Visiting the Rock of Cashel Ireland (with pictures)

A black and white photo of a castle on a hill in Ireland
A black and white photo of a castle on a hill in Ireland

Why You Should Visit the Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel has played a pivotal role in the history of Ireland. Though it’s a relatively small site, the imposing fortress perches majestically atop a limestone outcrop in County Tipperary, and has witnessed centuries of intrigue, power struggles, and religious significance.

Its easy access from Dublin, Cork or Limerick, its imposing architecture, fascinating history, and beautiful setting make the Rock of Cashel an iconic landmark and popular attraction. 

Table of Contents

What You Need to Know

Hours of Operation: 

  • Mid-March to Mid-October 9AM to 5:30 PM. Last entry at 4:45 PM
  • Mid-October to Mid-March 9AM to 4:30 PM. Last entry at 3:45 PM
  • Closed 24-26 December
Address: St. Patrick’s Rock of Cashel Co. Tipperary E25 KX44
 Free parking. Restrooms available. Tea house within walking distance for snacks and drinks.
General Admission Tickets can be booked online
Adult: €8.00
Group/Senior: €6.00
Child/Student: €4.00
Family: €20.00


Entry to Cormac’s Chapel is by guided tour only. Limited tickets must be purchased on site.

  • Be prepared for rain. An umbrella or waterproof jacket and shoes is always a good idea.
  • The Rock of Cashel is spread over a significant area, and exploring the various structures and ruins can take 30-90 minutes.

Historical Significance of the Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel holds immense historical significance, dating back over a thousand years. Originally, the site served as a fortress for the kings of Munster, who ruled the region from the 4th to the 12th century.

In 1101, the site was gifted to the Church, and construction of a grand cathedral began. This marked the beginning of the Rock of Cashel’s transformation into a religious center. Over the centuries, various structures were added, including Cormac’s Chapel, a stunning example of Romanesque architecture. The Rock of Cashel became a place of pilgrimage, attracting both Irish and international visitors who sought solace and spiritual enlightenment.

In 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, the fortress was besieged by parliamentary forces. The subsequent massacre of the defenders left a lasting mark on the site’s history. Today, visitors can explore the ruins and imagine the tumultuous events that unfolded amidst these ancient stones.

Legends and Myths Surrounding the Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is steeped in legends and myths that have been passed down through generations. One of the most famous tales involves St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick visited the Rock of Cashel and converted the King of Munster to Christianity by driving his staff into the ground, which miraculously turned into a tree. This event solidified the Rock of Cashel’s status as a sacred site and cemented its association with St. Patrick.

Another intriguing legend tells of a pact made with the devil. According to the story, a chieftain named Cormac MacCarthy desired to build a magnificent chapel atop the Rock of Cashel. The devil offered to complete the construction overnight in exchange for the soul of the first living creature to enter the chapel. Cleverly, Cormac tricked the devil by releasing a rooster who entered the chapel, thus foiling the devil’s plans.

The Rock of Cashel also features in the mythological cycle of Irish folklore. It is said to be one of the places where the Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural race in Irish mythology, descended from the heavens to rule over Ireland. 

Architectural Features of the Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is renowned for its impressive architectural features that showcase different periods of its history. The most prominent structure is Cormac’s Chapel, built in the 12th century. This chapel is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, characterized by round arches, intricate carvings, and decorative details. The interior is remarkable for preserved Romanesque frescoes, a truly rare occurrence, and the only ones in all of Ireland.

Adjacent to Cormac’s Chapel is the grand cathedral, originally constructed in the 13th century. Although now in ruins, the cathedral still retains its Gothic splendor, with towering arches and remnants of stained glass windows.

The Rock of Cashel also boasts several impressive Celtic crosses, standing proudly amidst the ruins. These intricately carved crosses are adorned with knotwork and depict scenes from biblical stories. They serve as a testament to the artistic skills of the craftsmen who created them and provide a glimpse into the religious symbolism of the time.

The Rock of Cashel in Irish Literature and Folklore

The Rock of Cashel has long been a source of inspiration for Irish writers and poets. Its majestic presence and rich history have captured the imaginations of many, resulting in numerous references in literature and folklore. One of the most famous literary works featuring the Rock of Cashel is William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Tower,” which contemplates the passage of time and the enduring nature of the site.

In addition to literature, the Rock of Cashel has also played a role in traditional Irish music and folklore. Songs and ballads have been composed, recounting the tales and legends associated with the site. These songs serve as a reminder of the Rock of Cashel’s cultural significance and its place in the hearts of the Irish people.

Events and Festivals at the Rock of Cashel

Throughout the year, the Rock of Cashel hosts various events and festivals that celebrate its history and cultural heritage. One such event is the Rock of Cashel Summer Concert Series. Held annually, this series showcases talented musicians and performers who take to the stage against the backdrop of the Rock of Cashel. It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy live music in a truly awe-inspiring setting.

In addition to music, the Rock of Cashel also hosts historical reenactments and medieval festivals. These events transport visitors back in time, allowing them to experience the sights and sounds of medieval Ireland. From jousting tournaments to traditional crafts and activities, these events provide a glimpse into the past and create a vibrant atmosphere at the Rock of Cashel.

Nearby Attractions and Day Trips from the Rock of Cashel

Just a short stroll down the hill, a visit to the nearby Hore Abbey is highly recommended. This medieval monastery is nestled at the foot of the Rock of Cashel. Take a leisurely walk through the ruins of this hidden gem. Small free car park nearby.

If you have more time, consider venturing to the picturesque town of Cahir. Here, you can visit the impressive Cahir Castle, one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. The castle’s towering walls and intricate architecture provide a glimpse into Ireland’s medieval past.

10 of the Most Fascinating Ancient Ruins in Ireland

ancient ruins in ireland

No trip to Ireland is complete without a ramble through the mysterious and majestic ruins of the country’s rich history. They provide a window into long-gone eras. From Neolithic structures that pre-date the Pyramids of Giza to romantic battle sites filled with stories of valor and tragedy, here are ten of the most fascinating ancient ruins in Ireland.

Few sites in Ireland have as much historical significance as the Rock of Cashel. On this site above the Tipperary plain, St. Patrick converted and baptized the King of Munster in the 400s AD. For centuries, the fortification perched atop the steep limestone outcrop was the seat for the Kings of Munster – and was fought over by the various Celtic tribes. In the early 1100s, one of the Kings of Munster (Muirchertach Ua Briain) donated the Rock to the Catholic Church, and the round tower, chapels and other buildings were added shortly thereafter.

The views over the countryside are beautiful. From its cliff-top height, we watched a rainstorm sweep across the fields toward us from miles away. There’s something magical about the place. It is one of the most popular ancient ruins in Ireland and a must-see for history enthusiasts. Save some room for scones and tea at one of the tea rooms at the base of the hill. Public restrooms are available near the car park.

Hore Abbey

Hore Abbey was founded in 1266 as a Benedictine Monastery. Legend states that Archbishop David McCarvil dreamed that the Benedictines were conspiring to murder him. He expelled them in 1272 and let the Cistercians assume control. The remains of the church and grounds are full of arches, niches, and nooks worth exploring. Combine it with a visit to the Rock of Cashel which sits just up the hill. 

There are no public facilities available here, and no official tours, but some posted signs give more information for the curious. It’s best to park in the car park at the Rock of Cashel and walk down. Wear your trekking shoes to negotiate the cow patties.

Photo by Tommy Bond on Unsplash

Clonmacnoise Monastery and Round Tower

Clonmacnoise Monastery and Round Tower is one of the earliest Christian sites in Ireland. Founded in 545 AD by St. Ciaran in County Offaly near the Shannon River, the great stronghold was expanded over the centuries with an impressive round tower (909 AD) and seven churches. Visitors get a glimpse of 1,700 years of Irish history. Make sure to bring your camera to take stunning photographs of the site and the surrounding farmland. On our honeymoon decades ago, we stayed in a thatched cottage nearby. You can have the site completely to yourself early in the morning. The graves make for excellent rubbings if you have the materials.

McMillan Media

Hill of Tara, County Meath

Located in the Boyne Valley, the Hill of Tara was an important Iron Age hillfort and the traditional seat of power for high kings throughout Ireland’s history. The site is comprised of ancient passage graves, a stone circle, dwellings and monuments built in 5000 BC. It’s believed to have been used as a ceremonial meeting place where rituals may have been conducted as large assemblies were seen at the site. There are still visible carvings at Tara, with many depicting horses and chariots to mark victories in battle.

Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath

Built over five thousand years ago, Loughcrew Cairns is an ancient burial site consisting of several ring-shaped stone mounds set in a picturesque valley. The site boasts some of the finest and largest examples of Neolithic art in Ireland, with circles and symbols carved onto some of the stones. There are also stunning views over the surrounding countryside from atop one of the mounds.

ancient ruins in ireland

Muckross Abbey, County Kerry

Muckross Abbey, situated in the stunning setting of Killarney National Park has something to offer every visitor. Though it is believed to date back to the 11th century, its origins are shrouded in myth and legend. One such myth is that the abbey was built overnight by a band of elves. Another legend attributes the founding of the abbey to a local Irish chieftain called MacCostellane and his powerful clan. The clan’s loyalty to their chief came with a heavy price, when they were purportedly slaughtered to the last person in a single night by an army from Munster province.

The monks of Muckross Abbey, like many other Catholic monasteries of the time, practiced a peaceful and highly ordered form of worship. Daily life revolved around prayers and rituals such as Vespers, Lauds and Compline along with the Seven Sacraments. In addition to reciting their prayers in Latin, the monks also engaged in more creative forms of worship such as music, sculpture and painting. As one of Ireland’s most iconic monasteries, Muckross Abbey provides visitors with an insight into how the vibrant faith-based culture influenced medieval Europe.

After its abandonment, the Abbey lay dormant for many years before its stunning natural beauty was re-discovered in 1848. The ruins were so well preserved that many believed they had been left intact due to supernatural forces. It has been linked to many strange occurrences, such as whispers in the night, unexplained lights and even the appearance of a ghostly face in one of its windows. 

Muckross Abbey has become a popular tourist attraction, and one of my very favorites for its completeness and beauty. From the small parking lot, follow the paved road for about a quarter mile to reach the abbey. Pony traps are available in the parking lot if you don’t wish to walk. No facilities at this entrance to Killarney National Park.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Considered one of Ireland’s oldest monuments, the Poulnabrone Dolmen is a megalithic portal tomb that dates back 4,800 years. It stands on an isolated limestone plateau in the Burren region and consists of two large standing stones supporting a massive capstone set atop them. Its original purpose is still unknown, but some speculate that it was used as a burial chamber for ancient Celts. The structure has been carefully preserved to this day, making it a great place to explore Irish history.


Dun Aonghasa

Perched on a breathtaking cliff-edge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Dun Aonghasa is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. It is enclosed by three massive dry-stone walls. A chevaux-de-frise, blocks of limestone set vertically into the ground to deter attackers, still stands. Originally constructed c.1100 BCE, it’s thought to have been a significant religious centre in Iron Age Ireland. It was re-fortified around 700-800 AD. Excavations revealed significant evidence of prehistoric metalworking, as well as several burials.

The fort is about half a mile uphill from the Visitors Center. Part of the path is rough, natural rock. Boots or strong walking shoes are recommended. Be especially careful near the cliffs as there is no fence or barrier at the edge. Public restrooms are available in the Visitors Center.

From the ferry terminal, you can rent a bike or hire a pony trap to get to the ruins and explore the island. There are fewer than a hundred cars on the island for the inhabitants, and no way for visitors to bring one.

By Ryanhuntmuzik - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Blarney Castle, County Cork

Blarney Castle is a medieval fortress situated on the River Martin in County Cork. It dates back to 1446 and holds the famous Blarney Stone, which, according to legend, lets those who kiss it become incredibly persuasive in their speech- being “as good as giving a blarney”. There are many other spots of interest at Blarney Castle including an impressive castle keep, gardens and water gardens and the Witch’s Kitchen. Just a head’s up though–I heard a rumor that the locals have been known to pee on the stone for a laugh at the tourists.

skellig michael island

Skellig Michael, County Kerry

Located off the western coast of County Kerry, Skellig Michael is one of Ireland’s most iconic ancient ruins. It was home to a medieval monastery which was built in the 6th century by hermit monks. The breathtakingly rugged island features a steep climb of over 600 steps on a sheer cliff-face to get to its remarkable structures. The ruins include six monastic cells, two beehive huts, and the remains of an oratory chapel where pilgrims worshipped. It is said that their spirituality gave the island its powerful energy and aura. Today, you can visit the site which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and feel its mystical peaceful atmosphere for yourself. For a more in-depth look at Skellig Michael, visit this post.

**For fine art prints of images in this post visit the Photographs tab**