Ireland day 0350. Tuesday 13 September 2022- Cashel

Ireland day 0350. Tuesday 13 September 2022- Cashel
Today’s summary Drove 2 hours down the M8 to visit the magnificent Rock of Cashel – a cathedral-topped rocky outcrop in the town of Cashel in Co Tipperary.  Truly an iconic sight.   Also had a nosey around the uber-posh Cashel Palace Hotel before returning to Malahide
Today’s weather Overcast to start with but dry and bright with plenty of sun in the afternoon.   Light easterly breeze.   About 16C.
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The red line shows where we travelled)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s journey as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Rock of Cashel and M8 to Malahide

If you were to buy a photo calendar of the scenic splendours of ireland, it would be almost certain to include today’s destination.   Looking like a cross between Edinburgh Castle and something from “Game of Thrones”, the cathedral-adorned Rock of Cashel is surely one of Ireland’s most recognisable sights.   It’s certainly well on the tourist trail and even today – midweek in September – it was pretty busy.

We’d taken a look at the weather forecast for today – which, defying expectations – was good, and decided that if we were to visit Cashel in a day trip from Malahide, it really would have to be now-or-never.   From now on, for the next few months, shortening Autumn days, worsening weather and a congested diary would make the long journey there and back less and less practical in a day.   So we got up relatively early, pulled our things together, and set off for the lengthy but extremely easy drive down the motorway network to Cashel, some 2 hours drive to the south of here.

Shortly after you leave the M8 motorway, the road rounds a corner and suddenly you see the Rock of Cashel in front of you.   I can only say it’s extremely impressive.   The rock is a large limestone outcrop which stands conspicuously proud of the surrounding fertile plains.   But what particularly strikes you is the sight of the huge, slightly menacing, cathedral which sits on the top, seemingly growing straight out of the rock below it.

The history of the Rock and the various structures which sit atop it is long and complicated – as is so much of Irish history.   So I can’t possibly recount it all here.   If you really want to know, I’m afraid you will just have to look it up on Wikipedia.   But it’s not surprising that the geological feature has attracted the attention of local – and more distant – residents of the area for the best part of two millennia, as it is just so conspicuous.   St Patrick himself is said to have visited sometime in the fifth century and there are relics of burials on the rock dating from the ninth century and possibly earlier.

Most importantly, for several hundred years until the Anglo-Norman invasion in the late 1100s, the Rock was the seat of the Kings of Munster [Munster is the southernmost of the Provinces of Ireland – today there are four Provinces, but in earlier times there were thought to be five, when Meath, now a county within Leinster, was considered to be a separate Province].

There were struggles between rival claimants to the throne – notably the O’Briens and the MacCarthys (NB I may have mis-remembered these names, and these are the anglicised versions – I am sure someone will correct be if I am wrong).  Eventually Cormac McCarthy became high king and went on to take Holy Orders, with the sandstone chapel – the second-oldest building on the rock – being named after him.   The illustrious Brian Boru was crowned the first (and only) High King of all Ireland and ruled from the Rock of Cashel for 20 years from about 990AD until he came to a sticky end in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014AD.

The oldest still extant building is the round tower, which is remarkably well preserved.   It was built in about 1100 AD and pre-dates Cormac’s Chapel by 20 or 30 years.   The most “recent” major structure is St Patrick’s Cathedral, which was finished in 1270AD.   It saw much history – including the massacre of sheltering local residents by the notorious Oliver Cromwell in 1647.   It was eventually abandoned, and the roof removed (for reasons that are obscure) in the late 1700s.   It rapidly fell into disrepair but was rescued by the State in the mid 1800s – the first such building in Ireland to be entrusted to the state for preservation.

Not unexpectedly, the Rock and its buildings are today managed by the OPW so we once again made us of our membership cards (probably one of the best investments we have ever made) to get into the site and to join tours of both Cormac’s Chapel and St Patrick’s cathedral.   They were both excellent and left me reeling with the sudden download of facts, some of which I have reproduced here.  Eventually, we finished the tours and collapsed, somewhat punch-drunk, into a sunny secluded spot amongst the ruins where we had lunch.

After a further quick un-guided look around the site after lunch, we just had time to drop down into Cashel town itself, and have a quick look at this prosperous and charming town.  We couldn’t resist the opportunity to sneak a look into the newly-modernised and extremely smart Cashel Palace hotel, which you can see pictured below.   Slightly worryingly as we were leaving I heard Val mutter under her breath “This is exactly the sort of place I would like to live”.   I think I better start doing the lottery.

We rapidly concluded our visit before we were tempted to check into the hotel and stay there possibly for ever, and made our way back up the motorway to Malahide.   A thoroughly excellent day out, and a nice finale to a Val’s three day break from work.



Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Inside the ornate Romanesque 12th century Cormac’s Chapel.   There was a strong Germanic influence in its design and construction.  Brilliant blue Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan was used in the ceiling decorations, so it has a broad multicultural heritage.   It’s made from sandstone – which is actually quite rare in Ireland – brought from hills about 167km / 10 mi to the north.   The rock has proven unsuited to the Irish climate as the Chapel became saturated with rainwater and required extensive remedial work to dry it out – lest it collapse – in the 1980s and 90s.   Cormac’s chapel is widely believed to be the most architecturally significant building in Ireland. The Round Tower – the earliest still-extant building on the Rock.   It is 28m / 90ft high and was built in about the year 1100.
Looking over the fertile Irish hinterland (this area is known as the “Golden Vale”) to the neighbouring Hoare Abbey.   It was a Benedictine and more latterly Cistercian Abbey built around the 13th century.   There are various stories as to how it got its name – one draws reference to Hoar Frost – which gives everything a grey hue said to resemble the Cistercian monks’ garb.
(The Galty mountains are on the horizon in the background and as they contain Galtymore, which is one of the Irish “Munros” (i.e. 3000ft / 914m summits) that I haven’t climbed yet, I’m keen to try and pay it a visit sometime soon).
Inside the main St Patrick’s Cathedral.   We were exceptionally fortunate with the weather today, after a few dull and wet days lately.   So it was looking its very best
In downtown Cashel – a very smart prosperous looking place, with an economy doubtless buoyed by the hordes of tourists (like us). The exceptionally deluxe Cashel Palace Hotel.   It’s a Relais-et-Chateaux venue which is code for “very expensive”.   We did have a look around the inside and have to say it was impressive – all brand new following an extensive renovation and reopening as recently as this spring.
Formerly it was the residence of various Church of Ireland archbishops, being originally built, in Palladian style, in 1730 for Theophilus Bolton to a design by the architect Edward Lovell Pearce.   Jackie Kennedy, among many other notables, stayed here.
This view of the cathedral is, of course, iconic.   I had to wait for ages to get the briefest second to take the photo when nobody was in shot.   It looks as if the place was deserted but actually it was pretty busy, despite being a midweek in September.
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 181718 m
Max elevation: 146 m
Min elevation: 8 m
Total climbing: 1457 m
Total descent: -1567 m
Total time: 05:42:07
Download file: Cashel And Drive Back compressed corrected.gpx

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