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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019
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How to do the Rock of Cashel like a pro: Free entry, parking advice - and the photo opportunity everyone misses

Plus the lunch spot the locals love.

The Rock of Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel.
Image: Shutterstock

WITH ITS MEDIEVAL ruins perched on the hills of the Tipperary countryside, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s major attractions. It was once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, and is associated with stories of St. Patrick.

But what’s the best way to explore this historic landmark now? We asked James Doran of Kilkenny Taxi Tours, who runs regular day trips to the Rock Of Cashel and beyond.

When’s the best time to go?

The Rock of Cashel is open to visitors all year around, but typically gets busier during the summer months.

“The big tour buses usually come in at around 10.30 or 11 in the morning, so either go early – it’s open from nine – or wait until later in the afternoon if you want to avoid the crowds,” says Doran.

Pro tip: Watch out for the weather as well when you’re planning your trip. “It’s very open up there, so sometimes when the weather or wind is bad the outer areas would be closed off for safety reasons. So I wouldn’t recommend going on a windy day, because you might not get to see everything,” Doran adds.

Where can I park?

There is a car park down the hill from the Rock of Cashel, just a few minutes walk away from the main site, which costs €6 for the day.

“You can’t actually drive up to the rock, so the car park is as far as you’ll get and from there it’s on foot. Get a parking ticket as you’re coming in and pay when you’re going out. There’s a bathroom down there as well,” Doran says.

Don’t fancy braving the crowds? “You can also park in Cashel town – it’s only a five or six minute walk away. There’s parking on the main street and on the road near the Rock of Cashel.”

Pro tip: It’s a steep climb from the car park to the rock, so if you have a disability or trouble walking, call ahead and staff will let you park closer to the landmark.

shutterstock_1408449455 Source: Shutterstock

What are the must-see sights?

The Rock of Cashel is made up of several medieval monuments on a limestone outcrop, including the round tower, St Patrick’s Cross, Cormac’s Chapel, the cathedral, the Hall of the Vicars Choral, and the 15th century castle.

Tickets to enter this site are priced at €8 for adults and €4 for children, but this includes a guided tour of the ruins.

“There are guided tours every hour on the half hour,” says Doran. “It’s a 45-minute tour – you don’t have to do it, you can get a leaflet and explore yourself, but I think it’s worth it.”

With a tour included and some time to look around, you’ll probably spend about 90 minutes at the monument in total.

Pro tip: Watch out for some of the best views of the landmark as you’re coming into the town itself. “When you come into Cashel you can see the rock on the hill. There’s room on the side of the road to pull over, and you can get a photograph and take in the scenery,” Doran adds.

shutterstock_658856686 Cashel at sunset. Source: Shutterstock

Where’s the best place to stop for a snack?

There are no food and drink facilities at the Rock of Cashel itself, so if you’re feeling peckish you’ll need to head back toward the car. But you won’t have far to go:

“There’s a little cafe beside the car park, Granny’s Kitchen. They do soup, sandwiches and homemade cakes, so that’s good if you need a snack. Plus they have an outside garden area that’s lovely when the weather is good,” Doran says.

“Then there’s a couple of nice places in Cashel town. Mikey Ryan’s bar on the main street – the food is good there, it has a great atmosphere and they have a nice big outdoor area. The Rockhouse also does a great breakfast, or you can just get coffee and a doughnut there.”

Pro tip: Visitors who spend more than €15 at participating businesses in the town get a voucher for free admission to Rock of Cashel. Find a list of restaurants and shops at the visitors’ centre.

How can I escape the crowds?

The Rock of Cashel isn’t the only historical attraction in the area, so if you arrive at a busy time there are plenty of other sites nearby that you can go check out while you wait for things to die down.

Within walking distance is Hore Abbey, the ruins of a 13th century monastery, which is located in a field down the hill from the rock and is free to enter. Alternatively, you can hop back into the car and drive to Holycross Abbey or head down to Cahir Castle.

Pro tip: If you want to take a break from tourist attractions completely, head out on a hike. “You’ve got the Slievenamon mountain there as well – it’s great for walking and there’s plenty of hiking tours around the area,” Doran says.

Are there any hidden gems in the area?

If you’re driving around Tipperary, take a stop off in the medieval town of Fethard, which still has surrounding walls and monuments intact from the 14th century.

“It’s a nice, small town to walk around. And you have the Fethard Horse Country Experience at the Coolmore Stud in the centre of town. There’s a museum upstairs that you can look around and then they’ll bring you out to the stud. If you like horses, it’s a very good stop,” Doran says.

Pro tip: Head to McCarthy’s pub when you’re in Fethard. “It’s renowned for being an old pub, with a shop at the front, pub at the back and an undertaker’s at the side. They do good food and sometimes they’d have a bit of Irish music there as well, so it’s a good place to visit,” he adds.

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Sarah Harford

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