The Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland

The Rock of Cashel Castle, also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock is one of Ireland’s most significant historical landmarks. (Irish: Carraig Phádraig [ˈcaɾˠəɟ ˈfˠaːd̪ˠɾˠəɟ])

This iconic landmark has been a symbol of Irish Heritage for over 1,600 years. Because of its historical significance the site of the Rock of Cashel is listed as a National Monument of Ireland and is also on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage sites list.

Located in southern Ireland near the small town of Cashel in County Tipperary in Ireland, the castle is situated on a 60-meter-high limestone outcrop in the Golden Vale, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

The Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
The Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland, Historic Ireland Landmark, situated in the Golden Vale of Ireland
The Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
The Rock of Cashel seen from Hore Abbey: The entire plateau perimeter on which the buildings and graveyard lie is walled.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. 

Rock of Cashel Castle complex

The Rock of Cashel is a remarkable collection of Celtic and medieval architecture and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture in Europe, with a design that is unique and native to Ireland.

Sadly, through the centuries the ancient buildings have crumbled and disappeared. The majority of buildings standing here on this outcrop of limestone are a spectacular group of medieval buildings, the oldest from the 12th and 13th centuries.

What you see here today are the remains of a medieval castle, a 12th-century Romanesque chapel and a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. The oldest (and tallest) of the remaining structures is the well-preserved round tower dating from c. 1100.

map

This map should help you get your bearings on the hill, although it would be hard to get lost up there!

Rock of Cashel Castle complex map
Rock of Cashel Castle complex map

Visitors are given the opportunity to explore the following:

The Tower House

The residential tower house was once the residence of the Archbishop of Cashel from the 1400’s until the early 1700’s. The south side of the building was destroyed during a storm in 1848.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The Gothic 13th century cathedral is particularly impressive with its intricate stone carvings and the hollow frames of windows that once contained beautiful stained-glass windows. The foundation of the cathedral is in the shape of a cross. You can explore the different areas of the beautiful cathedral ruins which includes a nave, north and south transept, choir area, and a porch.

17th century massacre
During the Irish Confederate Wars ‘The siege of Cashel’ close to 1000 inhabitants, both clergy and Irish Catholic Confederate soldiers, were massacred in this building in 1647.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Interior Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
Explore the expansive interior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral ruins
archway St. Patrick's Cathedral Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
archway St. Patrick’s Cathedral Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland

The graveyard

This extensive graveyard is the oldest active graveyard in Ireland. When exploring the headstones and graves please be respectful of those who are buried here.

Round Tower

The early 12th century 28 meter tall Round Tower is the oldest surviving building on site. The tower was likely completed around 1101, the same year the site was gifted to the church. Round towers are unique in their shape and form to Ireland.

The Rock of Cashel Castle round tower and graveyard
The Rock of Cashel Castle round tower and graveyard

Cormac’s Chapel

Cormac’s Chapel, considered one of Ireland’s finest examples of Romanesque style architecture, was built between 1127-1134 by King-Bishop Cormac Mac Carthaig, making it the second oldest building on site.

The fragmented remains of the only surviving fresco paintings in Ireland:

The chapel contains the oldest romanesque wall paintings in Ireland. It is believed that the fresco depicts The Magi, where Christ was gifted Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh by the Three Kings. Over time the frescos began to deteriorate which required restoration work to be done in order to save the precious historic art.

The chapel features beautifully carved doorways and intricate stonework and parts of the chapel have remained virtually unchanged for close to 900 years!

Note: Cormac’s Chapel can only be visited by guided tour (English only, written translations available upon request.) You’ll be given a specific tour time and instructed on where and when to meet.)

Cormac's Chapel exterior   at the Rock of Cashel Castle complex
Cormac’s Chapel
archway in Cormac's Chapel Rock of Cashel
ornate archway in Cormac’s Chapel
fresco paintings Cormac's Chapel Rock of Cashel Ireland
the remnants of ancient fresco paintings in Cormac’s Chapel

Hall of the Vicar’s Choral

Built in the 15th century, this is the youngest building in the complex. Don’t miss the restored kitchen.

The Museum

Inside the small museum you will find several artifacts including the original St. Patrick’s Cross.

information on visiting

Opening Hours (2023)

The Rock of Cashel is open to visitors every day of the year except: closed December 24-26

mid-March to mid-October: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
mid-October to mid-March 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Last admission: strictly 45 minutes prior to closing time.

Opening hours and tour times are subject to change. For the most current and up to date information see the official website.

Admission Fees (2023)

Adult: €8.00

When you get up the hill make your first stop at the ticket office, the first building you come to. The fee includes access to all the buildings on the site. Discounts are available for students (children under the age of 12 get in free but still need a ticket), seniors, and groups of 10 or more people (pre booking required for groups.) Check the official website for the most current and up to date information on admission fees.

Check the official website for the most current and up to date information on admission fees.

Advance tickets (booking online)

Avoid long lines and possible disappointment by purchasing tickets online. If you are trying to book online and tickets are sold out for the day, I recommend showing up first thing in the morning to ensure entrance. (Tickets to tour Cormac’s Chapel cannot be booked online and are only available on site.)

Rock of Cashel Tour

Guided Tours
Half hour to 45-minute guided tours provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the history of the Rock of Cashel and significance of the important site. Knowledgeable and experienced tour guides can provide visitors with a wealth of information so do consider the guided tour.

Self-guided tours
Visitors are free to explore the picturesque complex on their own but keep in mind that you will need to take the guided tour if you want to tour Cormac’s Chapel. Booklets are available (for a small fee) to help navigate your way around the complex on a self-tour. Guides are available on site to answer questions.

Angie Kunze We're Not in Kansas Anymore at the Rock of Cashel Ireland
whether on the guided or self-guided tour you’ll have plenty of time to explore at your leisure!

audio-visual theatre: ‘Strongholds of the Faith’ is a 20-minute presentation on what was happening in Ireland when the buildings on the Rock of Cashel were being constructed between the 12th and 18th Centuries.

Cross on the Rock of Cashel Ireland
the high cross on Cashel Hill
doorway Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
What’s through the next doorway? feel free to find out!
stairs at the Rock of Cashel
ancient stairs in one of the buildings in the complex

need to know information

Getting up to the castle
There is a short walk up a steep incline of about 200 meters from the parking lot to the complex entrance of the Rock of Cashel.

Bathrooms
Bathrooms are located near the public car park. These are the only public toilets on site so before you head in would be a good time to make use of them!

What to wear
Be aware that much of the complex is outdoors. Dress appropriately. Comfortable sturdy shoes are recommended, and the wind is frequently strong on the hill so a jacket might be in order.

What to bring
Ireland tends to be rainy so bring your rain gear.

crowd beating tips

When is the best time to visit? The castle is open year round except for a couple of days around Christmas. However, it does occasionally close during extremely high winds. To stay on top of periodical closings follow The Rock on Facebook.

The Rock of Cashel castle complex is one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions, and draws visitors from all over the world. Summer crowds are in full swing by early June and last through summer.

The general rule of thumb for avoiding the worst crowds at popular tourist attractions are:

  • Visit early morning or late in the day (i.e., the first or last tour of the day)
  • Weekdays are often less crowded than weekends.
  • Travel in the shoulder or off season: Summer months are peak season / high season, spring and fall are considered shoulder seasons, and winter months are off season.

about Cashel Castle

The historic significance of the Rock of Cashel as the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster makes it a must-see addition to your Ireland travel itinerary!

The Rock of Cashel probably existed in some form as early as the 4th century or 5th century when the Eóghanachta Clan ruled the area. The ancient site likely began life as a stone fort before becoming the centre of power. Towering limestone outcrops are the perfect place for a defensive structure since it makes them easier to defend. The Religious buildings on the main site would have been added sometime after King Aenghus became a Christian in the 5th century.

From 300-1000 A.D. the seat of the ancient Kings of Munster stood upon this hill. In the year 1101 the castle was handed over to the church. Today, the Rock of Cashel is managed by the Office of Public Works.

Brian Boru, St. Patrick, and their relationship with Cashel

A couple of very famous historical figures spent time on the iconic Rock of Cashel.

Brian Boru (Middle Irish: Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig; modern Irish: Brian Bóramha)

Brian Buru was a legendary figure that lived from the late 10th century to the early 11th century. He is known by many as the greatest High King (ardri) in Irish history and is credited with ending the Viking invasions / Norman invasions of Ireland. Formerly the King of Munster, Brian Boru was crowned High King at Cashel in 978 and made it his capital.

*** Book recommendation: I highly recommend the book Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn. The book is an inspiring account of Boru, that artfully intermingles history with legend. The author laces together Irish folklore and the “old religions” with one of the most inspiring real-life stories in Irish history. I have personally read the book 3 times over the years. The strength and courage of the heroic figure, Boru, is inspiring. Consider reading the Lion of Ireland before you visit this historic site to get a better understanding of its historical significance.

Brian Boru mural outside the Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
Brian Boru mural outside the Rock of Cashel Castle

St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day is ever cause for celebration but who was St. Patrick? Saint Patrick was born in Britain in the 5th century when it was under the Rule of the Roman Empire. At 16 he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. He later escaped but returned to Ireland, bringing Christianity with him. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

site of the conversion of the king:
St. Patrick converted King Aenghus, the King of Munster, to Christianity here at the Rock of Cashel, and he thereby became Ireland’s first Christian ruler.

According to one legend, the rock was originally located in the Devil’s Bit, a nearby mountain. Saint Patrick banished Satan from a cave in the mountain, causing the rock to land in Cashel.

Ruins, and why I love them!

I really LOVE historical ruins, and these are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen! There is something haunting about them. They seem to retain the life they once had, blurring the lines between ancient history and modern day. It almost feels as if you could walk through one of these beautiful ornate arches and suddenly find yourself in ancient Ireland. Find a quiet corner and if you’re still enough, you may just be able to feel the presence of the people who walked these grounds so many years ago.

Angie Kunze We're Not in Kansas Anymore travel inspiration at the Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
castle ruins are alive with past generations, find a spot and soak in the history!

Although in ruin, the rock of Cashel Castle is still imposing and formidable. It isn’t hard to envision it in its full stately glory!

the imposing and formidable Rock of Cashel Castle Ireland
the imposing and formidable Rock of Cashel

Need help building your Itinerary? we visited the Rock of Cashel on a 2 week trip that included Ireland, Scotland AND England!

virtual tour

Can’t get to The Rock of Cashel just not but can’t wait to see it? The Office of Public Works has put together a very good virtual tour of The Rock of Cashel.

Virtual Tour of the Rock of Cashel Castle from the Office of Public Works

Getting to the Rock of Cashel Castle

Closest airports

  • Cork (ORK) 100 km
  • Shannon (SNN) 90 km
  • Dublin (DUB) 200 km
  • Waterford (WAT) 90 km

Distance from

The Rock of Cashel is an easy day trip from several larger Irish cities: (A Dublin Road trip will take you about 2.5 hours. Here are distances from other major towns in Ireland)

  • Cork (100 km)
  • Cobh (100 km)
  • Limerick (60 km)
  • Kilkenny (60 km)
  • Waterford (90 km)
  • Dublin (200 km)
  • Galway (160 km)

by car

Address: Moor, Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
GPS coordinates: 52.520416581380466, -7.8903273639542375

Parking
There is a car park located down the hill from the Rock. Upon arrival, take a ticket at the machine to be admitted into the parking lot. You’ll need to pay at the pay station before returning to your car, and before you can leave the lot.

Don’t miss the sculpture near the parking area and the Bru Boru Cultural Center. “The Cashel Dancers” was commissioned in 1991 by Rowan Gillespie, creator of the Famine Statues in Dublin.

The Cashel Dancers sculpture statue at the Rock of Cashel Castle
The Cashel Dancers sculpture statue

public transportation

Seamlessly plan your train and bus travel with the Rome2Rio website or app or Transportation for Ireland (TFI) website, or Bus Eireann

Train
Nearest train station: Thurles (21 km) from there you would need to take a taxi or a bus.

Bus
The closest bus stop is at Main Street in Cashel Town, an eight-minute walk.

organized tours

Visiting Ireland for the first time? Or maybe the thought of driving on the left side of the road has you a bit nervous? No problem! Check out one of these tours and let someone else do the driving!

Where to stay

There are many places to stay in and around Cashel. My favorite place to search and book accommodations is Booking.com. When you’re ready, if you book through this link, I’ll make a small commission from your booking, which helps me fund this website! Here are some of my favorite picks:

Where to eat

My favorite place to search for the best place to eat is Tripadvisor. You get customer review ratings and lots of photos! These are some of the top picks in Cashel:

  • The Bishop’s Buttery at Cashel Palace (French, Irish, Seafood, MICHELIN)
  • Chez Hans (cool restaurant located in a beautiful old church, MICHELIN)
  • Ladyswell Restaurant
  • Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen

Nearby Attractions

Here are some popular attractions in the surrounding area:

Hore Abbey

Hore Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery that dates back to the 13th century. Visitors can explore the remains of the church, cloister, and chapter house. The abbey is open year-round, and admission is free. Distance: Just a short walk downhill from the Rock of Cashel.

Hore Abbey Ireland
Hore Abbey medieval ruins

Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle, one of the largest castles in Ireland. Don’t judge this one by its unassuming cover. We really enjoyed this well-preserved 13th century castle! It has a rustic medieval hunting lodge feel. Distance: 20 km

Cahir Castle Ireland
Cahir Castle
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore at Cahir Castle Ireland
we really loved Cahir Castle, don’t miss it!

Swiss Cottage

The Swiss Cottage is a charming 19th-century cottage. Built in the style of a Swiss chalet, the cottage was originally used as a hunting lodge and summer residence. Visitors can tour the interior of the cottage, which is filled with period furnishings and decorations, and explore the surrounding gardens and woodland. Admission to the cottage is by guided tour only, and tickets can be purchased on-site. Distance: 21 km

Swiss Cottage Ireland
Swiss Cottage

Pro tip: There is a 2 km walking path that leads from Cahir Castle to the Swiss Cottage. If you can make the time in your schedule, consider adding it to your itinerary!

Mitchelstown Cave

Mitchelstown Cave is a stunning limestone cave located in County Tipperary, Ireland. Distance: 17 km

Frequently Asked Questions

Is The Rock of Cashel worth it?

If you are interested in Irish history, architecture, things that are old & ancient, and ruins then yes, the Rock of Cashel is absolutely worth it!

Are pets allowed?

Assistance dogs only.

How long should I plan to spend at the Rock of Cashel?

Visitors can plan to spend around 1-2 hours exploring the Rock of Cashel Castle. That’s enough time to explore Hore Abbey too.

source of historical information in this article: The Rock of Cashel official website and Wikipedia.

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