The Rock of Cashel:  Things to Know About This Storied Irish Landmark

The Rock of Cashel is a historic landmark dating back to the 11th century. Multiple buildings are located on a limestone outcropping, which was the seat of the Kings of Munster for centuries.  It is also known as Cashel of the Kings, St. Patrick's Rock and Carraig Phádraig.

Irish Expressions - Rock of Cashel.  Photocredit Jay Patrick via Flickr.

As the name suggests, the Rock is located in the small town of Cashel, found in County Tipperary. There is a bus that runs back and forth between Dublin and Cork, and Cashel is a stop in the middle.

If you're coming from Dublin by car, take the M7 and then the M8, and expect a journey of just under two hours.  Once you're in Cashel, you can easily get around on foot and walk straight up to the Rock of Cashel.

Things to Know About The Rock of Cashel

Here are some fun facts about this famous attraction.  Hopefully they will entice you to pay a visit in person!

But if that is not possible, you can always use them to impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the most-visited landmarks in Ireland.

  • Local legend has the Rock of Cashel originating in Devil's Bit, a mountain more than 20 miles away. The story says that when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, a rock from Satan's mouth landed all the way in Cashel.
  • The word Cashel literally translates as circular stone fort. That's why so many locals call it by another name, often including St. Patrick in the title.
  • Prior to the Norman Invasion in the 12th century, the Rock was home to the Kings of Munster. The Munster King Muirchertach Ua Briain eventually donated his fortress on the rock to the Church in the 11th century. 
  • When you arrive, look for the tall round tower. This is the oldest building on the site, and it dates back to the 11th century.
  • Nearly as old as the round tower is Cormac's Chapel, which was the church of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh all the way back in the 12th century. It's an interesting combination of traditional building techniques and European influences, including a beautifully carved tympanum and a barrel-vaulted roof.
  • Cormac's Chapel also boasts some of the oldest frescoes found in Ireland. Sadly, some of these works of art were painted over in reconstruction, but most have been revealed, restored and are once again visible to the public.
  • Once the Rock of Cashel was in control of the church, it became a religious site. The people who lived on the rock had challenging lives, not least because the hill leading to the site was too steep for horses, so everything had to be carried up by hand.
  • When you arrive, you'll enter through the Hall of the Vicars Choral. Built in the 15th century, this building was completely renovated in 1975. It is now home to a collection of artifacts from the site.
  • There have been plenty of famous visitors to the Rock, but none made a splash quite like the Queen of England. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Cashel in 2011, it was a noteworthy event for the area.
  • Round out your visit by visiting Bru Boro, a cultural village located at the foot of the hill. There is a folk theater, and you can see traditional Irish dress, song and dance.

You can find much more on the Rock of Cashel here!

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