to the Rock on their own by taking the bus from Cork or Dublin. From Cork, take the Bus Eireann #X8 from Cork Bus Station, Cork Parnell to Main Street in Cashel. From Dublin, take the Bus Eireann #X8 from Busaras Bus Station to Main Street in Cashel.

If you rent a car you can get to the Rock of Cashel from Dublin in about 2 hours it’s a pretty straightforward drive with Google Maps.

When’s the best time to visit the Rock of Cashel? The Rock of Cashel is open to visitors all year round but typically gets busier during the summer months.

Where can I park? There is a car park down the hill from the Rock of Cashel, just a few minute’s walk away from the main site, which costs €6 for the day.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The Rock of Cashel rises out of the landscape as you approach it placed high on top of limestone outcrops where it oversees the fertile landscape of Tipperary.  Resolute stonewalls circle a round tower, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral and an exceptional 12th-century Romanesque chapel containing some of Ireland’s oldest frescoes. One of Ireland’s stunning archaeological sites, The Hill of the Rock is located on is banded with limestone outcrops rising up to the green mound that the Rock sits on.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Tips for visiting the Rock of Cashel

  • The best time to visit Cashel is early in the morning at around 9 am
  • parking is in a lot at the base of the rock
  • Admission to the Rock of Cashel is around 8 Euros – but here’s a tip stay in Cashel and have breakfast or lunch before going to the Rock and ask for the visitor’s voucher to get a two-for-one entry fee to the Rock.
  • You can book tours at the Information office either in Cashel town or at the Rock of Cashel itself and audio tours are available in several languages. There are also audiovisual tours for those with sight impairment.
  • For disabled travellers the walk up can be a bit tricky, the paths are gravelled and lumpy. There is disabled access through a drop-off point closer to the Rock itself but it would be a little tricky to get around in a wheelchair. There is a steep hill to walk up for those with mobility challenges but there are some rest stops and you can take your time looking around the site although sometimes the tourist crush can be very heavy. If you call ahead the visitors’ centre staff can arrange access for you.
  • Check out the view of Hore Abbey from the top of the Rock. Hore Abbey is easy to get to but there is no parking and it would be difficult to access if you are challenged with mobility issues.
an ancient carved burial crypt with figures on the side as seen at the Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel History

The word ‘Cashel’ is an English version of the Irish word Caiseal, meaning ‘fortress. The Rock of Cashel is said to be the ancient royal site of the kings of Munster. In 370, King Corc built a castle on what had been known as the “Fairy Ridge” and established a capital there. It was around 448 when St. Patrick came to Cashel to baptize King Aengus.

the entry to the Rock of Cashel the ruined church and its towers

Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.

Tradition has it that Patrick accidentally pierced the king’s foot with his staff during the ceremony. The King, thinking this was part of the ceremony, remained silent and stoic. 

For more than 1,000 years the Rock was a symbol of royal and religious power; the seat of Eóganacht Kings of Munster until rivalries saw Brian Boru, future High King of Ireland, take over in the 10th century. 

In the 12th century, the Rock became a major Christian centre when it was gifted to the religious communities of Ireland by Muircheartach O’ Brian, ostensibly to keep it from ever falling back into the hands of his opposition, the McCarthys.

Opening Hours for the Rock of Cashel

Open all Year:

Mid Sept. – Mid Oct.  Daily  09.00 – 17.30  Last admission at 16.45
Mid Oct. – Mid March  Daily  09.00 – 16.30  Last admission at 15.45
Mid-March – Early June  Daily  09.00 – 17.30  Last admission at 16.45
Early June – Mid Sept.  Daily  09.00 – 19.00  Last admission at 18.15

Closed 24th to 26th December inclusive
Please note that all groups must be pre-booked
Average Length of Visit: 1 – 1.5 hours

Rock of Cashel Tickets

Adult: €8.00
Group /Senior: €6.00
Child / Student : €4.00
Family: €20.00

Facilities

Public toilets and car/coach park close to the site
Credit Card Facilities are available

Here’s a great tip, have lunch or breakfast in the Village of Cashel and if you spend more than 15 euros you can get a coupon to enter The Rock at no charge.

What to see at the Rock of Cashel

Cormac’s Chapel

Cormac’s Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. 

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Within Cormac’s chapel, you will see 800-year-old frescoes that are being preserved and re-discovered. Gold-headed saints, sapphire blues, and robes of blood-red are faint but visibly there. 

Frescoes

Cormac’s Chapel, for example, contains the only surviving Romanesque frescoes in Ireland. The wall paintings in the chancel of Cormac’s Chapel form the earliest known decoration of its kind in Ireland and date from the mid-12th century.  The Paintings record scenes from the Early Life of Christ.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The Round Tower

This is the tallest and oldest of buildings and it dates back to 1100. It was built using a dry stone technique although for safety spots have now been filled in with mortar. 

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The Cathedral

The Cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270, the cathedral is built in the shape of a cross or cuniform with a central tower and it includes a residential castle. The Hall of the Vicars Choral was built later in the 15th century. The choral were laymen who were appointed by the church to assist in the chanting during services.   

Legend associates the Rock of Cashel with St. Patrick, but the name comes from Caiseal, meaning “stone fort,” and the hill was originally the residence of the kings of Munster.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

High Crosses

There is an extensive graveyard here that includes many high crosses marking some of the graves.  

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The 12th-century High Cross of St. Patrick that sits at the Rock is a replica. The original cross is now located in the medieval hall of the Vicars’ Choral. The cross only has one of its two original support arms and has two carved scenes. One scene is Christ wearing a long floor-length robe and the other face has a bishop carrying a crozier it is believed this might be St. Patrick.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey

Hore Abbey can be seen when looking over the valley from the Rock of Cashel. Hore Abbey was founded in the 1270s by an order of Benedictines. It is hauntingly beautiful, placed in a meadow directly opposite the Rock. Hore Abbey is also known as St. Mary’s as it was dedicated to the Saint. 

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The Abbey gets its name from the Irish translation of An Mainistir Liath (grey abbey). The name also refers to the colour of the Cistercian habit, which was a similar shade to that of hoar frost.

In 1269 the legend goes that Archbishop of Cashel David McCarvill had a dream that the monks attempted to decapitate him so fearing for his life –  threw the Benedictines out. 

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The Archbishop remade the abbey as a Cistercian foundation and imported monks from Mellifont Abbey to populate it. It was the last Cistercian abbey to be founded in Ireland. The majority of the ruins you see today date from the 13th century though some changes were made in the 15th century.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The most obvious change was the addition of the tower in the middle of the transept. The remains of the cloister arcade are positioned to the north of the abbey itself, which is unusual.

gravestones at Hore Abbey which is across the road from the Rock of Cashel

The Abbey was dissolved as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and only the Abbot and one monk were granted a pension. In 1561 Elizabeth I gave the abbey and its grounds to Sir Henry Radcliffe along with a portion of ale, called the Mary-gallon, out of every brewing in Cashel.

views from the Rock of Cashel

The Abbey is immensely peaceful and its nooks, crannies and the weather-ravaged old gravestones have a gentle appeal. It seems that not many tourists trudge over to see the Abbey as it is markedly less overrun, just watch your feet as the field is used for grazing cattle. There is no entry fee to the Abbey but there is also no parking nearby so you walk to Hore Abbey from Cashel the village or the Rock of Cashel.

The roads around the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey are quite narrow and it is probably best to park in the Rock of Cashel lot which is just down from the Rock itself. You can then walk up the hill to the Rock of Cashel and from there walk downhill to visit Hore Abbey which has no parking.

Rock Of Cashel, Co.Tipperary, Ireland

Rock of Cashel & Tipperary

In Irish, Gaelic Tipperary translates as – Tiobraid Árann (“House of the Well of Ara”). This is a reference to the river, but no one knows the significance of the actual well which is in Lattin (a little Village not the ancient language).

views out to the Galtee Mountains The Rock of Cashel & Hore Abbey in Tipperary Ireland

Cashel is the village at the heart of Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick’s Rock, is also known as Cashel of the Kings sits above the village and can be seen from virtually any angle.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

The views in Tipperary are spectacular from the Rock, the Golden Vale is at the heart of the County and there are countless sheep and cows, not to mention the fact that this is home to some of the world’s most famous racing horses.

The ‘Golden Vale’ extends from east Limerick and across south Tipperary and North Cork. Its rich grasslands are the focus of the most extensive dairy farming activity in Ireland. Tipperary also has some of the best pork raised in the country, rashers, bacon, gammon and dry-cured hams compete with fine organic turkeys, lamb and mutton.

rock of cashel Golden Vale Tipperary

Many roads here don’t have actual names they are simply signposted as the R505 or the R6901, Google maps have been a lifesaver, unfortunately, there are still many areas with no wifi so sometimes the signal dies.  We have also found that many ruins are not signed you simply screech off the road you are on in search of the ruin you spot in the distance.

Are there any hidden gems in the area?

If you’re driving around Tipperary, take a stop off in the medieval town of Fethard, which still has surrounding walls and monuments intact from the 14th century. Look for the Sheela-na-gig on the ancient walls.

The Magnificent Rock of Cashel Ireland

If you make it to Fethard stop by McCarthy’s pub its a truly old pub with a shop at the front a pub at the back and undertakers on the side. The food is good and sometimes they have trad music sessions.

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