No, Cashel is not the Irish mispronouncing the word castle. It is an old Gaelic word meaning fortress and that’s exactly what the Rock of Cashel is: a large fortress on a hill in County Tipperary. It was formerly used as both a monestary as well as a bell tower, used to communicate to all the villagers if an attack was coming.
I’m always amazed when I walk up to a building older than my home country. Rock of Cashel was built around the twelfth or thirteenth century, and seeing as it was made of sandstone, a material not well equipped to withstand heavy rain or wind (AKA Irish weather), it’s amazing it’s still standing.
Cormac’s Chapel on site is so fragile that only about one hundred visitors are let in per day during the summer. So if you are in the area during a nice summer day, make the most of it and see this chapel. It is inside here you will be able to see the oldest frescoes in Ireland.
Even if you cannot get into the chapel, the choral room is also very interesting to check out and see artifacts from days past as well as how the kitchen and dining room would have been set up. Or, the cemetary and grounds are also beautiful to walk around on. Some of the headstones are quite old and still in good shape. You can also look out over the sides of the walls and see all of Cashel. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of some of the sheep that roam the area.
However, my favorite part of Cashel is not actually the Rock at all, but Hore Abbey which is down the hill a ways from the fortress. You can see it from the grounds of the Rock of Cashel, but both times I have been there, it seems not many people ever venture to the abbey, which is truly a shame.
The grounds seem completely untouched, even though someone has to go there because sometimes there are cows in the field. But for the most part, if you check out this little abbey, you will likely have the little oasis all your own. There are little nooks and crannies everywhere to find as well as easily climable walls if you’re a little daring and want a great picture.
It’s a lovely place to sit around with a picnic with your friends and enjoy a peaceful day. Sit around and reflect on the beauty of ruins that remind us why the things that are most damaged are sometimes the most beautiful. As my buddy Heriberto said about the place: we may be in ruins, but we’re not ruined.