Must See Places in Ireland: The Rock of Cashel

Ireland is our adopted home, and as many expats before us, we have come to love its history interwoven with the sheer beauty of the land as much, if not more, than those who were lucky enough to be born here. We reinvented our lives more than five years ago now, and we still delight in the short day trip out of Kinsale where we love to visit other historic views of Ireland. High on our list of places to go in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel. This article is one of a series on "must see places in Ireland" and is written for those staying in our short term let in Kinsale, or others considering accommodations in Kinsale or places to stay in Kinsale.


About an hour north of Cork by motorway (along the M8 to Dublin), the Rock of Cashel is in the top ten for stunning photo opportunities as the ruins of the medieval monastery sits high on the hill overlooking a long valley and the small town of Cashel nestled at its base. Its ability to overlook the entire surrounding countryside is testimony to the desire for safety in its original builders, the location allowing them not only to be closer to God but also to see any hostile forces a long way off.

The photographer will want to capture three types of shots: looking up at the Rock and the ruins from a distance on the plain, looking down at other monastic ruins from the top, and of course the many exquisite views of the ruins themselves.

After paying the small admission fee (and if you will be in Ireland long we recommend that you purchase a historic pass) you will be treated to a few rooms of relics from the site preserved from the elements by being brought indoors. These include an excellent example of a Celtic Cross as well as a female figure which some consider a Sheela na Gig. Walking to your right as you exit that display you can enter another small building for a short documentary on the site and its history.

We disagree about the female form inside the visitors area as a Sheela na Gig, but for those with keen eyes there is one on the side of one of the buildings at the Rock of Cashel. For those unfamiliar with these arcane erotic female figures, they were most often carved in the sides of buildings (most often churches) and are believed to have been seen as a ward against evil, although of course no one will ever know for certain if this is true. Hundreds exist in Ireland and the UK, although many more were struck off of their buildings as they were seen as profane.

To find the Sheela on the Rock of Cashel turn right out of the visitors display area and proceed past all of the buildings to the last building on the right. You will be overlooking the footpath that brought you to the entrance. Look carefully at all the far stones, those at the far corner of the building from where you stand and you will find a carved female form on a row above your head. She is sideways to the building rather than standing as is more often the case.

Whether your visit to the Rock of Cashel is an easy day trip out of Kinsale, or a stop off on your way from Kinsale to Dublin, we recommend it for the visitor and Irish person alike. Slainte'