Tips for Visiting the Rock of Cashel in 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 and 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.
- Tips for Visiting the Rock of Cashel in Ireland
The 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 the Rock is located on is banded with limestone outcrops rising up to the green mound that the Rock sits on.
Tips for visiting the Rock of Cashel
- 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.
Book your guided tour of the Rock of Cashel from Dublin
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).
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 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.
Many roads here don’t have actual names they are simply signposted as the R505 or the R6901, Google maps has 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.
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.
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.
What to see at the Rock of Cashel
Cormac’s Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134.
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.
These images are the earliest of their kind on the entire island.
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 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.
There is an extensive graveyard here that includes many high crosses marking some of the graves.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
The Rock has recently been refurbished and the scaffolding has come down in 2019.
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
Admission Fees to the Rock of Cashel
Group /Senior: €6.00
Child / Student : €4.00
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.
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