While exploring the wonders of Southeast Ireland, adventurous travelers won’t want to miss the extraordinary Rock of Cashel located in County Tipperary. Certainly one of the most visited sites in Ireland the Rock of Cashel sits to the north of the town of Cashel, and it combines spiritual grace, mysterious beauty, and scenic elegance. It is one of Ireland’s most spectacular archeological sites.
The word ‘cashel’ is an anglicized version of the Irish word caiseal, meaning ‘fortress.’ The Rock of Cashel rises as giant, circular mound 200 feet above the surrounding plains and meadows. A cluster of ruins are nestled on its crown. The largest structure is the remains of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Built in the 13th century, the cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1495. The building was later restored. However, when Cromwell’s forces brutally overwhelmed Ireland Cashel Rock was destroyed once more. Hundreds of townspeople had sought refuge from the British soldiers within the cathedral walls and were burned to death when Cromwell’s men set fire to the building. For the people of Ireland Cashel Rock serves a reminder of foreign brutality, spiritual strength, and Irish courage.
Cormac’s Chapel is also located on top of the Rock of Cashel. The chapel is the best-preserved building of the lot, and it can be found south of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Cormac’s Chapel was built in 1127 by Cormac Macarthy, king of Desmond and bishop of Cashel. The round tower is the third and last of the structures on the Rock. The tower is an impressive 92 feet high and its top offers a spectacular view of the surrounding plains and mountains. Other sites around the Rock of Cashel include Hore Abbey, the Hall of the Vicars Choral, and Cashel’s cultural center, Brú Ború. The Rock of Cashel museum is located near the entrance to the rock. Besides explaining fascinating diagrams and documents, the museum guides will gladly tell you about the legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel.
The legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel dates back to approximately 432 AD. Now a market town, Cashel was once a center of royal and religious power. According to legend, St. Patrick arrived in Cashel in AD 432 and baptized King Aengus, who became Ireland’s first Christian ruler. During the baptism, the devil hurriedly flew over Ireland and, hindered by the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the flying fiend took an enormous bite out of the stony peaks. After he reached the opposite side of the mountains, the devil spat out his mountainous mouthful and inadvertently formed the Rock of Cashel. The legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel, then, also explains the gap (known as the Devil’s Bite) in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, which can be seen to the north of the rock.
Besides tales explaining the legendary origin of the Rock of Cashel, other stories exist that link this location to the emergence of the shamrock as an Irish symbol. According to legend, during the baptism, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity and so gave Christian Ireland a powerful new emblem.
Whether it is business, pleasure, a two-week trip or a year-long voyage that brings you to Ireland Cashel Rock should be included on your travel itinerary. A solitary rock mound towering above a gentle green field, like a hand reaching to heaven, the Rock combines Irish legend, history, and geological brilliance.