The Rock of Cashel is a spectacular collection of medieval religious
buildings on a hilltop above the town of Cashel in County Tipperary.
the hill was used as a fortress serving the Kings of Munster (County
Tipperary was a part of Munster Province), but the early buildings did not
survive the Norman invasion. Later the property was transferred to the
Catholic Church and the buildings that mark the apex of the hill
highlight one of the most remarkable historic sites in Ireland.
According to legend, St. Patrick baptized King Aenghus here in the 5th
century, making him Ireland's first Catholic ruler. One interesting detail
about the baptism of King Aenghus was that St. Patrick banged his crozier on
the floor to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion, but, in the process,
accidentally thrust its sharpened bottom through the foot of the king.
The king thought this painful experience was a required part of the
conversion ceremony and did not mention it until afterwards, to the great
embarrassment of the future saint.
Brian Boru was crowned King of Ireland on the Rock in the early 11th
century. In the 12th century, the Rock of Cashel was given to the Church and
construction began on the religious settlement we can see today. While
the history of the Rock of Cashel is interesting, it is the nature of
the ruins that sets the magical spell of this fortified rock outcrop.
Although the site is composed of collapsed buildings and incomplete walls,
these ancient stones tell the story of a settlement that was both majestic
and important in its day.
The Hall of the Vicars Choral, dating from the 15th century, is
where you will enter the Rock of Cashel. The cathedral, now
roofless, was originally constructed in the 13th century and
later restored after a fire. The cathedral dominates
the hill and its square tower adds an appealing ruggedness to
the structure. Cormac's Chapel, built in the early 12th,
was a gift from the Cormac McCarthy, the rival clan to the
O'Briens, who had given the Rock to the church. The Round
Tower (12th century), approximately 92 ft tall, is another of
Ireland's collection of tall, round towers always associated
with a religious complex. Finally, the cemetery with its
collection of Celtic Crosses, often called High Crosses, is a
good place to wander and soak in the solemnity of the Rock of
Cashel. As seems to be common thread in Ireland's
history, the complex was destroyed by Cromwell's army in the
Guided tours are available, complemented by a museum and interpretative
center. A new visitor centre is in the planning, as the present one
has trouble keeping up with the crowds in summer. See
Heritage Ireland for information on opening times and visiting the
Rock of Cashel.
At the foot of the Rock of Cashel you will find the Br⯲ional
Cultural Centre, which promotes traditional Irish music, song and dance.
The group presents nightly performances and has toured venues around the
world. For more information, see this
website presented by the Cashel Chamber of Trade and Tourism.
Jerpoint Abbey in County Kilkenny (12 miles (20.1 km) from the town of Kilkenny)
is a 12th century Cistercian abbey known for its excellent stone carvings.
Although the tower and cloister date from the 15th century, the mix of abbey
architecture combines to produce a beautiful scene. Be sure to see the
sculptured arcade in the cloister, as it contains outstanding stone carvings
(note the carvings on the piers supporting the arches). The abbey was
closed in 1540 and acquired by James, Earl of Ormond.
The site has a modest visitor center and guided tours are available. See
Heritage Ireland website
for details on opening hours, fees and access to Jerpoint Abbey.
The main attraction in Waterford is the opportunity to visit the House of
Waterford Crystal on The Mall in Waterford City, which is the new home for this
star attraction of any visit to Ireland.
Now located in the heart of Waterford City on The Mall, the House of Waterford
Crystal combines the opportunity to observe the Waterford process for creating
their crystal extravaganzas. In addition, the facility includes a lavish
new store with the largest collection of Waterford Crystal to be found
anywhere. An exhibition space has been configured for the display of
replicas of some the famous sporting trophies Waterford has created over the
The Waterford Crystal tour is fully guided, lasts about an hour and is available
in several languages (if you prefer a language other than English, reserve ahead
to schedule your preference). The tour starts with a film on the heritage
of Waterford Crystal, followed by presentations on glass blowing, cutting,
inspection, sculpting and engraving. After your tour you might want to have a
light meal at the in-house restaurant (the Crystal Cafe) that serves breakfast,
lunch and afternoon tea.
Reservations are suggested for the tour and can be made online. For detailed
information on the hours of operation (which vary seasonally), as well as the
prices for and the availability of tours, see the official
Waterford Crystal website.
In respect to logistics, just a short walk from the House of Waterford Crystal
there are 500 car parking spaces and to the rear of the building there is a
further 120 car parking spaces.
A city-tour called the Viking Triangle Experience is available for those
interested in exploring the history of Waterford, which claims the title of
Ireland's oldest city. The tour starts at the plaza in front of Waterford
Crystal and covers the the highlight of the town. Information about the tour is
available on this
page of the House of Waterford Crystal website.
If you are interested in finding out about other attractions in Waterford (they
are modest in number and scope), see this
local website for additional details.
On your way to or from Waterford, consider stopping at Duncannon Fort in
Duncannon, County Wexford. The well-preserved, star-shaped, 16th Century
fort occupies a commanding a position at a choke point along the eastern
bank of Waterford Harbour. The fort was built to help protect Waterford Harbour
from pirates and a possible attack by the Spanish Armada. The site's lighthouse
was a later addition to the fort and is reputed to be one of the oldest of its
kind in Ireland.
There had been a Norman fort in this location, which is believed to have been
preceded by a fortification built by the Vikings. The Fort, which has a
relatively deep, dry moat, rebuffed several attacks (including one by Cromwell's
forces) but was ultimately laid low during the Irish Revolution when it was set
It was restored during World War II when it was rebuilt to defend Waterford
Harbor from possible attack by the Axis powers Germany and Italy, even though
Ireland was a neutral country during World War II.
The dawning of the Age of Gunpowder doomed castles and other forts made of stone
that simply could not stand-up to cannon fire. Instead, the replacements
for these fortifications, like Duncannon fort, were somewhat squat, had thicker
walls and were built of brick (which did not shatter as did stone). In
addition, the walls joined at unusual angles allowing those defending to fire at
the opposition from a variety of locations (rather than from the inside of a
The Duncannon Fort is open from June to September, from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
Guided tours are available several times a day.
The town of Duncannon is a modest village, but is surrounded by good quality
beaches. In addition, the town benefits from it location along the scenic Hook
Peninsula, which forms the eastern boundary of Waterford Harbour. If you
are interested, more information about the Hook Peninsula, the official website
of the Hook Tourist Office can be found
Located in the middle of Cahir on a rock island in the River Suir, the
impressive, well-preserved Cahir Castle dates from the 13th century, although
additions have been made over time. Major changes occurred during the 15th
century when the Butler family enlarged the castle to cover the entire island.
Heritage Ireland for information on opening hours and contact information.
While in Cahir, be sure to the Swiss Cottage, about a mile south of town.
The residence is a delightful "Cottage Orne" dating from the early 19th century.
"Cottage Orne" is a term applied to country houses built using wood and thatch
to create an artificial, rustic look. Attributed to the architect John
Nash, the Swiss Cottage was refurbished late last century and is gorgeous
Heritage Ireland or
Visit Cahir for more information on visiting this delightful residence.
Kilkenny City is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in all of Ireland.
It offers numerous historic buildings, a fine castle and a vibrant art and
crafts community (don't miss the National Crafts Gallery in the Castle). Be sure
to see Kilkenny Castle, the Black Abbey, the Thosel (a market), the Rothe House,
and Saint Canice's Cathedral that features an adjacent round tower.
Visit the website of
Kilkenny City for a detailed look at the city's attractions. If
you are interested in arts and crafts, check out the County Kilkenny official
tourism site for more details on the highly regarded
Kilkenny Arts Festival that is held every summer.
If you have an interest in gardens and are traveling in Ireland's Southeast,
consider stopping at
Johnstown Castle or
(sometimes called Johnston Castle) is a delightful early 19th century castle
surrounded by exquisite Although the Castle is closed , the
gardens are open to the public and well worth a look. Three lakes form the
center of the gardens and the landscaped grounds are quite pleasant. See this
more information and this
site for some excellent photos of the gardens. In addition, Johnstown
Castle features the Irish Agricultural Museum, if you are interested in seeing
its collection of horticultural tools and implements.
offers historic gardens that are worth a look (the castle is a residence not
open to the public). Consisting of an Upper (17th century) walled Garden and an
informal Lower Garden (19th century), the property is very attractive. In fact,
when the Duke of Devonshire and his family are not in residence, you can rent
the castle for your entourage - presuming you have lots of disposable income.
Touring the gardens is much less expensive and can be done from the middle of
March until late September.
See the Lismore Castle
official website for more detailed information.
Offshore of Kilmore Quay, a small fishing village south of Wexford, are the
Saltee Islands, one of Ireland's most famous bird sanctuaries. A wide variety of
birds can be spotted here including puffins, cormorants and guillemots. The
islands also are home to a population of Grey Seals.
The Southeast of Ireland features some of the country's best
beaches and warmest waters. It is, as you might suspect, a
very popular area in the summer and a favored vacation spot for
the Irish. We mention this only to point out that the
roads hugging the coast and the coastal towns themselves can be
very crowded during August.
By the way, Ballinesker Beach, near Curracloe on the coast northwest of
Wexford, is where the D-Day invasion scenes in the movie Saving Private Ryan
were filmed. The beach has been completely restored since then and
there is no evidence that filming ever took place at this location. Of
course, that does not stop it from attracting the attention of visitors.
However, if you go, go for the beach, which is the remnant of a glacial
esker; a deposit of silt in sand, made by an ice-encased river carrying
debris and melt water to the snout of a glacier. Click on this official page
for more information on
Ballinesker Beach .
More Places To Visit In Ireland
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