Rock of Cashel
Discover the romantic and historic Rock of Cashel
Rock of Cashel
Explore the Rock of Cashel, the remarkable and much loved ancient landmark in Ireland's historic east.
Discover the romantic and historic Rock of Cashel on a driver-guided tour of Ireland. Tipperary in the east is Ireland's largest inland county, famed for its rich, lush green pasturelands, the stunning Galtee Mountains, and horse studs. The area is home to The Rock of Cashel; according to legend, the massive rock landed in Cashel due to St Patrick casting out Satan from a cave in the Devils Bit mountain.
An unmissable landmark on the town's approach, it sits on a rocky outcrop and, in medieval times, was one of Ireland's most important centres. It is a collection of fascinating stone buildings dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, surrounded by a wall. Hear the story of this fascinating site on a Private Tour of Ireland.
The Kingdom on the Rock
A brief history of The Rock of Cashel
Legend has it that the Rock of Cashel was the result of Satan's anger at being evicted by the 5th century St Patrick from a cave in a mountain 20 miles away. He bit off a mountain piece and spat it the 20 miles to its location in Cashel today. While this story makes a good tale, it's more likely the case that a 4th-century settlement was the home of the Eoganacht family and gave it the name Cashel, which, in Gaelic, means 'a ringfort'.
In the mid-5th century, St Patrick spread Christianity and visited the Rock of Cashel while a christening of the King of Munster king was taking place. This event was a significant advance for the Christian cause. The stronghold on the rock became Munster's Kings' seat for many years until the Norman invasion. It was nicknamed "the mountain of the Kings."
Early in the 12th century, the great-grandson of Brian Boru, a king, gave the castle on the rock to the Church of Ireland. The rock quickly became an important religious centre, and the 28 metres high round tower dates from that time. The King-Bishop of Cashel in 1127 had a chapel built in the castle premises. From 1152 it became the seat of the Bishops. Seventeen years later (1169), under Donal O'Brian, work started on what was to become a vast Cathedral. It took 65 years to build and was the most important religious building in Ireland.
Irish Confederate Wars
The Rock of Cashel fared badly in the Irish Confederate wars of 1647 (also known as the 11 years war). The war began when Protestant English and Scottish settlers were killed, the retaliation was brutal. Parliamentary troops under Count Murray O'Brian ransacked the stronghold, Irish churches plundered, and many priests murdered. Worse was to come. Three thousand people had sought refuge within the walls of the Cathedral; it was set on fire. Most were burnt alive.
That event marked the turning point for the Rock of Cashel, which became tainted by the memory. It stood as a reminder and monument to the bravery of those who had rebelled against British rule.
In 1746, the roof was removed on the orders of Arthur Price, the Archbishop of Cashel. What his reasons were nobody knows; what is certain is that it was an architectural crime. Although it is roofless, it remains an important building and well worth a visit.
Highlights of The Rock and surrounding region
Before the Norman invasion, it had been the seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years. The complex of buildings includes the Round Tower built around 1100, which is the oldest. Adjacent to the tower is Cormac's Chapel, which dates from 1127 and has vaulted ceilings and wide arches. Also notable are the arches, other stonework, and one of the best-preserved frescoes of its time. The sandstone used for the building sustained water damage. A conservation project has resulted in a rainproof cover with a rainproof structure.
Miles of rich green pastureland surrounds The Rock of Cashel; simply travelling around is pure pleasure. Just 12 miles away is the charming and typically Irish town of Tipperary. It's worth a visit to look at some of its many interesting features and monuments. Many commemorate the lives of some of the less law-abiding citizens who have lived there.
Less than an hour's drive away is Kilkenny's medieval town, a fascinating place to explore on foot. Its streets are lined with charming ancient buildings. The 12th century Kilkenny Castle at the end of the High Street is well worth a visit, as is St Canices Cathedral, a 13th-century building with a round tower. A climb to the top of the tower rewards you with panoramic views over Kilkenny.
Touring and Accommodation
The Rock of Cashel is featured in our Classic Ireland Tour. However, we can always customise our tours to reflect any specific interests or requirements you may have. En-route from the east coast, stop at the charming town of Kilkenny before touring the Rock. Stop at world famous Blarney Castle before staying overnight in the Cork region - the culinary capital of Ireland.
After you visit the Rock of Cashel, have our driver-guide take you south and stay at Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork. Enjoy a couple of nights and explore Cork and the pretty old town of Kinsale on the south coast.
Gem of the Ancient East
A Fascinating Complex of Medieval Buildings
- Private Guided Tours Available
- See inside Cormac's Chapel
- The 12th Century Sarcophagus
- Stop in Tipperary
Help us make your trip exceptional
Our UK and EU office based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.
Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.
We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.
We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.