Rock of Cashel | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Rock of Cashel

Cashel-Tipperary, County Tipperary, Ireland

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020

About Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig) in Ireland is a medieval complex steeped in centuries of history, both royal and ecclesiastical.

History of the Rock of Cashel

It is thought that the first main structures to be built on the site of the Rock of Cashel were erected in the fourth or fifth century AD. Said to have been founded by Conall Corc, King of Munster, it would become the royal residence of the Eóganacht Dynasty, rulers of Southern Ireland between the seventh and tenth centuries. This was the only dynasty at the time whose members were eligible to become overkings.

Brian Boru, the legendary High King of Ireland who drove out the Vikings, was crowned at Cashel in 978, and made it his capital.

However, most of the structures found today at the Rock of Cashel date not to the time of the Eóganacht Dynasty, but to between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. These were built after the Eóganacht were ousted from power by the kings of Dál Cais in the tenth century. In 1101, the then king of Dál Cais, Muircheartach Ua Briain, gave the Rock of Cashel to the Church. Most of the historic sites seen there today were built under the remit of the church.

The sites include the twelfth century Round Tower and Cormac’s Chapel, the latter being a pretty Romanesque church with remarkable frescoes. However the largest structure is the cathedral, initially constructed in the thirteenth century.

Tradition has it that King Aengus was converted at Cashel by St. Patrick, who travelled there and performed the monarch’s baptism. The story goes that St. Patrick pierced the king’s foot accidentally during the ceremony, but that the king remained silent, thinking it was part of the ritual.

The Rock of Cashel today

Cashel remains one of the most stunning – and impressive – attractions in Ireland. Views stretch over the green Tipperary landscape and the ruins, particularly of the Romanesque chapel, are picturesque. Unless you arrive early or late, however, don’t expect to be able to enjoy this site on your own: large coach groups also visit so it’s worth bearing in mind if you like your ancient sites peaceful.

Cormac’s Chapel is accessible by guided tour only: you’ll need to book at the entrance. Parking is in the town, followed by a short (500m) walk to the Rock itself: adhere to this or face the wrath of locals.

Getting to the Rock of Cashel

The town of Cashel is in Tipperary: the Rock is located above the town. Cashel is just off the M8, or if you’re coming from the town of Tipperary itself, the N74. The X8 (Dublin – Cork) bus travels through Cashel. The nearest train station is Thurles, about 20km north of Cashel – bus 394 will get you there from the station.

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