It’s the first Wednesday of the New Year, and time for my first Wednesday Wander. This week I’m heading to the green centre of Ireland, and an ancient fortress once home to kings. This is the Rock Of Cashel in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.
Cashel was, for centuries, the seat of the Kings of Ulster, and its name comes from the Gaelic ‘Caiseal’, meaning fortress. Cashel is also reputed to be the place where the fifth century King was converted to Christianity by St Patrick. Certainly there is a cross there, much weathered, which is said to have belonged to St Patrick (if one can be said to own a huge stone cross). The original has been moved into the museum on site, with a replica in its place outside. This is because of a legend attached to the cross – apparently, if you can reach all the way around it with both arms and your fingers touch, you’ll never have to go to the dentist again. I couldn’t quite manage it, but my husband did – however, I have to report that he has been to the dentist since our visit.
Cashel was donated to the Church in 1101, and hardly any of the early buildings remain. The circular tower in the photo above is the oldest building on site and dates to 1100 – the rest of the buildings are mostly 12th and 13th century. The ruins are magnificent, and include the vast St Patrick’s Cathedral, a residential palace for the bishops who used to live there, as well as ornamental gravestones and monuments. It used to be that every resident of Cashel was buried on the Rock but we were told that, sometime in the last century, it was realised there was no more room. So, every inhabitant of Cashel at that time was told that they would be buried on the Rock – after that, no more. At the time of our visit there were still, apparently, a few remaining locals with the right to burial within the ancient walls.
There are some interesting carvings on the monuments at Cashel, ravens and Celtic knots hearkening back to earlier times. The tomb above belonged to a king, and is carved with an infinity symbol made up of stylised greyhounds. I don’t know who was buried in the tomb below, but liked how it seemed they had decided to poke their head out for the photo…
It’s difficult to describe the scale of Cashel, or the beauty of its ancient stones and surrounding countryside, the endless fields a lush green. Despite its sometimes violent history, Cashel had a bright clear energy, and there was a sense of how very old a place it was. It was definitely a highlight of our visit to Ireland, and somewhere I’d like to see again, one day.
Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!
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